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Monday, August 22, 2005

Garner Defies Logic, not just "Convention"

Jim Molony of MLB.com says that Astros' manager Phil Garner defies "convention" with his lineup decisions, but it is beginning to appear that Scrap is defying logic as well in his lineup compilations.

In the last 30 days, Jason Lane leads the team with 18 RBI, is second with five HR, is second with a .373 OBP and first with a .627 SLG, making for a team-leading 1.000 OPS. Despite these impressive numbers, Lane continues to be found in some form of a demented platoon system created by Phil Garner, appearing to be based more on boredom than on logic. Orlando Palmeiro, who has never compiled more than 317 ABs in his 11 major league seasons, continues to receive considerable playing time. Against RHP, OP has a .819 OPS, which is respectable, but by no means does it demand everyday playing time, especially in front of Lane. In addition, OP's OPS as a pinch hitter, the role that he has filled for the majority of each of those 11 seasons, is 1.041 in 2005. Palmeiro always has been a good pinch hitter, and he is certainly most valuable to this young, inconsistent offense as a veteran bat off of the bench. It is time for Lane to play every single day, much like Richard Justice requested last week in the Houston Chronicle.

Since the All-Star break, Mike Lamb has put up numbers of .194/.222/.418 for an OPS of .640, which is flat out terrible. Unfortunately, that OPS is higher than his 1st half OPS of .618. It's not just a LHP/RHP deal, either, because his OPS against RHP is only .649 on the season. On top of that, Lamb is one of the worst defensive players in the National League. Lamb should not start another game in 2005. He should be, at best, one of the last bats off of the bench. In fact, it would not be an imprudent move to put Lamb through waivers and try to get a case of sunflower seeds for him if an AL-team is willing to give him a shot. While guys like Carlos Rivera (.317/.367/.514 at AAA), Todd Self (.305/.413/.476 at AAA, .200/.250/.311 in a brief stint with Houston) and Mike Coolbaugh (.281/.344/512 in AAA) are certainly not going to be building blocks for the future, they, along with Luke Scott, have each earned a shot to help this big-league club, and they could probably step to the plate with a wet newspaper in lieu of a bat or into the field blindfolded without a glove and provide the "help" that Lamb has provided all season long.

While I'm sure the unpopularity of this move at this point makes its likelihood quite unlikely, I also believe that it is time for Craig Biggio to be removed from the everyday starting lineup. Since the All-Star break, Bidge has posted .242/.313/.394 for an OPS of .707, with even worse numbers in August. I cannot put an exact number on the impact that the ever-friendly Crawford Boxes have on his offensive numbers, but let's just say that 16 of his 17 HR have come at home, that he has become a dead-pull hitter and that his road OPS is .640. Meanwhile, Chris Burke has come alive (relatively speaking), with a post-ASB OPS of .785 and an August OPS of .859. His aggressiveness and speed bring an entirely different (and much needed) element to the light-hitting Astros lineup, and his range at 2B would be considerably better than Bidge's.

Adam Everett's OPS after the All-Star break is a sparkling .591 (that's sub-Lamb territory). That really is not much of a departure for Everett, who has only had one month of > .700 OPS performance and who ranks 14th in the NL amongh SS's with his season OPS of .667. Can Burke play SS? For God's sake, Brad Ausmus looked smooth turning two last week in a lost game, and his OPS is mere points behind Everett's. How about a a Milo-in-2006-like platoon, with Everett-Burke on the Road and Burke-Bidge at home?

The numbers that this year's offense have put up are very bad, and they're right in line with what should have been expected from these players. There is little reason for Astros' fans to realistically expect a late-season surge in production from Everett, Bidge, Palmeiro or Lamb. That said, Luke Scott has completed an extended red-hot stretch in AAA. Sure he looked terrible in his early season starts, but the ceiling is considerably higher, and we know that the alternatives stink. Would you not feel better about the Astros' chances down the stretch if Scrap ran out a daily lineup of:

Burke - 2B
Tavares - CF
Berkman - 1B
Ensberg - 3B
Lane - RF
Scott - LF
Everett - SS
Ausmus - C

I know that I would.


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