Designated hitter: A sad Astros’ history


All the talk about bringing in a designated hitter like Nelson Cruz (oops, gone), Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Martinez to Houston has triggered thoughts of the not very long, but not very good history of the Astros’ designated hitters. The Astros have had only to fill the DH spot full time since their move to the AL in 2013.

Truth to tell, just remember that the vast majority of teams do not have the equivalent of “Big Papi” David Ortiz sitting around waiting for his chance to hit. One of the best in the AL these days is……former Astro J.D. Martinez. So, if the Astros get so-so production from the DH spot they will be pretty much in the middle of teams in the AL. The problem has been that they have spent most of the 6 seasons of DH’ing in the bottom third or worst of the AL.

Here is a quick look at the Astros DH production as a team year-by-year with a quick look at what Tyler White did as a DH last season.

Year BA OBP OPS Runs HRs RBIs Main DHs
2013 .199 .276 .615 52 16 59 C. Carter/J.Castro /M. Krauss/JD Martinez
2014 .246 .317 .817 76 38 92 Carter/Castro
2015 .244 .291 .743 72 27 92 Gattis / Carter
2016 .223 .304 .696 62 19 62 Gattis / P. Tucker
2017 .226 .284 .671 77 19 71 Beltran/Gattis
2018 .242 .300 .751 72 28 104 Gattis/White
2018 Tyler White as DH .299 .365 .977 13 4 18 Only 77 ABs

The best DH year of the last six seasons may well be Chris Carter‘s 2014 season. Yikes! The last time the Astros went out and got what they thought was a solid veteran DH was 2017 when they picked up Carlos Beltran one year too late.

Evan Gattis was good when he was good, but Antarctica cold when he wasn’t. And he has been allowed to move along and find his worth on the FA market. Which has not happened yet.

Tyler White was very good in limited DH at bats in 2018. Can he do that over a whole season?

Choices Going Forward

  1. Give Tyler White the main spot at DH at minimum MLB wage. Let Michael Brantley help out and give Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, et al a day off here and there at the DH spot.
  2. Trade for Edwin Encarnacion and perhaps not sending too much to the Indians depending on how much of his $21+ million salary the team wants to pick up. Oh, and he is about to turn 36. Oh, and though last season was a “down” year for him he did drive in 107 runs.
  3. Trade for Jose Martinez and let him be the DH, because he apparently is a butcher in the field. Even though he is already 30, he is available for 4 years of team control and will still be paid minimum in 2019. He has had a very strong slash of .309 BA/ .370 OBP/ .850 OPS in two seasons in the majors.
  4. Wait out the market and see if you can pick up an Evan Gattis or similar type at a discount since there is a glut of guys who can hit and are not very flexible in the field.
  5. Try number 1. above and if it does not work – chase a bat at the trade deadline which might include Cruz, Encarnacion and/or Martinez.

#5 sounds good to this writer. What do you think?

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92 comments on “Designated hitter: A sad Astros’ history

  1. Dan: I’m firmly in the #1 option simply because the upside potential is so high. Giving the spot to White affords him the chance to get his head right with regard to the position. I also like the idea of saving the money for a more worthwhile cause like a SP or extending one of our own. And if we do want Encarnacion we will probably have more success getting him from the Mariners since the Indians already unburdened themselves and sent him west. The conventional wisdom was that the Mariners would flip him before he ever got an AB with them but perhaps the Mariners are not going to be as woeful as first expected and they may hold on to him until the deadline and get a bigger haul if he’s playing well.

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  2. #6. Be patient and wait the market out. White is here already, so #1 and #5 choices are already available at no cost. When the big guys sign there will be some roster shifting to accommodate their additions and the Astros can afford to wait and see who they can add at value, if they feel they need to add more on the offensive side.

