Astros hitting problems: The hitters or Hudgens?

In a debate that might match the famous nature vs. nurture arguments of science and after another terrible offensive road trip, this blog stops to examine the question of our time. Are the Astros’ hitting woes the fault of the hitters or the fault of Swing and Miss Coach Dave Hudgens?

If Hudgens were updating his resume with the thought he would be on the street this off-season, (and certainly Astros’ fans are hoping he is too busy teaching Chris Carter that he needs to vary his swing based on where the pitch is to do it) he would have a decent story to tell.

The team is tied for third in the AL in runs scored, first in Home Runs, fourth in slugging percentage and fourth in OPS. In 2014 this team was 14th in runs scored, third in HRs, eighth in slugging and ninth in OPS. Those are all big improvements for a team, which is leading the AL West. So, what are you complaining about?

Well, it is not that the fans are not thankful for a better team performance, but they rightfully can say that last season’s team did not have nearly as many professional hitters as this team with Brett Lowrie, Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus added to the mix. A good way to look at the team is how the players who make up the nucleus of the team are performing this season vs. last season. Overall, it is not pretty.

Chris Carter
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .227   .308   .799    37       88      .267        9.8       31.8   6.5       10.3
2015    .183   .298   .677     17       49       .228       13.1      33      4.5        7.6

Luis Valbuena
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .249   .341    .776     16      51       .294         11.9     20.7   2.9       9.7
2015    .213   .295    .723     21      43      .215          9.5       21.8   5.4       8.5

Evan Gattis
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .263   .317    .810     22      52       .298       5.5       24.2   5.5        10
2015    .238   .270   .711       17      60       .262       3.8      20.7    4.0       9.3

Jose Altuve
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .341   .377    .830      7       59       .360        5.1       7.5      1.0        8.1
2015    .300  .345    .754      9       49       .317         5.2      9.6      1.9        6.3

Jason Castro
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .222  .286    .651      14      56       .294        6.6      29.5   2.7        7.2
2015    .214  .276     .660     10      29       .272        7.5      29.4   3.4        8.5

George Springer
Year      BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014    .231    .336    .804    20      51       .294        11.3      33      5.8        8.4
2015    .264   .365    .822     13       29      .337         13        26      4            8.3

Colby Rasmus
Year       BA    OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014      .225   .267    .735     18       40      .294       7.7       33       4.8        10.6
2015      .239   .312    .774     15        42      .311        9.3       31.6    4.5        10.5

Jake Marisnick (2014 is Astros numbers only)

Year      BA     OBP    OPS    HR    RBI    BABIP    BB%    K%    HR%    XBH%
2014     .272   .299     .669    3        19        .352       2.7       25.8   1.6        5.9
2015     .227   .262     .617     5        21        .301        4.1       28      1.9         7

Comments on those numbers:

  • Basically, Carter, Altuve, Valbuena, Gattis and Marisnick are hitting significantly worse than last season.
  • Castro is basically hitting almost the same as last season. He is headed for a much worse RBI year, but he is hitting way down the lineup this season vs. last season when he spent a lot of time higher than his hitting deserved.
  • Springer and Rasmus are improved over last season as hitters. Cynics would say (and they may be right) that Rasmus is performing better because he is on a one year contract. It should also be pointed out that Springer has about as many ABs this season as last season at this point and though he is a much more efficient hitter, his power and RBI numbers are way down. No doubt his RBI numbers are down because he was moved to leadoff after struggling in the power center of the lineup.
  • Man, some of those terrible batting average on balls in play (BABIP) would seem to be almost unsustainable. Is there some luck involved in some numbers? Heck, who knows.
  • Carter – so dependent on power and here he is with much lower HR percentage and XBH percentage numbers.
  • Valbuena is hitting HRs at almost twice his rate last season, but he is lagging in overall XBH numbers.
  • Gattis is leading the team in RBIs (and triples) but you have to wonder how many RBIs a guy would have who is a better hitter with as many opportunities as he gets.
  • Altuve and Marisnick had probably unsustainable good BABIPs in 2014.

