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Shit, I'm gonna miss Ben Zobrist. There's something indescribably euphoric about looking down at your farm system , and seeing safely ensconced within a middle infielder who consistently got on base at a .400+ clip, consistently hit over .300, had double and gap power, and consistently kept the strikeouts low.

Whenever I had that silly Barry Zito dream, Zobrist was always in it somewhere, maybe 'cause he's the kind of guy Billy Beane drools over. When a few days ago I wanted to write that Hunter Pence led Corpus Christi in OPS, I couldn't. Why? Because Ben Zobrist did. Despite hitting 3 homers to Pence's 20, Zobrist was able to surpass Pence in large part because of his .434 OBP.

A .434 on base percentage in the Texas League is pretty special, and as it happens, there is only one player in all of Double A baseball who can say that he surpasses it. And I doubt that even Rico Washington has as consistent a history in the department.

Check it out: after hitting .304 with a .415 onbase at Lexington last year, Zobrist was one of a host of Legends who got the midsummer promotion to High A Salem. But the jump bothered Zobrist not at all. Instead, he went out and posted a .475 OBP at Salem, in a significant chunk of at bats.

That's just sick.

And then, like I've said, he went out and posted a .434 this year in Double A.

Ben Zobrist has not and probably will not ever hit for any great power. But he's a stud nonetheless, and I have no idea whether he'll play in the majors for Tampa Bay or not.

But that's 'cause the Devil Rays are a pretty misguided organization. I do know that Zobrist will play in the majors for someone.

littlevisigoth said that "Zobrist is a tough loss." I second that motion most wholeheartedly.

However, in this world or any other I'm aware of, they do not give the shiny trophy at the end of the year to the team that has acquired the most blue-chip prospects. They give the award to the team who wins the last game in October.

And the Astros may now be without Zobrist (and Mitch Talbot, who could very well find a job as a major league middle reliever, as well), but boy, is Houston better deployed today in the hunt to play in that final game than they were yesterday, or what?

Just to keep some perspective, each of Huff's three major percentages are inferior to what Chris Burke has put up so far. And Aubrey's below average defensively, especially at the hot corner. And he's a rental in his walk year.

Still, this is a good move, maybe even a very good one.

Huff's career highs in the percentages are at .313-.367-.555, and those numbers are not only better than what Burke has put up, they are probably better than anything Burke can put up. Huff established these benchmarks in 2002 and 2003, and he's still only 29, so there's reason to believe his numbers are still on the rebound upward after a subpar 2005.

Infield defense is important, but I for some reason don't think we're gonna see all that much of Huff at third. I think his chief value there is gonna be to push Ensberg: to push Morgan into getting his shit straight, to push him into telling the truth about his shoulder if that's what it is, to push him into his groove if it ain't..

And so what if Huff walks after the year? We win the World Series, he can pack his Series ring with him! Seriously, because of the clubhouse intangibles and the taxes and the wonderful Houston area, the Astros always have at least a shot to re-sign the midyear pickups, unless the name of the FA is Johnson, R.

I like that Huff is a lefty. Let's get Morgan going and show LaRussa an order that goes Berkman Ensberg Huff and Wilson. He'll run out of fucking pitchers against us on a regular basis.

Speaking of whom, the Astros have trumped LaRussa's Cardinals, and the Reds, too. Those teams made the first moves with the additions to their teams of Jeff Weaver and Eddie Guardado respectively. But now Houston has raised the bar, and made the move that the other Central contenders must defend against.

Let's see what they do.

Ben Zobrist in the Astros Organization
Year Team Level Avg OBP SLG
2004 Tri City Sht A .339 .438 .463
2005 Lexington A .333 .415 .413
2005 Salem Hi A .304 .475 .496
2006 Corpus Christi AA .327 .434 .473
Aubrey Huff with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Year EqA EqR WARP1
2000 .246 13 .7
2001 .222 36 .2
2002 .298 76 4.2
2003 .303 114 6.6
2004 .286 94 4.9
2005 .259 75 3.1
2006 .271 32 2.1
Totals .276 440 21.8