I keep hearing how the Astros defense is going to be SOOOOOOO much better this year. I don’t get it.
Let’s take a look at the starters:
First Base: Berkman is Berkman – way below average as a defender. Yes, no more Mike Lamb, but it is not like one great glove at first was replaced with a lousier one. And Loretta is even worse at first.
Second Base - Biggio to Matsui (Assuming Matsui will play 2 out of every 3 games, based on his history during his 6 year ML career) definitely better; Biggio to Loretta/Blum for the other 1/3 – minimal to no improvement there.
Shortstop – Everett to Tejada – ENORMOUS downgrade; Loretta to Tejada – some improvement, but not a whole lot, unfortunately.
Third Base – Ensberg to Wigginton – significant downgrade; Lamb to Wiggy -barely an upgrade as both are terrible gloves.
Catcher – Ausmus/Munson to Towles/Ausmus – no real obvious difference at this point as Ausmus has been declining with age and Towles hasn’t caught enough to really evaluate well, except to say that he doesn’t have a reputation as a lousy defender.
Left Field – It’s still Carlos Lee and he’s just awful and there is zero reason to think that a perennial lousy defender will suddenly improve.
CF/RF – Pence/Scott to Bourn/Pence – Pence and Scott were both average to a little above average; Bourn has a good reputation, but very few innings and we’ll have to see how well Pence handles right. I would assume that Pence will not be worse in right than he was in center and he has a reasonably strong arm – we’re not talking Pierre/Damon here – and, unlike Willy Taveras, Pence knows what a cutoff man is and how to throw to him. There may be some upgrade, but it won’t be much.
Conclusion – there is NO great defensive upgrade with the exception of the 100-114 games Matsui replaces Biggio at second. Like Porky Pig says at the end of the original Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 century cartoon, Big Deal…