It's not easy pleasing everyone all the time for Astros

Composite image by Jack Brame

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. – Abraham Lincoln.

But in the case of Dusty Baker, at least on Twitter and talk radio, he can’t seem to please anybody any of the time.

Mind you, that’s Dusty Baker Jr., a lock Hall of Famer and current manager of the first-place Houston Astros who have the best record in the American League and pretty much have wrapped up a bye in the first-round of the playoffs.

It wouldn’t be surprising if MLB gave the Astros permission to start printing World Series tickets in the middle of August.

So why all the griping and head shaking about Baker from Astros fans? Let’s take a look at Twitter to perhaps find the reason for the fans’ summer of discontent … despite the team’s dominance, out-of-reach spot atop the American League standings and cheering crowds filling Minute Maid Park. Remember, Twitter can be a bloodbath of whining. If you don't have anything nice to say, say it on Twitter.

Maybe it’s because Baker can’t seem to make up his mind about a batting order. And sometimes the batting order makes no sense. For instance, last night Baker had Mauricio Dubon filling in for the injured Jeremy Pena and batting leadoff. Dubon is batting .195. That’s not good. Statistically, the leadoff hitter gets to the plate more often than the No. 2 batter, who gets to the plate more often than the No. 3 batter, etc. and so on.

There is a chance that the leadoff batter will be a team’s last hope to tie or win a game with two outs in the ninth inning. Last night, the Astros had a .195 hitter with a .257 on base percentage batting leadoff.

(Twitter: “We get our 94th – yes, that’s accurate – different batting order of the season for game 117.”)

But somehow the Astros are in first place and the odds-on pick to win the American League pennant and play in the World Series for the fourth time in six years.

Maybe it’s because Astros management went out and traded for Christian Vazquez (.286) to bolster the team offense, and Dusty is using him as a backup for Martin Maldonado (.186). Yes, Maldonado is popular with his teammates, but Vasquez is hitting 100 points higher than Maldy. A hundred points trumps popularity. Sure Maldonado is gunning down potential base stealers, but algorithms don’t lie – offense scores more runs than defense saves. And Vasquez’s pop time, the time it takes from the moment a pitch hits the catcher’s glove to the moment his throw reaches the fielder on an attempted steal, is about the same as Maldonado’s. Neither Maldonado nor Vasquez’s pop time is considered elite, by the way. And here’s one that might surprise you: Maldonado currently leads all American League catchers in passed balls.

(Twitter: “I’m still annoyed a game was lost because of a bad managerial call. Should have kept Urquidy in or brought in Stanek.”)

Maybe it’s because Baker seems insistent on sticking with the players who brung him. Monday night, Baker’s lineup included Dubon (.195), Yuli Gurriel (.243 in decline), Jake Meyers (.216 in steep decline) and Maldonado (.186). The Astros scored two runs, none after the first inning.

Yes, the Astros have the best record and are leading their division by 12 games. But maybe if the Astros had a set lineup and played Mancini and Vasquez more, the lead would be more, Twitter argues.

(Twitter: “This L goes on Baker. He is going to cost us playoff wins. Pulling Urquidy was stupid. He shouldn’t be our manager next year, there are better options available.”)

After last night’s loss, Baker told reporters, “That was tough to take. You can put it on me.”

Astros fans, at least those on Twitter, are saying “Ya think?”

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With the end of the regular season in sight, the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, coming off a huge walk-off 2-1 win against the Orioles.

Two players from the finale against Baltimore really stood out for the 'Stros. Jeremy Pena, who had a clutch double late in the game, and Cristian Javier.

Javier struck out 11 batters over 5 innings surrendering only one run, which was exactly what the Astros needed in possibly the most important game of the regular season.

Both Pena and Javier were critical pieces to the Astros title in 2022, and it looks like they're rounding into form at just the right time.

Javier's struggles have caused many to question who would be the team's third starter in the postseason, behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander. Let's put this to bed right now, it's Javier.

This should be everything you need to know. Let's start with Hunter Brown. Brown has given up 5 earned runs or more in 4 of his last 7 starts.

How about JP France? France has surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, Cristian Javier hasn't allowed 5 or more runs in a start since July 3. Javier may only give you 5 innings, but that's actually pretty common for starters in the playoffs. Teams typically remove their starters before the third time through the order.

Prime Time Pena

While the power hasn't been there for Pena this year, he is swinging the bat much better of late. Over his last 30 games, he's hitting .325 while slugging .453. Pena may only have 10 bombs on the year, but he's getting on base and hitting plenty of doubles.

If these two can contribute at a similar level to last postseason, the sky is the limit for the 2023 Astros.

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