THE PALLILOG

Making this tactical adjustment could pay big dividends for Astros

Astros Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman
The Astros should consider dropping Alex Bregman lower in the batting order. Composite image by Jack Brame.
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While having World Series games in Houston has become a delightful every other year tradition the past half decade, Friday night's game three in Atlanta is the first Fall Classic game there since 1999. After swapping easy wins that have the series level at a game apiece, how about some close games? Sports at their best are about tight competition that brings out the best on both sides.

With the scene shifting to the National League stadium for games three, four, five, Dusty Baker has a decision to make with no designated hitter at his disposal. Is there really a decision? That Yordan Alvarez has only played left field in two of the Astros' 12 postseason games is less than ideal, but how do you sit his bat? Alvarez is not a strong outfielder, but was no disaster over the 39 games he started in left this season. Truist Park is not a tricky outfield with nooks and crannies or an unusual outfield wall. Kyle Tucker in center with Michael Brantley in right definitely makes for a weaker outfield than Tucker in right with either Chas McCormick or Jose Siri in center, but not so much weaker as to make sitting Yordan in any of the three games the right call. If Dusty Baker wants a "true" centerfielder, Brantley is the guy who should go to the bench. Glass half full, the Astros will have a potent pinch-hitting option. The ideal is build a working lead and defensively sub for Alvarez in the last inning or two.

The decision Baker should make is dropping Alex Bregman lower in the batting order. Bregman was merely pretty good this season. Not close in quality to Tucker, Carlos Correa, or Yuli Gurriel. Bregman should be slotted seventh behind all of them. The microscope of scrutiny in the postseason does lend itself to overreaction. Jose Altuve's recent bad stretch lowlighted by his atrocious game one against the Braves did not mean there should have been any consideration to dropping him (think George Springer in 2017). But Bregman was last a big time hitter in 2019. While he could come alive and have a huge few games (nature of the beast), he clearly should be batting behind three guys who were vastly superior over the course of the season, and in the cases of Gurriel and Tucker been swinging it in the playoffs.

Defense (apart from pitching) is still often underrated. "D" is another great strength of the Astros. Gold Glove voting has a history of some preposterous outcomes, but the Astros having a whopping five American League finalists at their positions is on point. Martin Maldonado and Correa seem good bets to win. Maldonado would get a companion for his 2017 Gold Glove. Correa nabbing his first would be one more feather for his free agent cap. Gurriel is an excellent first baseman, Tucker the same in right field, Zack Greinke ditto on the mound. Greinke is a six time winner.

Texans host the Rams

The travesty that is the Houston Texans likely absorbs its latest beating Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams in town. The Texans' offense is sub-pathetic. The roster is overwhelmingly bereft of young players of meaningful promise. Unless kinfolk or close friend of someone involved with the team, why would anyone subject him or herself to watching much the rest of the season? Organizationally they're not trying to win (and doing a heck of a job of it). On the plus side Head Coach David Culley seems a genuinely nice man! The NFL trade deadline arrives Tuesday. Is Deshaun Watson dealt? Only an idiot would give up the Texans' supposed still asking price of three first round picks plus a couple of other assets. Supposed most ardent suitor Miami is where the Texans play a week from Sunday. Not that Watson would suit up and play so quickly for the Dolphins.

The presumptive Texans' loss Sunday would sink them to 1-7. The Rockets may be hard-pressed to be any better in the record department after their first eight games. Utah obliterating them at Toyota Center Thursday night sags the Rockets to 1-4. Now they hit the road for consecutive games at the Lakers, then stops at the Suns, Nuggets and Warriors. Sheesh. Maybe they can get one from the Lakers. LeBron James has missed games already this season with an ankle injury, while Russell Westbrook is thus far bricking away for his latest new team.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Bummer scheduling that has Saturday's football game with 6-1 UH home vs. 7-0 SMU starting at 6, with Astros-Braves starting shortly after 7. With a win the Cougars likely crack the top 25 for the first time since Major Applewhite's final season as head coach.

2. The Braves should not be promoting use of the Tomahawk Chop.

3. Vegans feel free to skip this one… Best chops: Bronze-lamb Silver-veal Gold-pork, when done right-i.e. Perry's

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Who holds the power in Houston? Composite Getty Image.

It should come as no surprise that after a slow start to the season, fans and media are starting to voice concerns about the organization's leadership and direction. The latest evidence of this involved Astros adviser Reggie Jackson and the comments he made on Jon Heyman's podcast, The Show.

Jackson discussed the Astros reported interest in starting pitcher Blake Snell. He said that ultimately, Snell was looking for a deal the Astros weren't comfortable with in terms of money and structure of the contract.

Which is interesting considering the Astros were okay with paying 5-years, $95 million for closer Josh Hader, but not willing to pay Snell 2-years, $62 million. We believe the opt-outs in Snell's contract were a dealbreaker for Houston. And of course the money played a role.

However, the Astros passing on Snell is not the intriguing part of the story. It was Jackson talking about the club's power structure in the front office and how they go about making decisions.

“Being fiscally responsible is what kicked us out of the Snell deal… That's too much for him… Between the 4 or 5 people who make decisions with the Astros, we don't play that game,” said Jackson.

Based on Jackson's comments in the interview, the decision makers are Jim Crane, Dana Brown, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Reggie. But not necessarily in that order. He also mentioned that they had conversations with manager Joe Espada and his staff, plus some input from the analytics department.

These comments add to the concerns we've had about the front office since Crane moved on from GM James Click and operated without a general manager for several months. Which led to the disastrous signing of Jose Abreu and to a lesser extent Rafael Montero.

Which begs the question, are the Astros in a better spot now with their front office? Many blame Dana Brown for the state of the starting rotation. While there were some red flags this spring, anticipating injuries to Jose Urquidy, Justin Verlander, and Framber Valdez is asking a lot.

But only bringing in Hader to replace all the innings left behind by Hector Neris, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman, and Ryne Stanek always felt risky.

Finally, what can the Astros due in the short-term to weather the storm while Framber and JV rehab from injury?

And is Hunter Brown the biggest liability in the rotation?

Be sure to watch the video above for the full in-depth discussion.

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