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Open Forum: What to do about Josh Reddick? Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Kyle Tucker.

Josh Reddick is hurting the Astros’ offense. Is there an alternative?

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros have the best hitting, but don’t score the most runs

By some measures, the Astros are the best hitting team in baseball. Like the 2017 team, they may end up in consideration as one of the best hitting teams of all time. In wRC+ the Astros are blowing away the rest of the league. Their 122 rating means they are 22% better at hitting than the average team in baseball right now. The next best team is the Yankees at 116. For comparison purposes, the 1927 Ruth, Gehrig, Yankees had a 126 rating.

But the Astros’ dominance in terms of park adjusted weighted on base average, a rough summary of what wRC+ means, does not translate into scoring the most runs. In runs scored - and after all. that’s what you have to do to win games - the Astros are fifth in MLB with 685.

So why the discrepancy between the prowess of the Astros at getting hits, and not a corresponding proficiency at run production? With runners in scoring position the Astros’ batting average is 13th, .265, compared to their overall .274 average. The Yankees are first in BA with RISP at .304. Not surprisingly, the Yankees lead the league in runs scored, although better home run production has something to do with it as well.

One possible or partial explanation for the Astros’ relative failure to produce hits in clutch situations could be the configuration of the lineup. It is truly said that the Astros lineup can strike awe and fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers from positions 1 through 7. The wRC+ of the Astros lineup 1 through 7 is 131. This is with considerable time lost to injury to major producers like George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve. As well as half the season with Tyler White instead of Yordan Alvarez at DH. The next best team at positions 1 through 7 is the Dodgers, at 123, and the Yankees are fourth at 116.

Which gets us to the problem. The Yankees are actually better in hitting in positions 8 and 9 than they are 1 through 7; 118 wRC+. By comparison, the last two places in the Astros’ batting order are only hitting 89.

What this means is that the Astros top seven hitters are filling up the bases, but too often are being left stranded by the last two places in the batting order. The top seven hitters in the Astros lineup is a truly awesome gauntlet for any pitcher to face, but for the Yankees the gauntlet runs nine batters deep, even if 1 through 7 aren’t quite as intense.

In short, the Astros’ first seven hitters put the most men on base and slug the highest in baseball, but more so than the major competitors the Astros will face in the playoffs, the team strands these base runners. Relative weakness at the bottom of the order could be a part of the reason.

Which means I can now talk about the subject of this article, my buried lede, Josh Reddick.

Why Josh Reddick may be part of the problem

In the playoffs can the Astros afford two gaping holes in their lineup? The catcher situation is what it is. If catchers can hit, that is gravy. But since the All-Star break, having Reddick in the lineup is almost like running a National League lineup with a slightly above average hitting pitcher. In the second half he is hitting .189, with a wRC+ of 25. That is 75% below league average.

Reddick started the season respectably, but has regressed as the season has continued. This is an established pattern for Reddick in his three years with the Astros, and it continues into the playoffs.

Josh Reddick, 1st and 2nd half stats as Astro, and left/right splits

Josh Reddick 1st half BA 2nd half BA 1st half wRC+ 2nd half wRC+ vs left BA/wRC+ vs right BA/wRC+
Josh Reddick 1st half BA 2nd half BA 1st half wRC+ 2nd half wRC+ vs left BA/wRC+ vs right BA/wRC+
2017 .313 .316 136 117 .315/110 .314/132
2018 .258 .222 106 91 .269/127 .231/88
2019 .289 .189 102 25 .338/133 .248/72

What this chart shows us is that every season Reddick’s production has declined in the second half, and that with every successive season that decline has gotten worse than it was the year before.

In post-season play for his career, Reddick hits .219, slugs at .297, with a wRC+ of 58. It appears that his second half slump continues into the playoffs.

The chart also points out that Reddick has become a better hitter against same-handed pitchers, lefties, than he is against righties. Strange. I’ll explain why that matters later.

Advanced batted ball stats confirm this decline. Every year, in the second half, Reddick hits more grounders, and his hard hit percentage drops.

