Phil Garner was interviewed by Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated's Baseball Preview this week. When asked to define the perfect number 2 hitter, Garner had this to say: "What I'm looking for in my number 1 and 2 hitters are guys who can get on base. I'm looking for guys at least in the .350 to .360 range for on-base percentage."
This is a good attitude to have. You don't have to be Billy Beane to recognize how important OBP really is. Now let's hope Garner backs up his words by keeping our best hitters toward the top of the lineup. If Everett can't produce at the two-spot, I hope he inserts Ensberg there. Better still, let's hope A.E. can post a .350 OBP so Ensberg can drive in more runs in the five- or six-spot.
Garner also had this to say about the cleanup spot: "You want a guy who'll hit 25 home runs or better. On-base percentage is not as critical. Generally, you get on base to get into scoring position. But the 4 hitter should be in scoring position every time he comes to bat."
I'm not sure if that last sentence makes any sense or not, but Garner isn't saying much here. I wonder if the 25 home runs were any reference to Bagwell's decline. Garner earlier this Spring said he'd be fine if Bags only hit 15 this year, as long as he kept driving in runs. I anticipate at least 25 this year for Bagwell, although I also expect his average to hover in the .270s. I wonder how his new stance is working out?
Jack — I agree that the Astros need to consider the future. Berkman, Oswalt, Lidge, Burke, Taveras, Ensberg, Lane, Everett are a strong starting cast. But what's the big deal about sending Burke back to AAA. We all know he's going to be the second baseman of the future anyway, so why not give him even more time to develop and work out the kinks before he plays full time? (This is more of a Devil's Advocate than a real argument.)