Abbott and Costello were wrong: We know third base

Brian Todd continues our look at the 2014 Astros, checking in at the hot corner.

• •• ••• •• •

In 2013, six players took at-bats while playing third base. The other five did not take one-tenth the at-bats that Matt Dominguez took at the Hot Corner.

We could talk about Marwin Gonzalez and Brett Wallace all we want at third base. But the fact remains that Matty D is the Astros’ third baseman. Barring injury, he is certain to take the lion’s share of time at third after putting up a batting line of .241/.286/.403.

At the plate, there were really two Matt Dominguezes last season, the one before the All-Star break and the one after. Before the ASB, he hit .227. After, he batted .260. On-base percentages: the splits were .257 vs. .323. Slugging: Matty D put up a so-so .383 before the break and slugged .430 after.

So, which Matty D will we get? What was the difference between first-half and second-half Dominguez? Well, before and after at-bats were 308 to 235. Strikeouts were 51 to 45 (note: overall, he whiffed less than 100 times in 543 at-bats), which means

proportionally he was striking out more in the second half. Homers were up proportionally in the second half (11 pre-ASB to 10 post-ASB), though doubles held about even at 15 to 10.

The big difference, it seemed, was walks. Dominguez walked 12 times in 308 at-bats before the ASB: that’s 1 BB per every 25.67 at-bats. Yep, he was THAT bad. In the second half, he took 18 BB in 235 ABs, which is a walk every 13 ABs.

Are we seeing what the difference is? We need a patient Matt Dominguez at the plate (are you listening Jose Altuve ?).

No matter, it’s Matty D or bust in 2014. Despite getting no love in certain defensive metrics, he places pretty high in assists plus putouts per chance. His error total is fairly low. His range factor is decent, but frankly I think he’s better than that stat indicates. If he’s not a Gold Glove-caliber defender, my eyes need adjusting.

Behind him on the depth chart is Wallace (see First Base) who might provide a day off or two for Dominguez during the course of the season. Marwin Gonzalez might be our AAA stop-gap. All I will say there is his MLB OPS is under .600. We don’t need to say more. Jonathan Meyer put up a .721 OPS at Corpus last season, striking out 109 times in 484 at-bats. The Astros also invited Gregorio Petit, a journeyman minor leaguer who’s had a cup and a refill with Oakland in 2008 and 2009. He looks like the organizational guy going to OKC.

Rio Ruiz might be the third baseman of the future, but he was in Quad Cities last season. After a slow start, he put up a .786 OPS. Nolan Fontana was in Lancaster in 2013, putting up a wind-aided .816 OPS that has more to do with his 102 BB in 386 ABs. Technically a shortstop, Fontana could slide over to third if he finds some power and a way to get on base other than his strict strike-zone discipline.

So …

* Which Matt Dominguez do we get in 2014? First-half Matty, second-half Matty or something better?  Or something worse? Why do you think so?

* Dominguez put up a 2.2 WAR last year (Baseball Reference). A lot of that comes from his defense. Is there anything about Matty D’s defense that needs to improve?

* If Dominguez is injured (Lord forbid!), who do you want to see over at third? Wallace? Gonzalez? Do we bring up Meyer or go with Petit?

* Are you looking forward to Rio Ruiz? When should he get his chance, in 2015 or 2016 or later?


36 comments on “Abbott and Costello were wrong: We know third base

  1. Brian – nice roundup of the options here.
    – As you say – the Matty D who was just a little bit more patient was a lot better hitter. I think we see that guy and if there is a little better hitting around him or more guys on base he may improve over those second half stats.
    – This is all eyeball and memory, but it seemed to me he made more errors on routine plays than he did on tough ones. Improving that should just be a matter of maturity and concentration. He is just 24 and has less than 200 games mlb experience so there is room for growth.
    – Frankly, if he gets injured and Meyer is doing anything in the minors – I would rather give him a shot. We know Wallace is not a 3B and Marwin just cannot hit. Could Meyer hit worse than Gonzalez or field worse than Wallace? i doubt it.
    – When we had the blog about how the players were doing based on their age – one of our loyal bloggers (1 oldpro) pointed out that not only did Ruiz improve during the season, that he improved every month of the season and by the end was putting up Carlos Correa numbers. That makes me excited to see if the 19 year old keeps it up in 2014 and maybe we see him in a couple of years.


