Houston, TX - At the time of this writing, the Houston Astros are on a bit of an upswing. After what appears to be a trademark sluggish start to the season, the team’s fortunes show remarkable improvement, with the squad winning 9 of 11 games at one point. The starting rotation is showing why some thought it among the best in the league. The bullpen, with Pressly back, is proving just as effective. The offense is not quite the force is has been the past 5 years, but there are some semblances of life for the team.
However, there is a glaring issue where the Astros are concerned: The hitting of the catchers. Or rather, the blatant lack of hitting from that position. Long considered a weak spot in the lineup, the catcher position for the Astros to start the 2022 season is bad even by those standards. Consider the stat line of the primary catcher: Martin “Machete” Maldonado (as of 5/7/2022):
That is after a 1-3/ 1 BB performance on 5/6. “Machete” has never considered a force with the bat, but we are a full month into the season. If there is such thing as an easy-AB for the pitcher of the opposing team, this is it. Granted, Maldonado is seen more as a defensive guy/pitch shaper, but you probably want just a tad bit more production out of the 2 position on your scorecard.
Then, if Maldonado is really-not-good at the complicated skill of hitting a baseball (only of the three fundamental parts of baseball as per the Skipper), then can the Astros turn to another on the roster. In theory, yes, BUT, here is the stat-line for Jason Castro, the back-up catcher:
So, you don’t need a detailed understanding of modern analytics to realize that those are also…really not good numbers.
“Well, based on that, you can understand why we start Maldonado” opined Dusty Baker, as he was kicking back with his latest Merlot. “He is the best bat from the catcher position. Okay, Castro will give him a day off, but serious, if a guy has an 11 point advantage in batting average, why wouldn’t you go with him?”
Still, this is not great. Neither Maldonado rank or Castro rank anywhere in the top 172 players for BA. The catcher position for the Astros has yielded a whooping total of 7 hits, 5 RBI and 14 walks out of a combined 83 AB. We don’t have the complete time to go through all other teams, but suffice to say, a LOTTA of players have better numbers than those combined figures.
“You see the numbers and line-up and you figure, the easiest out of the game, when you see them. Yet, on that Friday night game, maybe I was rattled after that dinger to McCormick, but I just throw a pitch like I normally do, and somehow, the catcher, the easiest out on the team, turned on it and blasted a homer. Never felt so embarrassed in my life. Just hope that the skipper doesn’t send me to the minors” lamented Tigers’ pitcher Beau Brieske.
“Had the paperwork ready to ship his [kitten] out, but realized that we aren’t that good right now anyway.” observed Tigers manager AJ Hinch. “Still, I am warning all my pitchers that if you ever let another Astros catcher get a hit, you will be walking back, and not just to the hotel. Your [kitten] will be walking all the way back to Detroit, so you can clean out your locker and get your paperwork before we ship you to Cincinnati.”
Such sentiments were echoed through out the league. “Oh yeah, we have the same policy” noted an unnamed AL team exec. “We know that there are variances in games, etc, but honestly, if you can get an Astros’ catcher out during their AB, you clearly don’t have any stuff.”
We at Totally Not Fake News did receive a harshly worded letter from the Cincinnati Reds organization, observing that even their pitchers would suffer the consequences if they allowed a ‘Stros catcher to get a hit off of them. Part of the statement read “If this were to happen to even one of our pitchers they would lose all per diem replaced with a season-mandated diet of Sky Line chili.” Apparently, this threat is taken very seriously.
Still, some feel this is overblown.
“Okay, so our catchers have trouble getting hits. We are aware of that and we are working on solutions to this issue” noted GM Click. When asked if that meant promoting catching prospect Korey Lee, Click shut that down. “Oh no. No. We aren’t going to do that. Looks, the Astros brought me over to use that creativity we had in Tampa Bay, so we are going to apply those skills here. We have tons of options.”
When asked, Click offered some of the following:
- Redefining the hitting stats. “Instead of focus on BA, or slash lines, we think we should go with stat positivity. So, whereas others might focus on a .088 batting average for Maldonado, we like to think that he has a .912 NPFARFAHB (Not Putting Fans At Risk From A Hit Ball). Castro has a stellar .923 NPFARFAHB. Hard to beat those numbers.
- Change in bats. “We think it might be better for Maldonado to go to bat with an actual machette. Of course, our hitting coaches would stress hitting with the flat part of the blade, but even a cut ball could throw off the defense. Plus, we calculate a near 100% increase in more favorable calls when Machette brings his name-sake instrument to bat.”
- Redefine the role of the DH: “Look, the DH is for the pitcher, but we think there is a great argument to be had for allowing teams to designate what position they want to DH. Could this possibly force our pitchers to have to bat more? Yes, but you’ve seen our current situation, right? Also, we think this could open the door to multiple DHs, a concept that we are sure the players will really go for in the next CBA.”
- Greater fan involvement: “We can advocate for really improving the fan experience by allowing fans to actually come down and take a live at-bat when the catcher position comes up. If the Rockets have a “free throw for charity” thing, why not an AB for charity? If MLB really wants to increase fan involvement, here you go. Think of the amazement if a fan gets the chance to get an actual hit, or even better, get an RBI or homer for charity? Major organizational win!”
- The designated out: “I was in an organization that brought you the opener. So, we think something like the designated out would work. If we have less than two outs in an inning and the catcher is coming up to bat, we would simply call it the designated out. Yes, you lose the AB, but is it a) any different than now? And 2) It saves us from the possibility of a damaging double play. Sometimes it is all about managing losses and risk.”
While we have yet to hear back from MLB on these changes. However, Totally Not Fake News will keep you up to date on any new developments from the team or the league on this situation.