Astros Need Situational Hitting

That's Chris Snyder of the Astros taking a called strike against the Braves in the recent home stand. We can't really blame Snyder for the growing club tendency to fail in the clutch. It just happened to be the only recent photo I have of an Astro taking another pitch with his bat on his shoulder.

The astute Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle beat me to the punch this morning in his coverage of the rubber game loss the Houston Astros just absorbed in the final game of the all three “5-4” score games they played over the weekend in Little Havana against the Miami Marlins. I had just been offering to former Astros batting coach and new erstwhile Sugar Land Skeeters marketing magician Deacon Jones at lunch on Saturday that I felt the current young Astros showed two major problems coming out of the gate: (1) On offense, they lacked good clutch or situational hitting – and that includes everything from the pile of LOB totals they are building to the times in late innings in close games that they start things in an inning with a one pitch out. (2) On defense (Games One and Six of the first home stand confirm), the Astros suddenly turn from good play carriage to rookie pumpkin rot and start making dumb errors of execution all over the field. In a flash, they seem to have the ability to go from very competent to guys who look as though they had never seen a baseball until this latest one was hit to them.

Deacon Jones agreed with me to the point of jumping out of his chair and giving me a great big smile with his knuckle hand follow-up contact with my own receptive fist. (I gotta tell you – I didn’t mind getting the Deacon’s approval for a baseball comment. I didn’t mind it at all.)

Then came Sunday and two more exclamation points on the offensive failure side get posted in colors that would stand out, even  in the garish splash of tropical juice sights that are splashed all over the new Marlins Park in Miami. – Jordan Schafer fanned with the bases loaded in the 6th inning to kill the Astros’ chances of expanding a 3-2 lead. Then, in the 8th, with Houston now up by 4-2, shortstop Jed Lowrie also struck out to retire the side and kill the club’s last scoring “op” of the day. The Marlins then took over the game on a tying two-run shot to deepest center field by Hanley Ramirez in the bottom of the 8th – and then won it. 5-4, on a bases-loaded, extra-long single by Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 11th.

As Levine of the Chronicle so adroitly points out, this was the 11th time in the 9 games of the 2012 season now played that the Astros have loaded the bases and failed to get a single run across as the result of their work. As Deacon Jones points out, this sort of thing doesn’t often happen to clubs like the New York Yankees because those teams invariably have a guy like Derek Jeter in the house somewhere in their lineup. And guys like Jeter don’t leave all bases loaded situations fruitless on the run production slot in the scoreboard.

For now, at least, the young Astros have shown that they can hang around until the finish. They just can;t harvest what they plant. And they don’t have a harvesting crew chief named Derek Jeter.

For the heck of it, here are the up-to-date fact and fiction standings for 2012. The fact group is simply the Astros’ actual position in the current National League Central. The fiction batch is also the Astros’ current record, but placed where they would be in 2012 had they already moved to the American League West.

The FACT & FICTION HOUSTON ASTROS STANDINGS THROUGH ALL GAMES OF 04/15/12:

2012 NL Central (Fact) W L PCT GB
St. Louis 7 3 .700
Houston 4 5 .444 2.5
Cincinnati 4 6 .400 3.0
Milwaukee 4 6 .400 3.0
Pittsburgh 3 6 .333 3.5
Chi Cubs 3 7 .300 4.0

 

2012 AL West (Fiction) W L PCT GB
Texas 8 2 .800
Seattle 6 5 .545 2.5
Houston 4 5 .444 3.5
Oakland 4 6 .400 4.0
LA Angels 3 6 .333 4.5

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3 Responses to “Astros Need Situational Hitting”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    The glaring lack of timely hitting is obvious but perhaps more disturbing in the long term is the lack of power. Outside of Martinez and Lee (the latter I hope not to see again as an Astro after this season), the team doesn’t have much of a deep threat game, which will become glaringly obvious when they join the AL.

    This puts added pressure on the runners to take chances and the pitchers to be precise because they know their only hope to win is in low-scoring duels and scratch out runs however they can.

    On the positive side, this team is learning plate patience which will be useful going forward. They are drawing a lot of walks which is why they are finding themselves with so many LOBsters. Last year’s team was less willing to be patient.

    Youth is, by its nature, inconsistent and experience is the greatest teacher. Perhaps some of these players will develop better skill at fouling off pitches to keep at bats alive until they can find one to drive somewhere.

  2. Bob Dorrill Says:

    There is striking out and then there is striking out with the bat on your shoulder. Chris Johnson has been agressively stiking out with the bases loaded on sliders in the dirt while Shafar, Snyder and others have watched strike three pass them by. Almost reminds me of Morgan Ensberg.

  3. anthony cavender Says:

    How long has “situational hitting” been a terrible problem for the Astros? It was not a problem with Cliff Johnson.

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