    • By the way – the City of Houston is in lockdown due to some icy precipitation over night – yes Brian you would laugh at this up in Minnesota. Frankly, the people here can’t drive when it is dry or wet – so ice makes it impossible. And going along with our crazy weather – it will be around 70 on Sunday. Keep warm up there Brian – my office does not open until 10 AM today and almost all the schools are closed.


      • Hey, Baton Rouge is also shut down. Interstates as well. Apparently, the city doesn’t have readily-available salt or sand supplies to de-ice the bridges either. Kinda funny to sit back and watch!


      • I kid about southerners, but if it wasn’t for plows I wouldn’t leave home. That said, I’ve lived I Texas when a little ice hits the streets. Every yahoo with four-wheel drive thinks he’s invincible. And that’s when dumb stuff happens.

        Wallace deserves nothing beyond his first base platoon and then ONLY if he performs in spring training. One bad week and I’m all for shipping him to the Scottish National Baseball Team (Wallace is Scottish, right?)


    • Over at What The Heck Bobby, there was a great story on Meyer. Sounds like his glove is on par with Dominguez’s. Yeah, if he’s hitting At ALL, he gets my nod in case of injury. I’m sure our groundball-inducing pitching staff would concur.


  2. I think you are skipping Matt Duffy. I’m not saying he fits in this year, but skipping him is a mistake. He hit well at Lancaster and got promoted. Will probably be starting at 3B at CC.


    • Duffy did like most – hit well at Lancaster and not so well at sea level – but decent. He just turned 25 – so he needs to impact soon or never.


      • He played one month in AA, 25 games and hit 5 home runs in 95 plate appearances. In the 25 games he played four different positions, DH. 1B, 2B, 3B. I think it was a pretty good performance, considering it was a questionable promotion that gave him absolutely no direction to go when he arrived at CC. I can tell you Lancaster missed his bat in their playoffs.
        Duffy is a RH batter who saw a huge diet of RH pitchers this year and hit .307 against them and .319 against lefties.


  3. I believe we get the second-half Matty. I would surmise that he used the last ASB to take a breath and look over what he had done and then made a conscious effort to be more patient. We will know if this is correct within the first month of the season, maybe ST. Under no circumstance should we be giving Wallace any more chances if Matt is injured. Bring up the OKC or CC guys. Wallace and Marwin are totally known. By the way, it’s 22 degrees here in Dripping Springs and nothing is moving including me.


  4. Brian….I read the same article about Jonathan Meyer! His pitchers think mighty highly of him at 3rd. base. And……..if Matty D goes down,
    I’d give Meyer a chance. I’ve lived in the North and South…….cold is
    a four letter word!


  5. The scrub utility IF that Luhnow hires at the 11th hour will be Dominguez’ back-up. Will probably happen at the end of spring training right about the time that Wallace gets released.


    • It’s not rocket surgery, Becky. The team needs defensive depth at SS/3B, and a three-way platoon at 1B will seriously hamper Porter’s flexibility. Thus, WAAAlace should be the odd man out (injury or trade notwithstanding).

      Plus, as teams pare down the roster to 25 players at the end of spring training, scrub IFs are ALWAYS available off the waiver wire. Luhnow knows this AND has first dibs.

      Voila. A cheap solution to the glaring problem.


  6. There are a few third basemen that any team would want: Cabrera (1b from here on out actually), Longoria, Beltre, Donaldson, Machado. There are a handful of guys who people may fool themselves into thinking are stars/future stars: Wright, Chris Johnson, Sandoval, Zimmerman (if he could stay healthy…), Seager, Headley, Alvarez. Then, there are the rest of them: Uribe, Moustakas, Freese, ARod, Ramirez, etc

    If the Astros get enough bumps from putting Fowler and Springer out there instead of Barnes and Pena, if Villar gets on base, if Altuve gets on base, and if Castro doesn’t fall off a cliff then I think Dominguez does all right. If teams have to pitch to him then he’ll put a charge into it enough to be productive despite the lack of patience. If teams can pitch around him then we’ll likely see the first half stats more often than the second. He seemed to be one of the more competent batters with RISP last year (.256 / .309 / .426 with 7 SF).

    I agree he seemed to have lapses where he made careless errors on routine plays. He’d likely make much fewer of those if the pitching were better…the longer the defense is on the field the higher the chances for lapses.


  7. Carlos Lee — .264 .332 .365 .697 and $18 Million, OR Matt Dominguez — .241 .286 .403 .690 and the league minimum. Plus the kid uses his glove for something besides a “hand warmer.” I’ll take Matt any day.