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  3. I believe that the Astros problem with the DH is the same problem they have had with LF. They keep switching people up and moving them arouns and don’t settle down with good players. They seem to want to toy with those positions.
    But they have the solutions to those two problems. Play Brantley in LF most every day and give him occasional rest out there with your backup and let your backup be your #4 outfielder. Play White at DH almost every day at DH, using your backup infielder, Diaz, as White’s substitute at DH when White needs a day off.
    If history is any judge, White and Brantley won’t be the everyday holes in your lineup. That is probably going to come from the Catcher spot.
    With Marwin gone, considering he was the best LFer we had, it is time to play your players in their spots, use your backups as backups and get that lineup churning every day.
    If you want to eliminate the hole in the lineup, get a good catcher to fill that hole and leave everyone else alone!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Regarding Chris Carter [don’t blame me, Dan went there!!!!]

    So the ‘best DH’ season in franchise history was Carter’s .227 BA, .308 OBP in 2014. I suppose it should be pointed out that the Care Bear also struck out 182 times in 572 PAs that year – for a strikeout rate of 31.8%.

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    • Yeah it was slightly tongue in cheek though it was one of the few times a DH topped .800 OPS. But I think it shows that our DH history is pretty poor

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    • It was a tale of two seasons.
      1st Half: .205/.281/.465 with 99K in 303PA .237BAbip
      2nd Half: .252/.338/.521 with 83K in 269PA .307 BAbip

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  5. The DH position is a red herring. The Astros have two position player problems entering 2019: catcher and OF. But Devin, they just picked up Michael Brantley and he’ll fix our LF woes, right? Wrong – he’s going to be good, but our outfield now has a problem as two starters are LHH and the most probable backups are Kemp (LHH) and JFSF (No-hand Hitter). Tucker should have a chance to win a job in spring training, but he’s also a LHH. I feel strongly that Luhnow will try to find a switch hitter or right handed bat to bring to spring training to compete for a spot. That bat also needs to be able to play LF without conjuring up memories of Carlos Lee.

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    • Devin, having two LH hitting outfielders is not a crime, especially considering the entire rest of the lineup is right handed. Thing is, both Brantley and Reddick have hit lefty pitchers pretty well, while being required to face lefties only about one-third of the time.
      If you don’t like Marisnick or Kemp as backup outfielder, I would suggest letting Myles Straw try to win that job anyway.

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      • I think Myles Straw will get a chance to win a spot. Do you think Luhnow is looking at that our outfield and the current Yankees rotation and liking how it stacks up?

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  6. We have Tyler White who was a pretty darn good DH last year. I for one am getting tired of chasing guys like Encarnacion, and letting guys like White go to another team (J.D. Martinez remember him) and excell. Give the ball to our own home grown guys…..because I can assure you Edwin Encarnacion didn’t wake up one day and be a lights out DH. Somebody gave him a chance, with a little more rope to succeed. Let’s see how White looks in spring training. My hope is he comes to Florida looking buff and in great shape! If you’re gonna spend money……spend it on a starting pitcher!

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  7. I vote for #4 or #5. In the case of #4, I sure wouldn’t want to see them overpay. I’m not too enamored with what’s left on the FA market and I think we can mix and match to get the job done until the deadline. You already have an over- full 25 man with a glut of outfielders…..who else has to go if you add a bat? With that in mind, if we do add a bat it had better be a real difference maker.

    I like White but I just don’t have full trust in him (yet). At his best he can carry a team, at his worse he can’t carry his own weight.

    Which Tyler will we get?

    – The one that slashed .250/ .314/ .500 (.814 OPS) in 76 AB in Apr/May 2016, or the one that hit .202 over his next 173 AB

    – The one that slashed .417/ .417/ 1.250 (1.667 OPS!!!) in 12 AB in Aug 2017, or the one that slashed .250/ .314/ .406 (.721 OPS) in 32 AB in Sept/ Oct.

    – The one that slashed .325/ .385/ .711 (1.095 OPS) in 83 AB in Aug 2018, or the one that slashed .226/ .298/ .369 (.667 OPS) in 84 AB in Sept/ Oct.

    I like Tyler and want him to succeed. I believe he is a good enough hitter to start figuring things out when pitchers change the way they approach him, but we haven’t seen it yet. One thing is for sure, he probably won’t see many more FBs on 2 strike counts, as he obliterated them in 2018.

