Astros Sunday Roundup: Does Batting Altuve Eighth Make Sense?

Apr 19, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) rounds second base after hitting a triple during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Who is calling the shots, Brad Mills or the saber orientated front office?

Another loss, this time at the hands of Clayton Kershaw, reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Matt Kemp again last night. Weiland tossed a pretty good game until that sixth inning bomb making it 3-0 Dodgers, and you could see from his reaction how angry he was with himself as soon as Kemp connected. It was long gone.

But I wanted to discuss the fact that Jose Altuve is batting eighth again. A lot of people don't like it. I'm not sure whether I like it. We're talking 14 games, 13 of which Pocket Jesus started, so yeah small sample size does come into play. Looking at how Altuve has done in the two hole (eight games) and batting eighth (five games), I can see only one real difference statistically.

He's drawn all of his five walks batting second. He has also struckout just once batting eighth. This is puzzling because, batting in front of J.D. Martinez instead of the pitcher's spot would make you think it would be the other way around.

Or perhaps this is an indication that batting eighth pitchers are doing well at hitting the corners and Altuve is making weak contact on good pitches. I was really interested to read Chris' recent fanpost at TCB on the amount of swinging strikes Altuve had in his first two weeks. In his two weeks Altuve had just one swinging strike. His swinging stike percentage currently stands at 2.6%.

Clint Barmes is currently leading a swing& of 61.5, Altuve is 41.0% in the lower half of current qualifiers this season. Barmes also leads in swinging strike percentage at 18.8 (Chris Johnson is just outside the top 10).

2.6% has Altuve fifth lowest among major league qualifiers, with just Ian Kinsler, Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Marco Scutaro (1.3%) lower. But what does this all mean? As some postulated, this means Altuve is swinging at quite a lot of pitches out of the strikezone (26.4 O-strike%), but his bat control is good enough that he's making at least some contact. His Z-swing%, at balls inside the zone is 52.1%.

His O-Swing% is in midfield, but he's in the better half. His Z-swing% is in the 10 lowest in the majors. Does this mean pitchers are nibbling at the strikezone when they are facing him?

At the moment Altuve's contact is getting him hits and wOBA of .379 is all we could ask from him. This is all interesting, but how does it tie into Brad Mills sliding Pocket Jesus down the lineup, preferring Jed Lowrie in the number two spot?

Perhaps Brad Mills has been given a shiny spreadsheet by Mike Fast, which makes the case for having the lineup the way the Astros are currently playing it. But the current messing around is ticking off fans, giving off days for no particular reason to guys we need in the lineup day-in day-out. Mills may be characterised as an old fossil, but I think he would be very willing to listen to anything statistically that would help him and his team.

The Astros got off to a fast start HR wise, but they now have eight games without one, and have been eclipsed as a team by Matt Kemp on his own. In a 2-9 slump the Astros have plated 38 runs but 11 of those were in one game against the Nationals. In the other 10 games they've scored at a rate of 2.7.

We're still fourth in the NL in walks drawn, so there is some comfort that we are getting men on base frequently, we just aren't stringing together the key hits often enough. Tonight would be a good place to start.

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