Reddick 1st half and 2nd half batted ball data

Josh Reddick GB% 1st/2nd Hard hit% 1st/2nd
Josh Reddick GB% 1st/2nd Hard hit% 1st/2nd
2017 31.0/36.7 32.5/29.5
2018 36.9/37.7 31.9/27.6
2019 32.8/40.3 33.9/31.0

Reddick has not only been in decline from first half of every season to the second half, he has been in decline from season to season. These are his hitting stats from 2017 to present.

Reddick hitting, 2017 to present and playoffs

Josh Reddick season BA season SLG season wRC+
Josh Reddick season BA season SLG season wRC+
2017 .314 .484 128
2018 .242 .400 99
2019 .265 .385 83
post-season .219 .297 58

In three years Reddick has gone from a plus hitter, to an average hitter, to a below average hitter this year. Even Tony Kemp, at the time of this writing, has a better wRC+ than Reddick. And what’s worse, his BA with RISP is even lower than his season average, at .238. I don’t have the second half number on that, but there’s little doubt it is lower than .238.

In short, it doesn’t look like we can expect much more from Reddick than what we have been seeing. So, what to do?

The Alternatives to Reddick

  1. The Marisnick Option

Jake Marisnick is no one’s idea of a great hitter, but he is hitting better than Reddick. For the season his wRC+ is 99; average. His second half numbers are bad, 76, but still not as bad as Reddick’s 25. And even though they hit opposite handed, Reddick and Jake don’t even make a good platoon, because Reddick hits left-handed pitchers better than right-handed ones. He actually hits left-handers a little better than Marisnick for the season, and Jake hits right-handers slightly better than Reddick.

Marisnick upgrades the defense. Reddick has a career UZR/150 of 5.5. If Marisnick were moved to the outfield George Springer would play right field, and his UZR/150 is 2.6, a slight downgrade. But Marisnick in center has an 8.3 UZR/150, a big upgrade at center, where Springer is basically neutral.

Marisnick has 1.5 fWAR for the season in 255 PAs. In 437 PAs Reddick is barely replacement level at 0.2 fWAR.

Although both look like declining assets at the plate, Marisnick is a better option than Reddick. But does he solve the problem of a hole in the 8 or 9 spot? No.

2. The Alvarez/Diaz option

Have slugger Yordan Alvarez play left field instead of DH, move Brantley to right, and have former All-Star Aledmys Diaz DH. Or return to the roving DH pattern with Diaz playing utility. In any case Diaz is taking Reddick’s at bats. Diaz, in sporadic playing time has a 108 wRC+, which happens to be his career average. It’s a big upgrade over Reddick’s hitting, but it is a defensive nightmare. From all accounts Alvarez is a poor outfielder, and Brantley in right is clearly out of position. This is not going to happen.

3. Myles Straw

In 98 PAs Myles Straw produced three times the fWAR as Reddick even with his limited bat (91 wRC+) It is uncertain whether he could maintain even this level of hitting in the long term, but with his ability to get on base and truly elite base running speed, he is an appealing option

4. Kyle Tucker

This will undoubtedly happen on September 1st. What is not certain is will it work. He was promoted last year and in 72 PAs his wRC+ was 28, about what Reddick is doing now. There was some bad luck there, but his AAA season has been worse than last year’s, (116 wRC+ in 2019, 155 in 2018) in a year when AAA hitting numbers are way up overall. So it is not certain that Tucker will perform at a significantly higher level than Reddick, or even higher than he did last year. But he will get the chance.

Next Year

Reddick will be 33 years old next year, and appears to be aging before his time. Next year is the last year of his contract, which pays $13 m. He has become very nearly a liability, and it is questionable whether any team would by willing to part with even a low level prospect and have to take on his contract. So Reddick may be with the Astros next year, and all we can do is hope that he rediscovers some of the mojo he had in 2017.

So what should the Astros do about right field and the 9 hole in the lineup? First choice, I think almost everyone would agree, is give Kyle Tucker a chance in September. If that doesn’t work, what’s next? Answer the poll below. And add your comments.


If Kyle Tucker fails to produce in September, what is the best option for his spot in the lineup

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Put Josh Reddick back in
    (186 votes)
  • 40%
    Start Jake Marisnick
    (461 votes)
  • 30%
    Start Myles Straw
    (348 votes)
  • 11%
    Put Alvarez in left field, Brantley in right and have Aledmys Diaz take over the ABs.
    (134 votes)
1129 votes total Vote Now