    Unlike most here, I fully believe that Tucker will force his way into the lineup with a monster ST and go on to be the team’s most productive outfielder. I think that leaves some ABs in the DH spot for Brantley and I think we will see White start at 1B a bit more in 2019, giving ABs to Yuli.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t believe White was ever given a chance to work out his approach when pitchers catch up with him. He starts to struggle and they yank him out of the line up.
      Like Becky said, remember JDM.

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    • HAHA!!!! I think Tyler is a solid hitter. He will figure it out. I just hope he remembers to stay patient, stay away from the buffet (and Bud Light) and lay off the slider in the dirt. When he is patient he destroys, when he gets antsy he looks lost.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess part of my point is that a Tyler White doesn’t have to be great to be an improvement at this spot. A .275 BA / .350 OBP / .800 OPS would due just fine in my mind.

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  9. Been on a sabbatical. Gave up Chipalatta as one of my New Year’s Resolutions. That one and all the other resolutions are now gone. So be it. First, I want to thank Bill for NOT writing something and calling it “Brian’s Song.” Second, I remember when Tyler White came up and was player of the week or month or Tuesday. I left on a trip and he was back in the minors. He looks like he can hit. He does get fooled. So does Altuve – who was NOT sent back to the minors. And finally if you are going to let Tim comment, I will have to leave again. (Sarcasm double font)

    Liked by 1 person

    • hey ac i hope your comment and like problems have been solved. in case they havent, i have had the same problem on and off for a long time. if i log in by wordpress sometimes i can comment but not like, other times its the other way around. i started logging in thru google, better but still problems. finally i thought i wonder what would happen if i changed by nickname. viola! i went from rj to rrj, log in by google and since have had no problems. hope this helps if you are still having trouble. (ps. i use viola instead of voila because thats the way daffy duck says it)

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  10. House of Houston takes another look at a trade for Robbie Ray:

    https://houseofhouston.com/2019/01/04/houston-astros-rumors-robbie-ray-interest-important-signal/

    The article includes the following:

    “What will it take? The Houston Astros have already made it clear that their prospects could be used as bargaining chips and I think a Top 30 prospect like J.J. Matijevic coupled with a lower-level prospect should be able to get a deal done.”

    If that’s all it would take then I would assume that the deal would already be done. I, for one, would do that deal in a heartbeat. I’m thinking D’Backs are probably wanting at least one major league ready talent, at least one top prospect and at least one low- level throw in.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m trying to put this link up because it’s the first time I have heard what the Marlins are looking for. It is a link with a video from Rosenthal’s twitter account.
    As far as I can see, the only guy that the Astros have to meet the Marlins demands is Alex Bregman. He is a top player with 0-3 years in the majors. Kyle Tucker does not meet this criteria.
    If they are willing to accept Tucker in place of a Cody Bellinger type player, then they want more top prospects to make up for it.
    Fugetaboutit!https://twitter.com/MLBNetwork/status/1080861065578274816

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    • I’m convinced at this point that we should not trade Tucker for help in 2019, not for Realmuto and not for pitching. I think Luhnow needs to be all in with this guy, unless there are non physical flaws that have been recognized. And there is no way Bregman is going anywhere for anyone. The poor remaining Fish. Their novice ownership group has not impressed to date.

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  12. Jose Martinez posted a .351 BAbip in 2017, a .350 in 2018. Sustainable? His lifetime OPS against power pitchers is .704. Slow/slowing bat? He’s a hazard on the field.

    His is a story of perserverence though. 11 years in the minors before finally getting a real shot.

    But we have a guy that I have no opinion on, who posted an .888 OPS (yes, limited sample) with a .307 BAbip in 2018. Sustainable?

    One thing for certain, no room for both guys.

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  13. I checked again yesterday and I had no access to Fangraphs.
    This morning I touched on a link to a Fangraphs article and there it was!
    I have tried five times since and it is now available to me, as before.
    I don’t have a clue what happened!
    I am once again stat happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Concerning Jose Martinez, I’m just not in on him if it means giving up any real talent. I’d go AJ Reed, Jake and an A- baller but not much more. I don’t think he gives any more than we would get from a full season of White.

