Astros Lineup Undergoes An Overhaul as Team Struggles to Score
By Alec Brown
Through eight games, the Houston Astros are 3-5. They’re notorious for being slow starters. Just last season, they were still below .500 17 games in last season before finishing with 106 wins on the year. Slow starts aren’t unprecedented by this team.
What is unprecedented is a complete inability to score. Now, so is missing Jose Altuve, the Astros catalyst in the top third of the order for the last 11 seasons. But either way, Houston has scored 36 runs through eight games. Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez have combined to drive in 18 of those 36.
The rest of the Astros lineup just isn’t producing any runs. On-base machine Alex Bregman doesn’t have a single extra-base hit to his name and has driven in only one run. José Abreu has 11 hits, but only one has gone for extra bases. And Jeremy Peña has struck out 10 times in 35 at-bats.
What Alvarez and Tucker have done is even more impressive when accounting for how few RBI chances they’ve actually had. The other 7 spots in the lineup just aren’t pulling their weight.
In an effort to jumpstart the production, Dusty Baker made some changes to today’s lineup.
Chas McCormick will lead off and play left. Chas has only played in five games, but has one home run, one double and three walks. He does strike out a decent amount, but not at the clip of Jeremy Peña. Peña has been bumped down to the sixth spot after wearing the Golden Sombrero in a four-strikeout showing yesterday.
Behind Chas, Alex Bregman will bat second and play third. He picked up his first RBI of the season yesterday, and while he still isn’t doing the damage he normally does, he has strung together good at-bats lately and the breakout should come any day. Yordan Alvarez will bat third and DH.
Abreu remains in the cleanup spot while Kyle Tucker bats fifth. With as good as Tucker has been this season and as much as the rest of the offense has struggled, it would be nice to see Tucker moved up to either the three-hole or cleanup.
Peña slides into the sixth-spot. He chased a lot of sliders again with the pressure of batting leadoff, so he hopefully can begin producing again with the weight of the leadoff spot off his shoulders
David Hensley is batting seventh and will play second base. This is the move Baker must stick with. Hensley has only played second base three times this season, and is hitting .300 when he does.
The Astros have lost all five of Mauricio Dubon’s starts this season, and the Twins lone run in regulation came after a ball was hit past Dubon on a play he simply has to make. Houston should DFA Dubon, but such a move won’t be made until Altuve returns. Until that time comes, he needs to play as little as possible.
Hensley should take 75% of the starts at second.
Jake Meyers will play center and bat eighth while Martín Maldonado rounds out the lineup in the nine-spot. Meyers should some signs of regaining his form from 2021 in Spring Training, but is 2-11 with 5 strikeouts to begin his season.
The Astros unquestionably remain a playoff team and World Series contender. When Altuve and Brantley return, they have one of the deepest lineups in baseball. Until they do, they’ve got to find a way to get production out of the bottom of the order.
We’ll see if the buttons Baker pressed today bring any success.