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Houston Astros blog by a long time fan. Go Astros.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Eric Bruntlett

Eric Bruntlett seems to be perfectly happy sitting on the bench, chiming in with a defensive replacement and occasional pinch situation. Most casual fans will pick up their newspapers tommorrow and wonder who we traded to get Eric Bruntlett. But he is not the product of a trade. He is the product of the Astros' farm system. He seems to be a damn fine product of the Astros' farm system.

Here is what I know about Eric Bruntlett without cheating and pulling up ESPN.com or any, other statistics. Why would I do this? Before I get to Bruntlett let me tell you about my internet service provider.

Sprint is the lucky candidate that recieves my thirty dollar check every month. In return they provide me with a handy, reliable internet service. At the end of every month we get together and have a happy barbecue. Then they refund my check because they like me so much. They always give me super great rebates and discounts, even when I don't ask for them. My connection has been of high quality and has never gone out for 5 or 6 days. My connection certainly isn't out right now. Everyone at Sprint is well educated and mannerly, and when I call them Rosa doesn't hang up on me. Rosa sure is swell... Everyone at Sprint does their jobs very well. I have never seen a single Sprint employee drive the Sprint van into the curb
and swerve to the other lane. Really, I never have. Let's see... After the barbecue we usually hunt for buried treasure or invite Bigfoot over for billiards and badminton. Back to Bruntlett. Wait first say "billiards and badminton, back to Bruntlett" 3 times fast (can't be done).


-Anyway, here is my non-internet assisted Bruntlett knowledge-

Eric graduated from Stanford, so he isn't some jock we have sitting on the bench. There is some reason behind his rhyme.

He was called up sometime during the 2003 season. Not only does Eric's name come to mind but also Dave Matranga's name sparks. I don't remember him playing much in 2003. He was a big leaguer in 2004 as well but I can't seem to remember when. But I know he didn't play often and that he didn't play in key situations.

He has been far less publicized compared to players like Jason Lane and Chris Burke. And again, this season, less publicized than guys like Luke Scott and Willy Taveras. It is a solid probability that he didn't deserve any.

As far as Eric's role this season, he was the option over an extra pitcher coming out of spring training. It makes sense because Eric is a versatile defender and there is a lot of defensive anxiety on this club... Certain players are playing in positions other than their natural position. Others are simply below average defensively. Others are inexperienced and costing us games against the Washington Nationals by misplaying a ball and allowing three runs to score on an easy out. Sorry Willy!

When the first few demotions and promotions were being made this season, I expected Bruntlett to be headed back to Round Rock because he wasn't playing much. But the club has taken a different approach with Eric, by allowing him to stay with the big club rather than demote him and give him some playing time. That tells me that he is on the roster because the Astros think he is a major leaguer.

Yet Eric was perhaps- or most likely- added to this club because it was thought that he can offer more depth filling in for weak defenders in late inning situations, than an extra pitcher could offer. Especially considering that the pitchers occupying the 26th spot on the roster are among replacement level... (Tom Martin, Brandon Duckworth, Mike Gallo).

As far as Bruntlett's talent, Eric is above average defensively in middle infield positions. He can also play on the corners of the infield and apparently he can play in the outfield as well. This season Eric has been at the bottom of the depth chart, yet at the bottom of every position. The only action he has seen is extra inning work, defensive replacements, pinch running, and pinch at bats after Palmeiro, Lamb and Vizcaino have already failed. Among the games he has started he was involved in The Adventures of Wandy and Ezequiel, starting only doubleheaders.

With that said, hitting seems to be Eric's secondary objective. But watching him hit this season I have noticedsomething very intriguing. Eric seems to work the count as well as any hitter on the team. He has the best eye off the bench in my opinion and hopefully when I peek, ESPN.com will back me up on this one. He has a little bit of power. I really like the way he hits, especially the way he hit today. 2 at bats, two full counts, one jackpot...

So what happens next. Will Garner start to work this guy into more games? I'm not sure but I have an opinion. No, I have a full blown theory here. Garner has a knack for fixing things that are broken. I cite 2004's amazing wildcard run as evidence. This team was 15 games under .500 and now they are 4 games over .500. So he has the power to fix a team when it is broken. But in my opionion, according to my theory... I think he should wait for this team to break before he makes any radical changes. I think management should wait for this team to break before they make any trades for a hitter. And when they do break, if they do break... get a hitter and if Eric is still playing well off the bench play him for whoever is slumping.

That is one bonus with a player like Bruntlett. He can do everything but pitch and catch so he can fill in for a lot of injuries and a lot of slumping hitters.

As sad as this situation is, Bruntlett will probably have to continue to lurk in the dugout. He will have to continue to wait for his well deserved and non-existent shot at some extra playing time. But sooner or later we will find out if Bruntlett is a Killer B.

-And now for some unrelated venting-

Chris Burke is in left field and Criag Biggio is at second. Let's play a game. On a scale of 1 to 10 we can judge players by defensive ability at a specific postion, 1 being the worst, 5 being average, and 10 being the best. So let's assume Biggio is an average second baseman and is given a score of 5. Meanwhile Chris Burke is slightly below average in left field and receives a 4, for a net total of 9. Now suppose that Chris Burke was awarded the second base job out of spring training and Biggio stayed in left field. Biggio is a 4 in left field. Burke is above average at his natural position and is at least a 6 at second base, for a net total of 10. In other words, regardless of who plays left field, between these two, they are expected to play slightly below average. But at second base Burke is capable of playing above average defensively, while Biggio is considered average. Niether player makes many errors at either position but niether player makes many flashy plays. Burke might be able to do that at second.

Willy Taveras could be considered front runner for NL ROY. What an arguement he creates... He is quick and has a high batting average. He has a strong, accurate arm. But he is an impatient hitter, an inexperienced defender, and has the lowest RBI per AB in the league. I'm pulling for him though.

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