HOUSTON — When the Houston Astros open the American League Division Series on Tuesday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park, Houston manager Dusty Baker will once again try to solve a puzzle in center field.
So far this season, Houston Astros center fielders have combined to post a minus-0.2 bWAR, ranking the club 21st among MLB teams at that position. Chas McCormick (207 plate appearances), Jake Meyers (158), Jose Siri (134, and now with the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the three-team trade that brought Trey Mancini to Houston at the trade deadline), and Mauricio Dubón (113) have all tried their hand at holding down center field, but Baker says there will be some mixing and matching at the position throughout the postseason.
Center field has been “challenging” for Houston Astros in 2022
“I’ll do pretty much what I’ve done most of the year. You try to do what you do and what you think is the best lineup on that day,” Baker told members of the media on Monday. “Center field has kind of been a round robin of who I think should play against whoever we have pitching, the ballpark we’re in, the speed, who we have pitching against us.
“It’s been challenging not having like one person, but that’s part of the job.”
Dubón was not expected to get the Game 1 start as Baker said, “We just need some more offense.” With a slash line of .208/.254/.294 in 83 games with the Astros this season, Dubón is more likely to come off the bench than get the start.
The slash line for Meyers (.227/.269/.313) isn’t much better, meaning McCormick could be the best offensive option in center for the Astros. His .245/.332/.407 slash line over the course of 119 games with 14 homers and 47 RBI gives Houston the best chance for some pop at the plate out of the position.
McCormick has also heated up over his last 10 games, putting together a .367/.457/.500 slash line during that time period. He carries the hot hand into the postseason, but is slashing just .177/.333/.265 in 42 plate appearances against Seattle this season.
Not only has he been solid on offense, but McCormick also is tied for the team lead (along with shortstop Jeremy Peña) in Outs Above Average with seven. Dubón is right behind with six.
Look for the round-robin to continue in the postseason until one center fielder shows he can handle the task. If Baker can find the right combination with the ALDS beginning, it will unlock a riddle he has been trying to solve all season.