Looking it over, there are surely more players who are worse this season than last. And for those watching the team every day there sure seems to be no discernible change in the approaches of the worst offenders. Are these guys un-coachable? Or is the coach not coaching?

Where do you lay the blame here?

  • Luhnow for the hitters he brought in?
  • Hudgens for not coaching them up?
  • The hitters for not seeming to change their approach to improve?
  • Luhnow for hiring Hudgens?
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160 comments on “Astros hitting problems: The hitters or Hudgens?

  1. Yes, Yes, Yes, & Yes (if that is an O.K. series of answers). I think the mind set is to drive the ball hard no matter the situation. I LOVED the safety squeeze last game. I LOVED Altuve FC that got an RBI. I even LOVED Castro trying to bunt with the 3rd baseman almost standing on 2nd base. Those were all smart plays. Two worked but the 3rd did not. I do want to add that when the season started, I have never seen Rasmus play. He was not impressive looking (and still is not), But at the point of contact – he has a great swing. So do you want guys that look good or do you want results.

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  2. The credit/blame falls on the philosophy dictated by the club this season. “We may strike out a lot, but we are going to hit a lot of home runs.”
    Throughout the clubhouse and dugout, directly from the front office is the message that it is all about the long ball. The players have taken that message out to the plate and have followed it to the letter with each and every at bat.
    You see it from Altuve at the top all the way to Marisnick and Castro or Conger at the bottom, including Marwin: swing big, hit big, strikeout big, go for the long ball. Hudgeons has said that his job is to make the hitters feel comfortable and not mess with them.
    When Luhnow said this past week that their team is set and they think they have what they want, he meant it. The team is doing exactly what everybody said it would and what the career stats show. It’s no fluke that Altuve is on a career pace for homers. It is how the team is run and he is doing the same thing everybody else is: play for the bomb. Forget about hits and bunts and walks and advancing runners. Swing for the home run.
    This was not what Correa saw in the minors. They were taught to hit and score runs. Now he enters right into a different atmosphere altogether. Every batter who walks to the plate, the Astros announcers talk about a bomb. The entire Astros’ spectrum is based on it.

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    • Yes, the All or None syndrome. If we had a bunch of guys that would work to get the opposing starters pitch count up early, there would be more pitches over the plate to hit, more walks, fewer K’s, more base runners, more trips to the pen, and as a result, far more scoring opportunities. This concept also helps losing streaks from becoming long losing streaks.

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    • I have to agree with you. I don’t think we can fairly give credit or discredit Hudgens when so much this organization does is predicated on the analytics cherished by the front office. I don’t disagree with that approach, completely, but feel there is a little too much left on the table by failing to emphasize the importance of situational hitting. It’s situational for a reason.

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  3. But…Altuve getting picked off AGAIN makes me crazy. I appreciate the fact that these guys swing for the fences, but the strike outs are amazing. Carter is the enigma,
    He has just imploded from last year. I don’t really know how you keep a guy like that on your team. I guess you could say this entire team is an enigma!! They go from beating a team by 6- runs, to get hammered the next day, and don’t score ANY runs.
    I can’t complain since they are in first place, I guess I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop!! We need another catcher so much it hurts. I hope the kid (Pena) gets here FAST!!

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    • Becky, not sure if you are listening or watching but tonight they have the 2005 players in the booth each inning. They just did Adam Everett. He talked the entire inning about the players in the minors. He said that “Reed is a WOW player” in his opinion. He also was high on Kemp, Bregman, Moran, Duffy and a couple others. He thinks the Astros are set in the infield for years to come. The Astros are lucky to have him and Ensberg to do the thankless work of working full time in the minors.

