Young Astros star’s surge is making Dusty Baker’s final season look even worse

Yainer Diaz's start to 2024 is further proof that Dusty Baker and Martin Maldonado held the Astros back last year.
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Former Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is a polarizing figure amongst Astros fans. For many, he was the guy that brought the Astros out of a scandal that could have demolished the work the team had done, and delivered Houston a World Series. For the results-oriented fans out there, Baker's performance was everything they could have hoped for, especially considering all the negativity around the Astros at the time.

For others, however, Baker was an exceedingly frustrating manager to watch who was often too stubborn for his own good. From how he managed the bullpen and lineup to his philosophy on baserunning and rookie playing time, Baker would look, at times, like a relic even though he absolutely excelled at certain aspects of his job.

No decision that he shaped got more blowback, however, than the decision to play Martin Maldonado over Yainer Diaz every day at catcher last year.

We have covered this at length here at CTH. Maldonado was once a very fine catcher, but he was one of the worst players in baseball in 2023 and everyone knew it. Meanwhile, Diaz was ON THE ROSTER, raked last year, and still couldn't get much in the way of playing time under Baker.

Nowadays, Maldonado has moved on and Diaz's hot start to the 2024 season just makes how Dusty handled the lineup look even worse.

Astros' Yainer Diaz has made Dusty Baker's choices look short-sighted

In fairness to Baker, catcher is arguably the position that has the most responsibility on the field, and handing that responsibility to a young player is tough. Not only do they have to handle their own business at the plate, but they are also involved in game-planning, game-calling, and managing an entire pitching staff. It's hard to learn all of that on the fly, but it also really wasn't an excuse not to make Diaz the primary catcher and shift Maldy towards more of a mentor role for him.

Fortunately, Diaz has the keys to the primary catcher spot this season and has rewarded Houston's faith in him with a .316/.366/.500 line through 10 games while putting up strong defensive numbers behind the plate. In case you are wondering, Maldonado is slashing .111/.158/.167 in his 19 plate appearances after slashing .191/.258/.348 in over 400 plate appearances with Houston last year.

To Dusty and Maldy, Astros fans thank you both for your service. That said, a good portion of Astros fans feel like they're better off at the moment.

More Astros News from Climbing Tal's Hill