The Houston Astros have a striking out problem


Last year, Victor Martinez struck out only 42 times in 641 plate appearances. So far in 2015, George Springer (20), Chris Carter (19) and Evan Gattis (18) of the Houston Astros have already struck out more times combined than V-Mart did in 2014 and they only have 150 plate appearances between the three of them.

While strikeouts league-wide have been on the rise for some time now, the above mentioned Astros players all presently rank within the top 10 of MLB for most outs recorded on strikes. All are relatively young and have much to learn about their plate approaches and using discretion at the plate, but even without Gattis in 2014, the Astros finished second behind the Chicago Cubs in team strikeouts with 1442.

While striking out at a high volume is not a sole indicator of failure, the Astros finished second last in the AL West and the Cubs placed dead last in the NL Central in 2014. No team inside the top 10 in team strikeouts, save for the Washington Nationals, made the postseason. Putting the ball in play and recording productive outs are under-utilized skills and are often overlooked in favor of players who can hit the ball out of the park 30 times in a season to the detriment of being called out on strikes 150-plus times simultaneously.

Springer, Carter and Gattis’ paces right now are not pretty. It would be one thing if they ranked inside the top 10 as Bryce Harper does, but he is slashing .267/.411/.556 with four home runs , seven RBI and is second in the league in base on balls with 11. All three Astros players are hitting well below the Mendoza line, none have an OBP over .300 and only Springer has scored more than three runs.

Houston Astros
Houston Astros /

Houston Astros

Carter first entered the league in 2010. After going on a tear in the second half of last season and finishing second in the AL with 37 home runs, he is once more having a terrible start to the season. He hit a frail .205 in the first half of 2014, but that number looks vastly preferable to his current .071 clip. In Monday’s contest versus the Mariners, Carter entered the game off the bench and recorded two at-bats, striking out in both.

The most veteran of he, Springer and Gattis, it’s time Carter changes his approach to the game. Carter led the AL in strikeouts in 2013 with 212 and in spite of hitting 37 home runs last year, his 1.8 oWAR was extremely lacking due to his inability to stay above the league averages for hitting (.227 vs .254 BA) and getting on base (.308 vs .316 OBP).

Gattis meanwhile figured to see increased production after a move from the Atlanta Braves to Houston in the offseason. His powerful right-handed swing was thought to be taylor made for the short wall in left field at Minute Maid Park and he would be able to stay fresher and focused at the plate as a designated hitter. Such has not been the case. Gattis has already worn the golden sombrero twice in 2015 and has only found the bleachers once this season on a solo shot against the Oakland Athletics back on April 15.

While the Houston Astros are momentarily on top of the AL West standings, don’t be fooled. They are 7-6 and the last place Texas Rangers have five wins. Only they rank with the Astros in the bottom 10 teams of the league for strikeouts and on-base percentage. The Astros run differential is also at negative six.

If Springer, Carter and Gattis all have seasons that anywhere resemble Carter’s from last year, that should equate to less than a total of 6.0 WAR between three supposed ‘impact’ players. That would be a big problem for the club when one considers these three names are thought to be the meat of the lineup. But what’s to fear from the opposition if there’s approximately a 33 percent chance they will all strike out?

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