    • On the plus side – Lee’s stats after the trade to Miami were even worse than that .243 .328 .325 and .654.
      On the negative side the Astros paid almost all of his remaining salary for 2012 – almost $9 million while he played elsewhere.
      But the overwhelming positive is that we were able to get anyone much less a decent player for Carlos at that point in his career.


  8. Basically, we stole Matty D from them. Highway robbery. Luhnow should be brought up on charges. Even paying the remainder of Lee’s salary doesn’t mitigate the severity of the crime. Frankly, it just shows Luhnow to be a con man (and not in the way Bopert is always going on about).

    If we can get patience from Dominguez, pitchers coming to him due to a stronger lineup (Springer, Fowler, maybe a Carter that starts trending toward his minor league numbers), we’re looking at a well above replacement third baseman. Great glove, decent bat, good power. I’ll take that all day.

    I think this year and next, Dominguez will need to start proving that he, not Ruiz, is the third baseman of the future.


      • Agreed. I just think sometimes, especially now with the team so bad, we look to the future and say, “Man, I can’t wait until that guy gets to Houston!”

        Maybe we already have THAT GUY in Houston. Ruiz is an excellent prospect. But Dominguez is already here, still young, and looks like he’s progressing toward being a very good player.

        The same can be said of Castro. We all want Stassi to succeed and some are ready to hand the job over to him, but right now we have, arguably, the third or even second best offensive catcher in the major leagues. I know he needs better defense (that said, make Yadier Molina catch our staff last season, I bet his defensive metric take a hit). But why are we in such a rush to replace a guy who is a bonafide star at his position?

        And that, quite possibly, is what Matt Dominguez will become over the next season or two.


      • Frankly Brian – with Castro, while I don’t like his defense (yeah, who liked Piazza’s defense) I am more concerned about him physically. The biggest reason to move him would be to save those legs.


    • Dominguez and Ruiz could both be 3B of the future. Matt for the near future and Rio for the 2018 and beyond. After all, Rio will be Matt’s age in 2018 and Matt might be looking for a lot of money by then.
      That is exactly what a stacked minor leagues is all about.
      Then again, there is the 6’4″ 220 lb Carlos Correa of 2016.


      • totally agree oldpro. we will be getting the benefits of a stacked minor leagues for years to come. once enough of them have made their way to houston, we add a couple of big time fa’s and we are off to the races. i think we will be particularly rich (as opposed to others) with young pitching.


      • Exactly – having capable replacements come through your system for current or departed starters will allow the Astros to trade to fill the areas of most pressing need or enter offseasons with narrow scopes for free agent targets.


  9. A couple of things tonight fellas. All this talk up about Jim Crane and Nolan Ryan is a little too much. I mean really, what would Nolan settle for with the Astros? He might be a tad embarrased when Crane offers him a job selling hot dogs! AND…….climbing tals has an interesting article on Villar….who is probably your next guy up for us to
    comment on. The reports I’m seeing are mostly agreed that this team will win between 65-75 games this year, and I don’t know about you………but I’ll take 75 wins!


    • Becky, Nolan is no fool. His son is president, and Luhnow is GM. If Nolan wants to talk he must have something in mind. If Crane wants to talk, he must have something in mind.
      There is so much to be done for this franchise to improve: the spring training fiasco, the woodlands situation. the acquisition of a AAA team if the Woodlands thing comes to fruition. How to develope all the young pitchers once they arrive, and last but most importantly, how to win back the respect of the fans and the rest of the baseball world for the Houston Astros. Even on a part time basis Ryan could help with all that. If Crane backs off, shuts his gd mouth and turns the PR over to Reid and his special consultant and advisor, Dad, then Dad has time for the ranch and family and fill a huge role that the Astros don’t have right now. CREDIBILITY.


      • Well said oldpro.

        Personally, I predict Nolan will sour on Crane once he gets to know him. And if Nolan does come on in some capacity, I think eventually he and Crane will bump heads re: money.

        Reid is the key to the marriage as Crane ain’t no good ole boy. But I think at the end of the day, the goals of each will not line up.

        My hunch is Reid’s job — IN CRANE’S MIND — is to build a highly profitable asset in the Woodlands AAA team (ala the Round Rock Express).

        I think the goal in Reid and Ryan’s might actually be to WIN. We’ll see. But I don’t think the marriage will stand the test of time, if ever.


  10. Let’s not forget…… was Nolan Ryan’s whispering in the ear of Selig
    that sent the Astros to the AL. I think if Nolan is offered a job, it won’t be in any way a significant role with this team.


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