    Brian Patterson over at House of Houston (yes the same one’s that wrote “J.J. Matijevic coupled with a lower-level prospect should be enough to get Robbie Ray”) seems to have a man crush on Martinez and wonders “Could Kyle Tucker and a lower-level prospect be enough to bring Martinez in? ”

    https://houseofhouston.com/2019/01/02/houston-astros-rumors-jose-martinez-marwin-gonzalez-replacement/

    I’m all in on keeping Tucker and letting him blossom here. He’s very young and will be better prepared to deal with the pressure of the big leagues when he next gets a shot.

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    • If Brian Patterson wrote that kind of stuff here over here, I know a few of us would be dogging him. House of Houston must be having a hard time finding guys to write stuff for them.

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  15. I’m watching this Texans game…..but I gotta tell ya, this isn’t even a game.
    The Colts came to play, the Texans didn’t. Now it’s 21-0.

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    • Two teams going in totally different directions. It was much worse than the 21-7 score indicated. I don’t know if the Texans have a coach capable of winning a big game. It will be interesting to see what the McNair family does going forward.

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      • I have no grounds for this, just a feeling, I believe the family will sell the team in the team, not next season but soon.

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  16. My husband gave me the most beautiful “Prayer Bowl” for my birthday today! Hallmark stores have the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen!
    Today I crossed over to the 7th decade today….YIIIKES I’M *70*😱

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks everybody! But…..I’m having a hard time being 70, because when I was little, a 70yr old women was *OLD*! They all had like white hair, and they were over weight! I am non of those! I’ll be ok…..just gotta get used to this number!!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Here’s the straight dope on Tyler White and the DH
    Tyler has had half the ABs in his Astros MLB career that JD Martinez did. The Astros really need White to step up to the next level and take this job.
    White and Martinez are completely different but they both needed to find their stride at the major league level. Martinez found it and the Astros missed it. White proved himself in the minors, but now has to prove he is a reliable MLB hitter.
    This is the perfect time for that. The Astros have two new hitting instructors and those guys need to help Tyler become the reliable DH that the Astros need. They need to add something new to him. A way to recognize pitches that pitchers, especially RH pitchers, are fooling him on, is White’s ticket to success.
    What do the Astros need from White as the DH? Honestly, they need Tyler to hit .275/.350/.470/.820 as a DH on their team. With the Crawford boxes in Houston that .470 SLG should not be a problem for him They need 25 HRs and 90 RBIs from him in 600 PAs.
    With Gurriel and Diaz being able to cover all the infield stuff, having White deliver in the DH with these numbers is their ticket to success at that spot in the batting order. This business of sticking 10 different guys at DH gives nobody the chance to be good at it
    The best DHs are guys who get the job and their team puts them there and keeps them there as they prove they can handle it.
    Tyler White needs to get that job, produce what they need, and then they keep him there, because the more he does his job, the better he is going to be at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I think there are plenty of internal options for the DH spot without spending money or trading pieces to get it.

    Tucker is an obvious choice. Make him the fourth outfielder, and between him, Brantly and Reddick we have a DH and two outfielders to go with Springer.

    Derek Fisher is still an interesting prospect (though he’s our of “rookie” status with 252 PA so far). We have Miles Straw, Jack Mayfield, AJ Reed, etc., etc.

    I would simply rather stand pat and, if the need arises, look for something at the trade deadline. DH is a way to utilize your abundance of talent, which the Astros have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not surprising that Davis is moving on – no real spot for him. Sounds like the young infielder Santana is the main target for the Astros, though they need catching depth and apparently like Manea.

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      • Ross Adolf, at 6’1″ and 203 lbs., had a .509 SLG in the NYPL this year in 264
        plate appearances playing all 3 outfield positions. The guy had 9 doubles, 12 triples(that’s right, 12 triples), 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts.
        Luhnow says that Manea, the catcher acquired in this deal, is a big part of the reason they made the deal.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Adolph and Manea are kind of old for the low level they’ve reached. But they were both good. Santana has been great hitting since he started.

