4) Signs of Life from the DH
When Michael Brantley went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, the Astros depth and lineup were dealt a major blow. Anytime a team loses a player known as “The Professional Hitter,” its lineup will likely suffer. This is a void the Astros have not been able to fill with any consistency, regardless of what lineup Dusty has penciled in.
At full strength, Brantley and Yordan split a timeshare in both Left Field and at Designated Hitter. Since Uncle Mike went down, Yordan has made most of his starts in left while the Astros have rolled out a platoon at DH, none of whom have locked down the position.
Prized deadline acquisition Trey Mancini got off to a scalding start in his first three games, hitting three homers in his first four games, but has sputtered down the stretch, recording a 176/258/364 slash line and is currently mired in a 4-59 slump, recording four total hits dating back to September 18th.
Super-utilityman Aledmys Diaz has been the other beneficiary, but he too has struggled to find his footing as a Designated Hitter. Some players struggle to stay locked in mentally between at-bats when they aren’t playing the field. For a defender as talented and versatile as Alemdys, that may very well be the case. In 7 games as a DH this year, Aledmys hit .240 with a .576 OPS. He has received at-bats in five playoff games, going 1-14 with a double.
Combined, Mancini and Diaz are 1-26 with 1 double and 1 RBI (SAC fly) during the playoffs—hardly the production Dusty is looking for when he pencils in his DH each day. So what is the fix? Does Dusty trust them to find their strokes in time? Is this even possible when splitting at-bats? While a move I would be stunned to see, I do think Dusty has a card to play…
In 27 games as a Left Fielder this year, Aledmys Diaz hit .282. with an .847 OPS. We know Yordan could hit if you started him at Bullpen Catcher and told him to take his ABs wearing a blindfold, but for reference, Yordan did record a 1003 OPS as a DH in 2022. Could there be something to Aledmys being more comfortable and more engaged as a left fielder than as a DH?
Dusty tried this in Game 2 of the ALCS and Aledmys followed with an 0-3. He went back to Mancini in New York, who strung together some quality ABs and a big SAC Fly in Game 3, but still no hits. As Dusty himself said in the 2020 ALCS:
"“We’re not looking for some exit speed. We’re looking for exit hits.”"
With Brantley out, does Houston’s best lineup leave their biggest trade deadline acquisition off the lineup card and move Yordan back to the DH? Does Dusty ride Mancini in hopes his last two games showed signs of a bat ready to break out? Where does David Hensley factor in?
With their current lineup construction, the Designated Hitter basically is functioning as the Designated Rollover to Shortstop. If they are to have any shot at another World Series ring, Houston must start getting some production from the DH slot: be it Aledmys, Mancini, Yordan, David Hensley or Jeff Bagwell himself.
It’s difficult to make any overarching changes after coming off of a sweep, but if the Astros’ offense falters early in the series, Dusty needs to pivot. One more shot at jumpstarting Aledmys’ bat with another start in left and letting Yordan focus on inflicting as much damage as one man possibly can to every baseball thrown his way may be Dusty’s final resort. If that doesn’t work, it might just be time to turn things over to the rookie Hensley under the brightest lights of them all.