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      • Yeah….I heard both Ensberg and Everett talking about the guys in the minors, and they can’t get here fast enough for me!! It was good to hear these guys talk abut the talent we have down on the farm. If it were me I would have already given A. J. Reed a look see up with the big club. Ensberg was talking about Andrew Alpin the center fielder in Fresno, and says the guy is AWESOME!! I’ve seen some replays of his catches, and he reminds me of Springer and Marisnick. The kid is stuck since the outfield has so many options. When was the last time we could say that??!!
        I’m afraid he’ll get traded before he gets up here.

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  4. I understand the concept of swinging for the fences, but it is interesting that Carter, Gattis, Springer and Rasmus all are hitting HRs at a slower rate than last season.

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    • Way too early to bail on a guy that will ultimately produce. And you know Zanuda, Jake pretty much forced that trade. Had he stepped up when Springer went down, they didn’t need to make that deal.

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    • Let’s see CarGo before the trade – .262 BA. .328 OBP .751 OPS – AH (After Hudgens) .216 BA .245 OBP .559 OPS – before tonight.
      Just saying….

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      • It’s time to get a new hitting coach, I think we stated this fact a few days ago. Kinda like trading a guy to a new club, Hudgens needs a change of scenery. Where is Barry Bonds????

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      • Dan, you can’t blame a guys slump on the hitting coach. Especially a new guy. I don’t think Hudgens is the answer or the solution. We need better hitters with a better plan and that comes from above.

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      • I admit I’m being a bit facetious about CarGo but I am sick of guys underperforming their career numbers or their 2014 numbers with no visible adjustment or change.
        Hudgens may not be the problem but he sure does not look like part of the answer.

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      • Who knows, maybe Hudgens wants guys to work counts and make it tough on pitchers but the GM and Manager are fully committed to the all or nothing strategy. Heck, as an example, we’ve got a guy in Fresno hitting .371 with an off the charts OBP who happens to play first. I know, I know, he’s not on the 40 man. And we still owe Cater a million plus on the season.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, in his first few games I saw Gomez hitting it the opposite way with 2-strikes. Since then, I’ve been seeing a lot of easy fly balls and pop-ups to Left-center when he doesn’t hit it on the ground. Coincidence?

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    • I had this scenario that involved the Angels and A’s team planes colliding, the M’s being caught up in a gambling scandal and Barry Bonds’ pharmacist being tied to the Rangers but other than that…no.

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      • Welp……as Robert Ford says, that. Is. The. Ballgame. Mental mistakes took us outta this game. Daveb is right….we are still in first place, albeit with smoke and mirrors, but still in first place.

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  5. Another stellar performance by the rotation. That’s why I think we’ll be relevant in September. We’ve just got to hit a bit less worse and not do so many young things on the bases.

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  6. Yes Neshek let us down but it should have not gotten to that point with the anemic hitting. Time for a Geritol injection. Yes, it’s much better than anybody estimated but we’ve kind of gotten spoiled. We want more (playoffs at the least and a WS title at most). I don’t think it’s out of reach but we have to start HITTING.

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  7. My comment earlier about the home run mentality was accented tonight by 15 outs in the air and 11 strikeouts. All night long it was uppercut for the fences.
    By the way, that was not the Verlander of two years ago. We got beat tonight by a guy who has lost 6-7 mph on his fastball and the Astros couldn’t touch him. The Verlander who was in the All Star game three times threw 98-99 mph. He was what, 1-5 for the year before the start of this game?

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  8. And while I’m on a roll, how many other teams have runner’s picked off? It seems we must be leading the league in that category. Sometimes you can be too over aggressive which can be as bad as never taking a chance. Maybe since we can’t seem to move the runner over with a sacrifice or a hit we’ve relinquished ourselves to trying to “steal” our way to victory. I can remember on several occasions where we were picked off or caught stealing and the batter at the plate hit for extra basis or an HR. It would be interesting to look at that stat.

