Thursday, January 27, 2005

Snow day today. A few comments the last few days have made me realize: no matter what I think should happen, Craig Biggio will probably be starting the entire season for the Astros, barring injury. Phil Garner has said that as things stand right now, he anticipates a starting outfield of Biggio / Lane / Palmeiro. I find this strange, since I believe Palmeiro to be better defensively than Lane, but perhaps Garner just wants Lane to get used to CF, since that's where he'll probably play when Berkman returns: Biggio / Lane / Berkman. I think it's too much to ask to have Biggio return to 2nd, although he's said he wouldn't mind doing so: we have top prospect Chris Burke and overrated veteran Jose Vizcaino ready to go there.

It's not the worst thing in the world that Biggio starts - he had a nice bounceback year last year, right? Well, yes, but in an interesting way - his extra base hits jumped from 61 to 71, his batting average jumped 17 points, and his slugging average jumped 57 points, but his OBP (certainly the most important stat for a leadoff hitter, if not for all hitters) actually fell 13 points to .337, and he only drew 40 walks in 633 AB's, a troubling amount, and he slumped badly n the 2nd half (.256 / .308 / .451). What does it all mean? I think Biggio worked hard in the offseason to get some power back; he worked on eliminating the leg kick, allowing him to catch up to fastballs easier. However, he decided to swing at everything, maybe to 'prove' that he can still drive the ball. He needs to get back to drawing walks, or be moved down in the batting order.

Some more good news? Biggio's a fan favorite: he'll sell tickets. Left field is probably the easiest position to play at The Juice Box; he can play shallow because of the short porch, which minimizes his below-average arm. And it IS below-average. I remember in the NLCS against St. Lous, on a routine flyball to LF, Albert Pujols (bad heel and all) easily tagged up from 2nd to 3rd base. So Biggio's arm is pretty damn bad.

The main thing this all means is that if we trade for a CF, I think Lane would probably go to the bench (at least when Berkman returns.) If this is true, then maybe we shouldn't trade for a CF - we need to start the rebuilding process eventually, and Lane is likely to be part of that.

So: Lane as a CF. Lane's overall defensive numbers are pretty frightening, with a 1.03 Range Factor (league average: 1.86) over 129 games. This might be because Lane was often a late-game defensive replacement, but I wonder if he can handle CF. There's only one way to find out, I guess, and Lance Berkman actually did all right in center, so why not Lane?

I also saw that we lost D.J. Houlton in the Rule 5 draft (to the Dodgers). What the hell? I honestly don't understand how Rule 5 works, but this guy was our 2nd best pitching prospect last year, right after Ezequiel Astacio, so what gives?

Speaking of Astacio, I'd like to see him get a long look in Spring Training. The Astros have traditionally been aggressive in promoting young pitchers (Oswalt, Miller, Carlos Hernandez), so I hope Astacio also benefits from this.


Awrr said...

just a couple things:

1. i don't think lane is as bad in the field as you might think. RF is generally very biased toward regular players. more playing time equals better RF. UZR and other more dependable defensive metrics aren't really published anywhere with regularity, so it's hard to tell how good lane is statistically. i've read that he's about avg on defense with a slightly above avg arm. i imagine he's better than burnitz, who claims (falsely) to be a good defender because of his athleticism, but worse than someone like jason bay, who also has athleticism to play all OF spots but is generally a bit quicker.

2. i've read both purpura and bidge saying a shift back to 2B is tenable if room in the outfield needs to be made, so it wouldn't surprise me to see that happen. i think if we deal for an outfielder, the loser would be burke before lane. ideally, bidge would be a utility between 2B and LF with burke/bidge/lane evenly splitting about 1300 PA. as i've said before though, that won't happen. i think that unforeseen breakouts/injuries aside burke only gets about 350 PA this year.

Jack said...

Good points. I also think, based on watching him play, that Lane will be average defensively. I do think he might be a bit stretced in CF, but we'll probably find out fairly soon.

I think it would a tough move to have Biggio relocate to 2nd - it's one of the more demanding defensive positions, and it's all about side-to-side quickness, which might be slightly lacking these days in his 39-year old knees. On the other hand, Biggio's offense would be much more acceptable at 2B than at LF, and he would allow Burke to be slowly worked in, rather than thrust into a starting role immediately.

I think it's the main decision left to the Astros this offseason, besides the 5th starter role.

Biggio going to start - it's just a question of where.

JT said...

Get online or fix your phone.