Astros strategy spotlight: Why Bo Porter pinch-hit for Chris Carter

Bob Levey

In a new weekly feature, we check in on different strategic scenarios to see why a manager did what he did

Next week, we'll roll out some of our Hitter, Pitcher and Minor Leaguer of the Week posts. We've done those before, so there won't be anything new except that they get broken up into different posts.

This post will be new this season. In it, we'll take a situation from the previous week and break it down, looking at why the move was made or what the strategy behind it might have been. Luckily, we had a move in last night's 3-1 victory over the Yankees that fits the bill.

The situation

Up 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Houston had the bases loaded following a two-out intentional walk of Jose Altuve. That brought up designated hitter Chris Carter, as the Yankees made a move to the bullpen and reliever Shawn Kelly.

The decision

To counteract this, Porter pinch hit for Carter with backup catcher Carlos Corporan, a switch hitter.

The explanation

This got plenty of attention last night, both on Twitter and in the Game Thread. For those who think Carter does not have any value, this only reinforced those opinions. People also wondered why Porter would use Corporan rather than Jesus Guzman or L.J. Hoes, both of whom were on the bench.

There's lots of moving parts to this one, so let's take them one at a time. First, there's the natural lefty-righty matchup questions. Carter is a right-handed batter and Corporan is a switch-hitter who can move to the left side if needed. Carter hit .220/.315/.451 against right-handers last season while Corporan hit .206/.269/.341 as a left-hander against rightys in his career.

Um.

Well, that's not a great reason. The only reason for the switch might be the likelihood that Corporan makes contact is higher than Carter. Corporan only struck out five percent of the time against right-handers in his career while Carter strikes out much, much more.

But, with Carter as the DH, Porter had a unique opportunity to use his backup catcher without losing him. By pinch-hitting him there, Porter can leave Corporan in the game in case Castro got hurt later. That's a luxury he doesn't usually have and probably was a big reason why the backup catcher got used.

Still, let's circle back to the question of why L.J. Hoes might not have been used. Looking at his splits, Hoes hit .292/.341/.363 against right-handers in his big-league career. But, the outfielder only hit .143/.174/.143 in high leverage situations.

Could that be a reason why Porter chose to go with Corp? Not really, since Corporan didn't hit much better in high-leverage situations. No, more likely, this was a call made purely on matchups and was made possible by Corporan being able to stay in the game as DH in case of an injury.

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