Much has been made about the decline of Martin Maldonado in 2023 here at CTH. It is understandable that the organization is loyal to Maldonado, but when a steep drop-off in his defensive ability is combined with a .180/.250/.318 line at the plate this season, it has led to one of the uglier seasons put up by a Houston player this year.
An aging catcher putting up bad numbers isn't exactly surprising, but the bigger issue is that Maldonado has still been playing A LOT lately despite those issues. Just in the month of August, Maldonado has 54 plate appearances because Yainer Diaz has had to chip in and fill in at DH and first base with Abreu on the shelf. Now that Abreu has been reinstated from the IL and Yordan Alvarez back in the swing of things, one hopes that Diaz gets the bulk of the playing time at catcher going forward. If history is any indication, that hope may be a bit optimistic.
In fairness to Cristian Javier, he has not been objectively bad in 2023. Through 24 starts this season, Javier has posted a 4.52 ERA and 4.73 FIP while accumulating 1.4 fWAR. Again, these numbers certainly aren't great by any stretch, but usually wouldn't warrant inclusion on this sort of list. However, the context of Houston's season and the expectations that were in place coming into 2023 matter a lot here.
After Javier posted a 2.54 ERA last season and the Astros rewarded him with a five year extension, he was expected to be a borderline frontline starter for Houston this season. This was even more true when injuries to McCullers Jr., Garcia, and Jose Urquidy devastated the Astros' rotation this season. However, Javier stopped missing bats in 2023 and opposing batters have been squaring him up at an alarming rate. If he can get his fastball and slider to be close as effective as they were in previous seasons, he will be just fine. Unfortunately, until that happens, Javier looks more like a fringe #5 starter on a good team than the guy the Astros thought they were keeping around.