While there were multiple revelations and reflections in the Astros end of season press conference earlier today, perhaps most surprising is that there would be no changes to the Astros major league coaching staff.
It’s not as if many were expecting a major change-up in the organization, but many fans felt dissatisfied with the quality of the Astros offensive coaching over this season. Dave Hudgens has been the hitting coach for the past two years, and will be returning in 2017.
The Astros lineup turned into a team of two halves at times this season, as the top half of the lineup struggled to carry the largely unproductive 5-9 hitters.
While Jose Altuve had his best offensive year of his career this season, many other Astros bats struggled to find consistency. Carlos Gomez hit .210 for Houston, easily a career worst, before hitting .231 for the Rangers after a mid-season trade.
Another major area of concern for Hudgens and the Astros staff was poor play by many Astros minor-league call ups.
Colin Moran, Tony Kemp, AJ Reed, and Alex Bregman all had tumultuous starts batting-wise in their young MLB careers. While Bregman eventually figured it out, the rest of the Astros young batters struggled to find consistency.
Bregman didn’t get his first hit until his 18th major league at bat, and was hitting .031 through his first 8 major league starts. Meanwhile Moran, Kemp, Reed, and Preston Tucker combined to bat .159 while striking out at an alarming 27.6% of the time, while only walking in 9.1% of at bats on the season.
As a team the Astros stuck out at the 4th highest rate in the MLB, and only hit the 14th most home-runs in the MLB, after finishing second in that category in 2015.
Many will argue that these hitters are professionals, and don’t rely on the guidance of coaches to fuel their production. I tend to agree with these sentiments, but at the same time you have to feel at least a little concerned with the lack of production many Astros hitters had, especially the young and volatile ones. The Astros have a very young team, and will naturally require more teaching than many other clubs.
Many of the Astros veteran hitters had large drop-offs from their mean production this season, while the younger players really struggled to get started and oftentimes didn’t see the ball well. There were countless terrible at bats from the young Astros throughout the year, and that will need to change next year if the Astros want to be seriously considered a contender.
All in all, next year should prove to be a huge year for Hudgens and Hinch. They need to help Bregman avoid a sophomore slump, as well as guide prospects like Reed and Kemp through the full transition to the major leagues. Also, it will be interesting to see if Hudgens is able to adjust the approach of a veteran hitter who finds himself in a slump.