Five Astros That Must Step Up With Yordan Alvarez Injured

Houston Astros v Cleveland Guardians
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#4 Dusty Baker

Dusty Baker is maybe the most polarizing name among Astros fans. Yes, he won a ring last year, but the Astros were a loaded team that battled virtually no injuries last season. It was hard to screw that up.

The players in the locker room love him, and he does seem to do a fantastic job of building culture and was a calming voice in the face of scandal.

He was the right man at the right time. He's also been a very, very poor manager this year. Both of these things can be true.

As a few examples--Jeremy Peña has been a top-five hitter in the MLB when he bats second and below average anywhere else in the lineup. Dusty finally slotted him second again, but once Altuve was back, has dropped him to sixth and seventh while batting Dubón leadoff and Altuve second.

Dubón is a stereotypical bottom of the order bat to turn the lineup over. Altuve should be batting leadoff while Peña bats second with runs at a premium. It's indefensible that this hasn't been committed to yet.

The Corey Julks experiment needs to end. He's a great story, but he is the 28th-prospect in the organization for a reason. Julks is a depth piece on the bench, not an everyday starter. Dusty continues writing him and his .680 OPS and 2nd percentile xwOBA as either the left fielder or DH almost every day while Yainer Diaz and Chas McCormick, both far superior offensive options, can't get at-bats.

Julks can't be the primary DH. Diaz and McCormick are far more prone to stringing together quality at-bats. Diaz, Dubón and McCormick need to combine for the bulk of the at-bats between left field and designated hitter.

Julks can be a late game pinch hit option. Which leads to another absolutely indefensible decision this year.

The Astros have 16 pinch hit at-bats this season, least in the MLB. The league average is 40. The Astros carried three catchers on Opening Day so they would have flexibility with a defensive sub after pinch hitting for Martín Maldonado late in games. Needless to say, that hasn't happened.

Dusty needs to wake up and start pinch hitting in leverage situations the way the Blue Jays did when they took three of four from Houston. Let's hope Dusty saw that play out and learned his lesson.

Less than half of the league average cannot be excused. The pitching staff leads the league in ERA. Start pushing runs across late in the game via the pinch hit and use the catchers you're rostering.

And please stop combining off-days. Baker's lineup today didn't include Altuve, Peña or McCormick. All three can't sit at the same time without Yordan. Today's game was practically conceded before it even started. That just can't continue.

The Rangers are going to continue to score runs and have a fantastic starting rotation. It's time Dusty wakes up, sends out the best lineup in the right order, and gives his team a chance to win baseball games.