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      • The Adolf guy intrigues me. Lefty hitting outfielder, out of his 64 hits, 9 doubles, 12 triples and 7 homers. 14/3 in steals. He must run like heck. Maybe Santana is going to be traded right back out in another upcoming deal.

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      • 1OP. obviously, I missed your post. Dan, the outfield kid is only 21. I’ll keep an eye on him. Got some tools anyway. Wonder how he is defensively?

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  20. These are not opinions, they are 2018 statistics. Yes, I’ve been saving them.

    RISP .333/.422/.704/1.126
    2 out RISP .308/.438/.654/1.091
    Late & close .395/.452/.684/1.137
    High Leverage .341/.404/.610/ 1.014

    1OP, I fully agree. DH by committee sounds democratic and perhaps convenient, but why? The only place we’ve done the committee thing is in left field, but that was because we did not have a left fielder.

    Brian, I agree, Tucker might well become the best 4th outfielder in the league, but at that point, he’ll take Reddicks job. For now, I want him to battle for his at bats rather than giving him swings as the DH on a regular basis.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Becky –
    A little late to ask this question but what is a Prayer Bowl? I’m picturing a nice ceramic bowl where you place slips of paper with needs and family members pull them and pray for the request.

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  22. For all those concerned about former Ranger manager Jeff Banister, he is now working for the Pirates’ front office. Probably will help teach the Bucs how to play dirty.

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  23. i really like this trade. davis was blocked here, i dont know much about bohanek, but they netted us three bright prospects. it almost looks as if they are 3 prospects that could be included in a trade or replace a player in a trade (stassi?) maybe miami finally gets realistic with their trade demands for realmuto and we work something out. as pointed out above we have 2 slots open on the 40 man so we have room for acquisitions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you make a great point. The Astros acquired two players that were added to their top 30 prospects list and a catcher, which is a position of need for them in the minors.
      This gives them more bullets to use if they want to make a trade or to replace prospects they might have to give up in a trade.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. A little discussion on a chron.com (spit!!) interview with Jeff Luhnow.
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/01/al-notes-astros-kikuchi-orioles-machado.html

    Note this article states that Luhnow says the Astros are still looking at starting pitching and relief pitching, but the original article includes offense in what they are looking for too. Luhnow slyly states that they would be happy to go to spring training with what they have. Sure. I think that is to tell others that he won’t just pay any price – dollars or prospects – to add to the roster.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Some Astros thoughts:
    *The Astros have current All-Stars at LF, CF, 3B and 2B.
    *The Astros’ top 2 starting pitchers are All-Stars.
    *Dallas Keuchel turned down a 5/90 extension in 2016. The Astros and Keuchel knew all along he was leaving. That contract was more than 5 qualifying offers, even though there is no such thing as 5 QOs.
    *Who else has their sights on some of the Astros players this offseason? Only Luhnow knows.
    *I don’t even want to think of Luis Santana in the same vein as our current second baseman, because I don’t want to jinx anybody. I still can’t get over how lucky we are to have Jose Altuve on the Astros.
    * Gerritt Cole’s agent is Scott Boras.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Cole conundrum. We want him to have as good a year as he had in 2018. But then he probably gets a contract for more money then we’ll want to pay. I’ve been clamoring for an extension, but I’m pretty sure his agent is urging he waits.

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  26. With a wave and a shout out to the beautiful Kim Carnes, I have undertaken to write this ode to our dear departed good-player-who-was-never-in-a-million-years- gonna-take-Alex Bregman’s-job-as-our-third sacker, now a proud member of the New York Mets organization:

    His bat is often cold.
    His glove is over-hyped.
    Built like a jelly-roll,
    He’s got J.D. Davis thighs!

    He’s eats too much lasagna;
    His range is down to pint-size;
    Watch out on New York streets –
    cause he’s got J.D. Davis thighs!

    Hit hit big flies.
    He’ll eat french fries.
    In Spring Training he’ll mesmerize . . .
    all the coaches . . . like his approaches . . .
    but watch out, he’ll break your sofas!
    Cause he’s got J.D. Davis thighs!

    Good luck, Big Thunder!

    Liked by 2 people

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