The Astros' offense had a strong start to the 2012 season, but as the temperature rose in the summer months, their bats cooled off. With the current heat wave the country is facing, it may be the only thing cold right now.
That doesn't mean all hope is lost. The team does have some good young hitters who unfortunately decided to enter their slump at the same time. These are four moves Brad Mills could make to spark the Astros' offense.
First off, congratulations to Jose Altuve for being named to next week's All-Star Game. I don't know if there is a more complete second baseman in the National League right now.
Jose Altuve is the spark plug for this Houston offense. He is hitting over .300 and has above average speed on the basepaths with 12 stolen bases. He has also shown a little bit of pop with five home runs.
Altuve missed six games at the end of June. Over that stretch, Houston scored a combined 15 runs and got shut out twice. If you take out the first game he missed where Houston scored seven runs, they only averaged 1.6 runs per game during his absence.
In the three games he has been back before July 4th, Houston scored nine runs. I believe success breeds success and if Altuve can get on base frequently from the leadoff spot, it could help spark the rest of the team.
If success breeds success, Jordan Schafer's .238 batting average is hurting this team, even more in the leadoff spot. However, he does have great speed and is currently in the top 10 in the NL with 19 stolen bases.
That is why Brad Mills should move the pitcher to the eight spot and bat Schafer ninth. His poor average won't hurt the top of the lineup as much, but he can still benefit from having Altuve, Lowrie and Lee hitting behind him.
Now this isn't an original idea as former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa did this fairly frequently, but I think the Astros could really benefit from this type of maneuvering.
Chris Johnson has not shown much power this season, but he has been getting on base with a .280 batting average and an OBP of .324. The goal at the top of the order this season is to get on base, giving Jed Lowrie and Carlos Lee (now with the Marlins) the opportunity to bring them home early.
An early lead could potentially settle down a talented but sometimes easily rattled starting rotation, which is plenty of incentive to bat Johnson second.
Jed Lowrie has spent the majority of the season either batting second or third. Brad Mills needs to move Lowrie to third and keep him there for the remainder of the season. Lowrie has shown the most power of anyone on the team this season and Houston needs to give him as many RBI opportunities as possible.