I was gonna have Jake Odorizzi in this section, but his last two starts make me wonder if we should just give him the Cy Young right now ( I only half-joke). So let’s focus on Urquidy, who’s had a rough starting this first four outings despite a 2-1 record.
Urquidy is currently serving up a 5.95 ERA with the borderline-cringey 1.46 WHIP. He recently got shelled on the road up in Seattle, followed by some tough back-to-back matchups against the offensive juggernaut Toronto Blue Jays.
The Mexican right-hander is just not finding effectiveness with his fastball or secondary pitches – he’s in the bottom seventh percentile in exit velocity and ninth percentile in expected batting average. Urquidy has never had control problems – he walks batters at a low 3.4% rate – which is usually a good thing, but not when most of these pitches are hanging in the middle of the plate.
Urquidy needs to stretch the zone a little more and get headers away from the middle of the plate. Hopefully in May he can find some momentum and get that ERA back below 5.00.
Catchers at the plate
I would argue the Astros have one of the best catching units in all of baseball. Martin Maldonado is a Gold Glove winner in a big-time leader in the clubhouse. And backup catcher Jason Castro longtime master is widely regarded as one of the best framers in the game. What these two offer with fielding and defense should not be ignored, but their lack of offensive so far has been glaring.
The two backstops have combined for a 5-71 (.070 BA) with one home run and four RBIs. Castro has not hit the ball hard at all this season. And Maldonado has an alarmingly high 32% strikeout rate. This the rate these guys are hitting, manager Dusty Baker should consider having them go up with a blindfold on than just taking swings.
This could very well be another sample size issue. Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and then they get a hot month and then we don’t have to worry about it. But Castro likely isn’t going to improve at the plate anytime soon and Maldonado has always been a guy who hits around .200 BA.
Just for fun I looked at the past five World Series champions to see what type of batting production came from the catching unit.
- 2017 – Brian McCann: .241 BA, .767 OPS, 18 HRs, 62 RBIs
- 2018 – Sandy Leon .177 BA, .511 OPS, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs
- 2019 – Kurt Suzuki: .264 BA, .809 OPS, 17 Hrs, 63 RBIs
- 2020 – Will Smith .289 BA , .970 OPS, 20 HRs, 71 RBIs
- 2021 – Travis D’Arnaud .220 BA, .702 OPS, 7 HRs, 26 RBIs (missed half season with injury)
Four out the last five champions got some offensive production from their catchers. The point is Catchers don’t need to be amazing at the plate for a team to contend, but they can’t be a huge liability. And this current catching unit isn’t doing at the plate. When margins are so close in this league, it would be nice to not feel like 3 to 4 ABs a night are a guaranteed out.
Trades for catchers are tricky, because they offer more than base hits – can they have connections with pitchers? Can they throw guys out like Maldonado? Can they frame the ball like Castro? It’s more than just what they do at the plate, but they need to do something at the plate.
We’re still a year away from Korey Lee getting his chance in the big leagues full time, so if any real shakeups happen with the catching unit it’ll likely be at the trade deadline. And I don’t know if there’s gonna be a catcher on the market whose offensive production outweighs the impact Maldonado and Castro bring to the other side of the game. It’s a tough situation.
It would be nice if Maldonado and Castro made this a non-discussion and start hitting the ball.