Apr 21, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros outfielder Justin Maxwell (22) hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. The Dodgers defeated the Astros 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
Well, I mean, the Houston Astros need to do lot of things. Unfortunately, that includes finding a legitimate starting center fielder, unless they manage to avoid facing any left-handed pitchers over the course of the next five months.
From a distance, Jordan Schafer's numbers this season look okay: .264/.354/.361 with two homers and six steals over 84 plate appearances. He's walking a lot (12% BB rate), but he's also striking out at an unacceptable rate (32%) for someone that has little pop. He's a good defender, which has made him pretty valuable so far.
But then you look at the former Brave's splits, and things become a bit clearer.
Against RHP: .293/.388/.362, 13% BB%, 25% K%
Against LHP: .143/.200/.357, 6% BB%, 63% K%
Now, to be clear, the Astros appear to be quite aware that Schafer can't hit lefties; this season, he's had 68 PA's against RHP and 16 PA's against LHP. Pretty much everyone knows that Schafer can't hit lefties, because he's essentially never been able to hit lefties.
Which all gets me to the question: Shouldn't the Astros be using someone that can play center field and hit lefties?Jordan Schafer isn't an especially good player, but he's a decent stopgap center fielder because he's a good defender that doesn't embarrass himself against the majority of pitchers. But when those lefties come up, Schafer is basically inept, like he's pretty much always been.
Which gets me to Justin Maxwell. He's always been highly athletic, he's put up good numbers in Triple-A and he's a right-handed outfielder in his age-28 season. Teams have coaxed value out of players with far tamer backgrounds than that, even if Maxwell has never emerged despite obvious opportunities in other organizations.
And compared to Schafer, playing Maxwell could prove to be a significant improvement in those rare moments. The reality is that Houston isn't winning anything meaningful this season, and what's likely to be a long rebuilding process is only in its infancy stage.
But the Astros need to take every win they can get, and they're handing 'em back by trying to get Schafer to hit lefties. Maxwell is already starting to get some shots against lefties as Houston's bench outfielder, but the Astros should take it a step further and make him a full-time platoon mate for Schafer.