It sounds odd, but can A.J. Hinch’s emotions prevent the Astros from repeating?
A.J. Hinch’s unique personality was at the forefront last season as his vibrant Astros team took home the World Series title. His sometimes ballsy decision-making played a vital role in the Astros winning the World Series, but is it possible Hinch’s emotions could hurt Houston this postseason?
It’s no secret Hinch has a lot of confidence in his players. After all, he did stick with Ken Giles for a while, despite heavy criticism and less than convincing performances. It paid off last season. Sticking with Brian McCann as the team’s catcher was a smart decision in hindsight as it played a part in winning them a ring. However, could he have too much confidence in his men this year?
It took a nasty spat with Giles after a horrible performance to get another closer. Even then, the Astros added a pitcher in Roberto Osuna who may not see the field for a while after his complicated off-field issues. Now, if the Osuna project doesn’t work out as the team hopes, the Astros begin to run out of closing options. While Giles may have been awful a majority of the time, he showed signs of greatness in Houston on occasion. But because of Hinch’s strong feelings toward the former closer, that option is no longer available should things go south with the controversial new addition.
Further, the Astros are not as good an offensive team as last season. For example, Marwin Gonzalez, who played a pivotal role in the Astros’ World Series win last season, is hitting .228 on the year. Yet he’s a player who continues to play a part in the team’s everyday operations. Evan Gattis — one of Houston’s streakiest players — is struggling from the plate again this season, despite a high home run tally. And although it seems odd, stud outfielder George Springer (.249 average) is having a tough time as well.
It may seem odd to say players with 18 and 20 home runs are struggling, but in Houston, they are. The amazing thing about the Astros offense last season was their ability to crush pitchers from any position in the lineup. They no longer have the swagger about them that they did last season. The Astros hit for consistency as well as power and their identity is beginning to shift. Yes, they still have one of the best offenses in baseball, but they’re beginning to live or die by the long ball. With Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa on the DL, it’s becoming apparent that this team struggles immensely without two of its best hitters.
So, how does all of this tie back to Hinch? Well, because of his confidence in his men. Hinch is too overconfident and lets his emotions hinder his ability to manage sometimes. It’s been the elephant in the room among Astros fans for years. However, nobody spoke up because the team was winning. This time, it may just cost the Astros another World Series.
While contenders like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers were out strengthening their squads, the Astros made very little noise as they sat idly by and watched other teams get stronger. As the deadline inched closer, it was common knowledge that the Astros had to add another bat in order to compete with the other contenders. However, at the end of the day, Houston added just one bat before the deadline came to a close, Martin Maldonado. Maldonado — a .220 hitter with just 5 home runs on the season — offers very little to the Astros lineup and is nothing to get excited about. For all intents and purposes, Houston did nothing to strengthen its offense before the deadline.
The Astros are now playing a risky game. Hinch’s confidence will either pay off or it won’t, plain and simple. Hinch and the front office are so confident in the Gonzalez’s and Gattis’ of the team that they’re willing to sit and watch other teams add big bats at the deadline. Not to mention, they’re taking a major risk with Osuna. It’ll hardly be the talking point if the Astros do fail to win or even make the World Series, but Hinch’s feelings certainly played a part in Houston being relatively inactive at the deadline.