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Very Biggio Of You
2004-06-27 01:37
by Mike Carminati

Craig Biggio started his second game in left field today for the Astros and went 2-for-5 in the 8-7 loss to the Rangers. Biggio was, of course, moved to left after the Astros acquired baseball 2004's version of the bachelor, center fielder Carlos Beltran.

As you probably know this isn't the first time that Biggio has changed positions in his career. He came up as a catcher in 1988 and went to the All-Star game as a catcher in 1991. In order to preserve his knees and thereby, his speed and also to give then-hot prospect Eddie Taubensee time behind the plate, Biggio was moved to second base. Biggio had been a catcher even since college though he did play short in high school, like just about every other eventual major-leaguer. Biggio played 11 seasons at second and went to the All-Star game six times as a second baseman.

And that would have been that. Biggio was a sabermetrician's dream and was named the 37th best player of all time in Bill James' New Historical Baseball Abstract. He seemed destined to finish his career and then launch a thousand arguments when he became a borderline candidate who would live in BBWAA voting purgatory for the foreseeable future.

Then when the 'Stros acquired Jeff Kent last year, all of a sudden he was recast as a center fielder. Now after 72 games this season, Biggio is a left fielder, a position that he had played a total of 33 times prior to this season.

When Kent was signed, original reports had Biggio moving to left, but 2002 center fielder Lance Berkman had been given dibs there. Biggio played adequately in center in 2003 though his range factor was slightly below average (2.30 vs. 2.50).

Fortunately, his offensive fall-off could be hidden relatively easily in center. But this season his offense is on the upswing. He projects to 20 homers, which would be the first time in three seasons, and his ratios are a .295 batting average (his highest since 1998), a .358 OBP (his highest since 2001), a .463 slugging average (his highest since 1998), and a .821 OPS (his highest since 1999). In fact his OPS is good enough for fifth among the 22 qualifying center fielders. However, among the qualifying left fielders, he would rank 13th out of 17. Incumbent left fielder Lance Berkman was ranked third behind Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez. Berkman catapults to the top of the right field ranks. By the way, Beltran, if he qualified, would lead all center fielders in OPS. If Biggio returns to his 2003 form, he'll fall to 15th among the 16 qualifiers.

It does, however, make Biggio's career a little more interesting as if he needed it. When he moved to center, he became one of only three players to started as a catcher, started at one of the four other infield positions, and also started at one of the three outfield position (i.e., played at least 80 games at each position in a season). The other two are Buck Ewing (C-1B-LF who also played third and pitched) and B.J. Surhoff-Surhoff (C-3B-LF). No, if Biggio lasts the season in left, he'll be the first to start at two outfield positions along with catcher and infield. There were rumors that he would replace Jeff Kent at second while he was out with an injury but he has already returned. But that would have been interesting. Of course, with the way that Brad Ausmus is hitting (.611 OPS), maybe Kent should move back to catcher.

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