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    • Altuve wasn’t being aggressive. He was asleep at the wheel. He violated base-running rule #1 – NEVER, EVER take your eyes off the pitcher when he has the ball in his hand. I think Miggy’s jersey-pulling routine got Jose distracted – and that is, of course, the whole idea.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. So we want to get rid of the hitting coach and the base coaches. We are a tough crowd.
    It does come down to whether we believe the players are responsible, the coaches are responsible or if there are orders from above on what kind of hitting and base running are expected. I will say though that getting picked off is on the players. They are the only ones that can control that happening.

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    • But, since this IS an epidemic this year could we possibly blame it on Hinch? Believe me, I truly prefer him over Porter, Mills etc. but I’ve never seen anything like this on a MLB team.
      I agree it’s on the players but shouldn’t they be held accountable?

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  10. I always thought the mental mistakes when Garner was skipper were unbelievable. It got worse under Cooper. I don’t think this year’s club is even 75% as bad in that area as those clubs.

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    • Devin, I agree totally with your post. But it is amazing that in the field, you can count on one hand the mental mistakes this year. Yet on the base paths, you can fill up that same hand each week (exaggerated). It is all on the players but the purpose of the two coaches is to lend a hand. If a player ignores a stop sign or watches the 1st baseman and not the pitcher, then it is 100% on the player. When I see Gattis getting picked off 1st – there is something wrong with the plan – because he is not going anywhere.

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  11. When I was much younger (15) I was playing on a community baseball team. Needless to say I wasn’t any good but everybody got to play. I remember a game where I drew a walk being somewhat smart at the plate. When I got to first I had envisions of stealing a base and had a Homer Simpson moment and got picked off. You have to stay focused and as Clint Eastwood said, “A man has to know his limitations”. Somewhere, somehow, our guys are missing that.

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  12. OF SUBJECT. Adam Everett in the both last night and talking about all the great kids down on the farm. Ashby asks him the one that makes him go WOW. AJ Reed

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  13. Nice 4 run rally (and counting)as Rasmus whacks a homer off of a lefty, MarGo channels his inner “bear” with a 2 run triple and Correa with a head turner RBI single up the middle.

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  14. Yeah…so is Cabrera. He doesn’t miss too many pitches, plus Qualls has pitched three days in a row. The one pitcher in our bullpen who gets no attention is Josh Fields…..he’s had a quality year.

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  15. Fiers did a good job even though his defense let him down in the first and he had a few other struggles along the way.
    Interesting that Rasmus has two homers against a lefty today and now they are bringing in a lefty to face him.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My favorite guy Jake! Can they score him? This would be a very nice game to win because it’s been a less than inspired effort by the home team this afternoon.

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  17. It felt like the kind of game that was going to be a second straight heart breaker, but….JFSF and Altuve win it. Love that they ended it in 9 so we don’t have to go even deeper and longer into a tired bullpen. We sure could use a complete game….

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  18. I must be getting the game on about a two minute delay out here in the West Indies. I was reading Billy’s post and they were still making the pitching change!

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  19. Milwaukee Brewers traded CF Carlos Gomez, RHP Mike Fiers and Other Considerations to Houston Astros for RHP Adrian Houser, OF Brett Phillips, RF Domingo Santana and LHP Josh Hader.

    i was looking through the transactions and found this. does anybody know what the “other considerations” were?

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  20. Coming to this party really late but since I have voiced my concerns about Hudgens recently I thought I might chime in. Lunhow and Hinch have to bear the primary responsibility for his hiring. Why was a coach whose team (the Mets) declined steadily offensively for three years even considered? While changing horses right now probably won’t help this season Hudgens philosophy or non-philosophy of hitting is not producing results. Looking at the above stats proves that several players have gotten worse in 2015. Has anyone gotten better? What is Hudgens doing to help Gomez break his slump? Has he done anything positive for Carter? Does he have any influence on Altuve?

