Astros: Who gets the nod in centerfield in Game 1 of ALDS?

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /

Folks are already in heated debates online about which pitcher gets the nod for a Game 1 start, how to construct the line up, etc. While nothing will be announced in terms of pitchers and line-ups until nearly game time, it’s a lot of fun to debate for Houston Astros fans, considering the wealth of talent the Astros have at the top and the bottom of the lineup.

That debate will certainly carry over to who gets the start in centerfield for Game 1. There is no doubt that the Astros struck potential gold with the emergence of first-year players, Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers. They have done well at various points in the season that general manager James Click traded away starting centerfielder, Myles Straw, at the midway point of the season.

So, far McCormick and Meyers are nearly interchangeable in terms of the tools they bring to the table. However, is there more to the story?

According to James Fegan of The Athletic Chicago, the General Manager of the White Sox, Rick Hahn, said the Chicago White Sox haven’t settled on a starter for Game 1 as of yet. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito have had fantastic seasons. However, it’s obvious that the White Sox are going to go with the guy who has success against the Astros on the road and can pitch twice in a series.

  • Lance Lynn career statistics at Minute Maid Park: 4.92 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in nine starts
  • Lucas Giolito career statistics at Minute Maid Park: 1.57 ERA, 0.826 WHIP in three starts

For the sake of the debate, let us presume that Giolito is going to get the Game 1 start for the White Sox. According to Baseball Savant, Giolito has relied on heavily on three pitches this season; a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider.

He posses a curveball that he tosses on occasion, as well. He pounds the zone with his 94 MPH fastball and keeps hitters off balance with his change up that tails down and in on right-handed pitchers.

Now that we have a little idea of what Giolito brings to the table, have your thoughts on McCormick versus Meyers started to sway one way or another? Let’s take a look at the numbers and splits first.

Starting with Chas McCormick, unlike Meyers, he has actually had at-bats against Giolito this season; two at-bats, to be exact. They both resulted in strikeouts and certainly not indicative of anything relevant.

However, if we take a look at how McCormick has done against right-handed pitching, he’s performed pretty well for a rookie. McCormick is slashing .262/.314/.427 against righties this season. It’s also worth noting that Chas McCormick has been effective in pinch-hit situations. He’s amassed six hits, three of them home runs, with 11 RBI through 28 at-bats.

If you dig into the actual pitch success of McCormick versus the type of stuff Giolito is tossing, it isn’t particularly great. Chas McCormick seems to do a majority of his damage on changeups and fastballs of a two-seam variety.

While Giolito does sport a change-up as a complement to his four-seam fastball, McCormick is only batting .210 and slugging .395. on four-seam fastballs. McCormick will be spending his first few at-bats attempting to attack fastballs and getting sat down with a slider, a pitch he is batting .184 and slugging .329.

Meyers has obviously had a smaller sample size given he was promoted to the big leagues much later in the season. He hasn’t had the chance to face off with Giolito this season either. However, against right-handed pitching, Meyers is slashing a dismal .233/.320/.356.

If you look further into the pitch-specific data on Baseball Savant, Meyers crushes the four-seam fastball. In fact, he’s batting .439 and slugging .756, but that has been the only pitch similar to what Giolito offers where Meyers’ has any real success.

Neither player exactly filled up the scorecard in the month of September. So, manager Dusty Baker can’t just roll with the hot hand. The only other value these players provide at the moment is defense and speed. There would be few who would disagree that Meyers is more of the natural centerfielder compared to McCormick; a position Meyers’ played his entire career.

As opposed to McCormick who, while playing well enough in center this season, came up the ranks as a corner outfielder. While the Astros wait to see if Jose Siri , Meyers and McCormick could provide that consistent speed on the base paths, with Meyers beating out McCormick in sprint speed, according to Baseball Savant.

We can keep analyzing advanced statistical splits and offensive metrics. The reality is that McCormick and Meyers are two rookies with very little experience big league experience, let alone understanding what comes with playing under the bright lights of postseason play. The Astros have a potent enough lineup one through seven lineup. If the core is playing well, that seems to always translate to the guys at the bottom of the order.

At this point, I believe Meyers has the slight edge over McCormick. Meyers is better on defense and running the base paths. While Meyers’ struggled against right-handed pitching this season, McCormick has proven that he can be successful as a late-inning replacement offensively or defensively.

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Who do you think starts in centerfield for the Houston Astros? Sound off in the comments or write to us on Twitter.