Dusty Baker is managing the Astros like they are up by ten games, not a club in the thick of a competitive division race. In this weekend’s series alone, Dusty made several sub-optimal decisions that hurt the team’s chances of winning. Below is a list of the questionable decisions Baker made this weekend.
1. Starting Martin Maldonado at catcher for two out of three games.
This feels like beating a dead horse, but the fact that Dusty continues to give Madly the majority of starts at backstop is indefensible. Martin entered Sunday night’s game with a sub 60 wRC+ and, according to Baseball Savant, has been worth negative 14 runs on defense. On the other hand, Yainer Diaz has produced a 124 wRC+ and has been worth plus two defensive runs. The difference in offensive production between Maldy and Diaz is about 85 points in wRC+, this is about the same difference as 2022 Yordan Alvarez and a league-average hitter.
Diaz is the better catcher today and also carries significantly more upside for the future. Furthermore, if Dusty insisted on playing Maldy exclusively against Lefties, that may make more sense. However, Dusty has been starting him against Righties as well. It seems he has his heart set on starting Maldy, and he will find a reason to do it.
2. Benching McCormick twice and pinch-hitting for him in a key moment.
Chas has been great this year. In less than 400 plate appearances, Chas has produced 20 runs above average on offense and has been worth 3.5 wins above replacement (FanGraphs). The two players who started over McCormick this weekend, Meyers and Dubon, have been significantly less successful; McCormick’s wRC+ is over 50 points higher than both. Adding insult to injury, Baker decided to pinch-hit Singleton for Chas in the 9th inning of Saturday’s game. In no world should Dusty have used a recent minor league callup, one who hasn’t been productive, over a player of McCormick’s caliber. Resting McCormick may make sense when you have the division locked up, but it certainly doesn’t when every game could be decisive.
3. Using Phil Maton in the top of the 5th of Saturday’s game.
With runners on 1st and 3rd with no one out in a one-run game, Dusty Baker should have used his best reliever to put out the fire. Instead, he put in Phil Maton. Although Maton has had a nice season, he is not their best option out of the bullpen. Especially with a rested bullpen, Baker should have seen that the game was on the line and been more aggressive about putting his best pitchers in the game.
Playing baseball is really hard, but making a lineup card should not be. By continually making sub-optimal lineups and bullpen decisions, Baker is leaving several wins on the table. Perhaps the Astros would have been swept this weekend regardless of their managerial decisions. This series was not an aberration though, but just another example of bad baseball moves by Dusty Baker.
In 2022, when a first-round bye was almost guaranteed in early August, Baker’s personnel decisions had little impact on the outcome of the season. However, in a season where the division title may come down to a tiebreak, Dusty’s lack of urgency to win games and make the best moves possible may cost the team dearly. Hopefully, the boys can adapt and overcome!