I thought it would be fun to group these Community Projections posts by pairs of players. So Berkman and Lee, upon whom so much of the offensive expectations in 2007 will be placed, became "The Boppers." Ensberg and Everett, the left side of our infield, (perhaps unsurprisingly) became "The Killer E's."
But no two current Astros seem more linked than Craig Biggio and Chris Burke. Never mind that the eventual retirement of the former is considered crucial to the career development of the latter.
- Both players were number one draft picks, taken out of college, and who skipped Rookie or Short A ball.
- Biggio was the first Astro batter in the longest and perhaps greatest game in playoff history. Burke--of course--was the last.
- Even with Burke's career in its nascency, Biggio and Burke are still two of only three Astros in team history to have played at least 50 games at second, and 100 in the outfield. *
- The first time Biggio finished in the top ten in the league in any category, it was 1989, when he finished sixth in the NL with six hit-by-pitches. The first and only time, so far, that Chris Burke finished in the top ten? 2006, when he was hit by a pitch six times, and finished sixth in the league.
Beyond such similarities and coincidences, Burke as he is now and Biggio as he was in his youth are often seen as being the same kind of player: "scrappy," with no great power stroke, but with speed and smarts enough hit some doubles and steal some bases.
And of course with the tenacity required to take a pitch or two for the team.
In 1990, in his third year at the major league level, Biggio compiled a line of .276/.342/.348. Last year, in his third year, Burke put up .276/.347/.418
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Burke's walk rates will ever jump over .100 as Biggio's did beginning in 1992. Or whether Burke's game can improve to the point where he can post a .500 slugging percentage, as Biggio did in back-to-back years during his peak.
It's probably unlikely, to tell you the truth. But at the same time, though Biggio was considered a good young player as he became acquainted with the National League, no-one was going on record as saying that this Biggio kid had the ability to reach the Hall of Fame. Biggio himself was a surprise. So you certainly never know.
In his fourth year of 1991, Biggio set then-career highs in batting average at .295, runs with 79, and OBP at .358. The following year, he bested the runs and the OBP, while stealing 38 bases, and notching 30 doubles for the first time. He wasn't yet a great player, but after 1992, greatness was within reach.
And that's where Chris Burke stands. No-one expects him to be great in 2007, but this is the year where he must improve so that other goals in the game remain possible for him.
So how about it? What do you think Chris Burke will do in terms of:
a) batting average?
c) Slugging Percentage?
d) Stolen bases?
And of course, for the Old Man himself, please take your best guesses at:
d) Games played, and of course,
e) The date he gets his 3000th hit, if he gets it all
To help get the thinking caps charged up, I've gone and ahead and dragged each player's 2006 statistics and career averages onsite:
*A Biggio baseball card of some small value to the first crawfishite who can name the third.