    As an ex-coach I realize that teaching hitting and teaching pitching are two very different challenges. Hitting is reactive. The pitcher initiates and has much more control over the pitcher-batter encounter. But if a coach seems unable to positively impact his charges, why keep him around? The old saw that if the students don’t learn perhaps its because the teacher didn’t teach seems to apply here. Maybe we ought to go find the guy who helped J D Martinez revamp his swing. Seems to have worked out pretty well for him.

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    • Read a great piece on that not to long ago. JDM actually credits Miggy Cabrera with the change. He has really learned to just go with pitches. I believe he either leads the league in or is second in opposite field homers. Definitely a different hitter than he was in Houston.

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  21. I am more concerned with the Rangers. I have said it before, but the Angels don’t concern me in the least, but the Rangers can hit and now with Hamels they have a decent rotation. Their bullpen has been improving and I feel strongly they will be the Astros biggest threat down the stretch. I fully expect LAA to fade into oblivion.

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    • You remind me of a friend from the past. It was 1968 and I had been at the Dome to see Hayes beat UCLA virtually by himself, barely. In the week preceeding the Final Four, my friend bragged that he wasn’t worried about UCLA, but another team worried him. Houston would handle UCLA easily, he predicted. I had my doubts, then, and I wouldn’t take any team with Albert and Trout lightly, now.

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      • I may be wrong, but I think Texas has a more complete team. I think the LAA offense outside of the 2-headed monster is below average and their pitching, to me,is below average. Even Garrett Richards doesn’t scare me too much. Texas is loaded up and down the lineup and can rake with the best of them.

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      • The Angels are interesting. They have Altuve with power batting 3rd (.298). They have Carter catching and batting 9th (.180). They have two regulars on the 15 day DL and the team is improved with both of them out. Their starting pitchers were shaky but now Wilson is out. Looks like the league finally caught up with Weaver and his 75 mph fast ball. If you take Trout, Pujols, Santiago, Richards & Street off the team – you have the Fresno Grizzlies.

        The Rangers are interesting. They now have Pagnozzi and Cody Clark at catcher. They have two stars in Beltre & Fielder – but they were there in 2014 (95 losses). They thought it a good move to pick up Napoli. Wandy is starting for them. Their closer is Tolleson who was dumped by the Dodgers in 2013.

        I think the Astros biggest competition is ourselves. This is there for the taking. It will have to be earned but I would be floored to see either of these two teams have a long winning streak and run off and hide.

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      • The Royals signed Wandy to an milb contract yesterday, I believe.

        Also, it was difficult to root for KC last night.

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  22. Our biggest advantage going forward is pitching and defense, areas where I think we are markedly better that the Angels and Rangers. Both the Angels and Rangers have more veteran run producers than we do but the addition of Lowrie and the increased use of Margo should help stabilize our schizophrenic offense. Springer’s return should help as well. If Gomez stays cold we still have the ability to field a terrific defensive outfield. But even if we continue to muddle along offensively we can take some comfort in knowing that in general pitching and defense prevail in the long term. I’ll take our chances with our pitching staff.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Guess what player on the Astros’ 40-man roster got charged with his 14th error of the year during Fresno’s 4-0 pasting of the hapless New Orleans Zephyrs last night?

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    • Lancaster has a great shot at moving up in the standings this week. 3 games at home vs. Inland Empire [the team that will start the series 0.5 games above them in the standings] followed immediately by 3 games at Lake Elsinor [the worst team in the division]. Marte gets the first crack at an Inland Empire take-down.

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      • Brady Rogers pitched like an ace last night, between Joe Musgrove and Devenski, and Feliz in Corpus we are going to be set for a good two three years!! Lancaster is the home of some REALLY good players, and a lot of them are just about to make the next leap to a nice little town in Texas!!! The talent we have stocked up with in the minors is mind boggling!! And don’t forget to add in the guys we drafted THIS year! My mouth is watering just to think of the talent coming up next year!!

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