While Carlos Beltran has added some valuable veteran leadership to the Astros, the $16 million man hasn't exactly lived up to expectations at the plate.
Has Beltran done enough to be the Astros' primary DH in the playoffs? If not, then who would you rather see in the DH role throughout October?
I don't see a strong need to change things up. First, the Astros win a lot using Beltran at DH (67% of the time) or Gattis (16%). There's no getting around the fact that Beltran has only had one above-average hitting month this season (May, 110 wRC+). He hasn't been good. But by that same token, I don't think I'd want him entirely out of the lineup because of his presence. Pitchers still have to take him seriously, even batting 7th or 8th in the lineup with a .242/.286/.366 line like he's had in the 2nd half.
The playoffs are just...different. I would want Carlos Beltran in the starting lineup. But if the game gets close or there is a high-leverage situation, I would definitely at least consider pinch-hitting with Gattis, McCann, Marwin, or whoever is the best option off the bench.
Who knows? It's baseball. Despite the horrid season, it still is completely possible for Beltran to hit .300/.400/.500 in the playoffs with five bombs. Is it likely? Nah. But this is a world in which Clayton Kershaw has a 4.55 postseason career ERA. Jeff Bagwell hit .226 in 129 plate appearances in the playoffs.
I'd keep the de facto player coach, the guy who has been there before and excelled, in the lineup. Because...it's baseball, and stuff happens, and I want to see him go nuts in October.
No, he hasn't. He shouldn't even be playing now, in my eyes. I don't care about veteran leadership and what-not...that's fine for the clubhouse, but if you're not really hitting, you shouldn't be in the lineup, and even more so for the playoffs, when every AB, every pitch and out, is precious and can mean the difference between winning and losing your entire season. By the way, before anyone mentions it, Beltran hasn't been a consistently-great post-season hitter since his 2012 run with the Giants. That was half a decade ago. Time to move on from that narrative.
With all that said, the answer seems clear to me; Marwin Gonzalez. The infield is set with Yuli, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman. You want all those guys in the lineup on a nightly basis. Yuli is clearly the "worst" of that group and yet his high-contact, high-average, decent-power bat is a nice addition to the bottom half of the lineup.
I'd also like Cameron Maybin to get a good amount of time in center field. The reason is defense; with him there, Springer in right, and Reddick in left, you have a standout defensive outfield behind your pitchers. Keep in mind that, unlike Keuchel (and McCullers, it seems), new ace Verlander is a fly ball pitcher. And Maybin certainly isn't a terrible hitter for the 8th or 9th hole.
So it's pretty much DH if you want Marwin to get consistent ABs, and he's proven this year that, yes, you do want that.
The other obvious option is Marwin at first base and Yuli at the DH, on account of his persistent lower half issue. I think the obvious question is where does that leave Gattis? He was great in April and July but has been garbage at the plate outside of those months, and that concussion sure scuttled an opportunity to find his stroke in August and September. You also have to ask if he's the guy you want catching playoff games. I don't think anyone knows for sure how much the Astros like him as a catcher, because catcher defense is still largely baffling to people without access to a supercomputer and a team of MIT grads and ex-NASA employees. I sure don't have a handle on it yet, so I won't rule out Gattis catching any certain amount of time...but McCann is clearly and purposefully Keuchel's catcher, and Verlander is a guy who likes to paint just as much as he likes the swinging strike, so you want your framer there, too (McCann has caught all three of his outings so far, for what that's worth).
Yet, with all that said...I'd still use Gattis over Beltran as the DH. So, there you go.
I'm not sure what the right answer is...do you go for the best offensive permutation, recognizing that this team has won all year on the strength of its offense with enough pitching and defense to be dangerous? Or do you sacrifice a little offense to put your best defense on the field? Maybe you play Maybin in CF and Marwin at 2B with Altuve at DH to maximize defense AND offense as much as possible.
I honestly don't know.
I do know, however, that I'm not messing too much with what has been a winning formula this season if I'm AJ Hinch. If that means starting Carlos Beltran at DH most of the playoff games, then that's what it means...no matter how he performs.
I think (hope) we can all agree that if we face the Red Sox there is no way Beltran should be in the game 1 lineup against Sale.
Beltran is hitting .190 with a .518 OPS against lefties this year (124 PAs).
I think the Astros should roll out the best offensive lineup while maintaining a solid defense. If that means Maybin in CF or Fisher in LF hitting 9th and Marwin as the DH then I'm all for it. We can use Beltran as a pinch hit option later in games if need be.
Without context, I’m in favor of starting Beltran in the lineup, just for intangible reasons. He hasn’t been good (better in the second half maybe), but I can’t imagine Hinch tinkering with his more-consistent lineup that’s included Beltran all season.
With context is the pitchers the Astros will presumably face in an ALDS series against Boston - there’s Sale, as well as lefty Drew Pomeranz who should start a Game 2. I imagine Hinch will roll with Beltran for one of those games and Gattis for another, and then re-evaluate his options based on how the rest of the series looks. Another Red Sox lefty, Eduardo Rodriguez, could be Boston’s third starter, in which case I would be in favor of a non-Beltran player (Gattis, or getting creative with maybe Marwin) starting at DH.
Yeah, I’m with Brian on this one. Beltran has been awful at the plate this year. I wouldn’t say that I hate the signing because it’s not my $16 million and I do think he has provided some value off the field, but there is no getting around the fact that he is a bad offensive player. Need some convincing? Consider this:
-Before this year, Beltran’s lowest wRC+ since 2000 was 96. He has a 78 wRC+ in 2017.
-He is striking out more frequently than he ever has in his career.
-Beltran’s slugging percentage is below .400 for the first time since 2000.
-His OBP is below .300 for the first time in his career.
He is slow, he isn’t drawing walks, and he isn’t hitting home runs. If he figures something out and goes on a tear the final week of the season, then work him into the playoff lineup. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with something like this:
- Springer- RF (141 wRC+)
- Reddick- LF (128 wRC+)
- Altuve- 2B (160 wRC+)
- Correa- SS (139 wRC+)
- Gonzalez- 1B (138 wRC+)
- Bregman- 3B (117 wRC+)
- Gurriel- DH (116 wRC+)
- McCann- C (97 wRC+)
- Maybin- CF (85 wRC+)
That’s a pretty stout lineup offensively that still gives you a formidable defense, especially in the outfield.
Use Beltran as a pinch-hitter in circumstances where you want a veteran who understands the situation. Other than that, let him observe the other team’s pitcher and give guys tips or keep guys calm throughout the playoffs (i.e. fulfilling his player-coach role that Chris mentioned). I just can’t see a justification for him being in the lineup regularly though, unless the whole veteran presence thing is worth much more than I realize.