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Martin Maldonado: Slugger Par Excellence?

Believe it or not, the erstwhile black hole in the Astros lineup is the hottest slugger in a hot Astros July lineup. And he’s been trending up for a while now.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Astros Need Another DH

This year MLB instituted the universal DH for all teams but one. Sure the Astros have a DH for the pitcher, and a pretty good one at that, but there’s no DH for the Astros catcher. Which means the Astros, like NL teams of yore, have an unfilled black hole in the lineup.

In 2021 all pitchers in MLB had the following slash line:

.109/149/139. wRC+ -22.

Here’s Martin Maldonado’s from opening day, 04/7 - 05/5:

.074/.190/.148 wRC+ 5.

If Maldonado were a pitcher, no one would even have been able to say he was a “good hitting” pitcher.

Even almost a month later, his stats compiled from opening day until 05-27 weren’t much better:

.117/.200.223 wRC+ 24.

This is about what I always expected most pitchers to do back in the pre-DH days.

Clearly, the Astros needed...deserved, another DH.

Martin Maldonado: July’s Hottest Hitter

It’s only a week, but it’s true. Here’s the breakdown:

Martin Maldonado................248 wRC+

Chas McCormick..................246 wRC+

Jose Altuve ..........................245 wRC+

Aledmys Diaz........................204 wRC+

Yordan Alvarez.....................201 wRC+

5 more 125 or higher. Team average 173, tops in MLB.

Maldonado has three homers so far this month, a double, 5 RBI, and seven hits in eight games.

OK, we all know that Martin Maldonado won’t go much longer as baseball’s seventh-best hitter, (that’s his July ranking by wRC+) but there is good reason to hope that he will not remain a black hole/automatic out in the Astros lineup going forward.

First of all, his early-season performance was way below his career averages. They are:

.208/287/.347. wRC+ 72

That’s at least what you’d call a good hitting pitcher.

But also, his recent explosion was preceded by slow, steady improvement. His slash line in June was .167/.219/.317 wRC+52

From June 10 - July 1 it improved to .186/239/.326. wRC+ 61.

Maybe, just maybe, going forward Martin Maldonado will not be an automatic out in the Astros lineup. Maybe, just maybe, going forward he might even hit the Mendoza line in batting average along with a little pop in his bat. His current average is .162 but with 8 homers to go with it. His xWOBA at .282 is 32 points above his actual WOBA. And his BABIP is a sorrowful .200.

So here’s to Martin Maldonado. Great teammate, catcher extraordinaire, for eight days in July, slugger par excellence, and hopefully, a meaningful offensive contributor for the Astros going into their 6th consecutive playoff run.