So far in our Houston Astros All Time Rankings series, we have looked at Catcher and First Base. Well as expected, today we move on to second base. But first, let's make sure you all are caught up on our series thus far. Here are the previous articles from the past two days:
So now that we're all squared away, let's talk about the other position on the right side of the infield. At second base, the Astros have had a couple of Hall of Famers suit up and I would say that they have had a pretty decent player manning that position these last few seasons.
In this article, I must emphasize that I positioned these great players based on their performance and numbers as a member of the Houston Astros, not as a summary of their entire career. This is important for this list, as unfortunately a lot of these guys have had great years in other uniforms that don't have Houston on their chest. Now, let's dive in to the top five players to ever play second base for the Astros:
5.) Jeff Kent
When I began researching for this top five ranking, I could not think of someone to put at #5. I legitimately thought of just making this fifth spot a joke and putting Kazuo Matsui and maybe even trying to defend it just to see how I would have been roasted by the masses of #AstrosTwitter nation.
Then, I finally remembered that Jeff Kent played second base for the Astros. Probably because I was eight years old or Kent only played two seasons in Houston, but I totally forgot about the guy.
Looking back on it, I realize how stupid I was for forgetting this dude. He was like Carlos Beltran except he actually stayed for two full seasons. In 2003 and 2004, Kent hit 49 total home runs, totaled 200 runs batted in, hit 73 doubles, and finished with a slash line of .293/.350/.521/.870 which is unbelievable for a second baseman, even in the heart of the steroid era in Major League Baseball.
Not only did Kent absolutely mash the baseball for the Astros in the regular season, he delivered in the postseason as well. In 2004, Kent finished with 3 home runs and 10 runs batted in during the two postseason series that the Astros played against the Braves and Cardinals. In addition, he hit a clutch walk off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCSthat put the Astros just one win away from the World Series.
I definitely considered placing Kent higher up on this list, he ultimately stayed at #5 simply because of the fact that he only played two full seasons with the Astros. He certainly added a lot of offensive production during those two years, but it just was not enough to surpass some of the great players that are coming up next. Here are some highlights from Jeff Kent's stint with the Astros:
- National League All Star in 2004
- His 27 home runs in 2004 are the most ever hit by an Astros second baseman in a single season
- Delivered clutch walk off home run in Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS
- Finished in Top 10 RBI Leaders in National League (2004)
4.) Bill Doran
When I first created this list, I thought intensely about putting Bill Doran in the top three greatest Astros to ever play second base. He was drafted by the Astros, played in meaningful postseason games for the Astros, and logged almost nine full seasons manning the right side of the infield in the Astrodome. Unfortunately for Mr. Doran, there are some Hall of Fame players ahead of him. But, we're here to celebrate Doran's numbers as an Astro, so let's get to that.
In almost nine full seasons in a Houston Astros uniform, Doran was the picture of consistency from the plate. Known as more of a contact hitter, Doran hit over a .270 batting average five times with the Astros and currently holds the ninth spot in the Astros All-Time Hits leaderboard with 1,139. In the cavernous Astrodome, Doran could not muscle too many home runs, but did have two seasons when he hit over a dozen long balls in 1985 and 1987.
On the defensive side, Doran could make the routine play look very easy and even create some flashy plays with his glove. He has a solid career dWAR of 3.4 despite having to play many tough hops in the Astrodome. He only was fortunate enough to play 1 postseason series, when he hit a home run in Game 3 of the NLCS and finished with a .222 batting average.
Doran sits behind some really good second basemen for the Astros, and it's a shame that I could not put him higher on this list. He played a lot of second base in Houston, and was great on all major aspects of the game. He has some truly great company ahead of him and behind him on this list. Here are some highlights of Doran's career with the Astros:
- Finished 11th in the 1985 National League MVP Voting (10%)
- Played All 162 Games for the Houston Astros in 1987
- Led National League in Fielding Percentage Twice (1987, 1988)
- Played on 1986 Astros NLCS Team
3.) Joe Morgan
While most fans know that the Astros have had a great history finding and developing great second basemen, many do not know that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was brought up as an Astro back in the 1960's. Morgan is certainly known for his days as a Cincinnati Red and certainly should be known as a Red because of the way he dominated the game, but he was actually born as a Colt .45.
Signed to an amateur contract in 1962, Morgan quickly worked his way up to what eventually became the Astros as he did not spend much time in the farm system initially. After some initial bumps and bruises in the major leagues, Morgan found his way in 1965 when he hit 14 home runs and drove in 40 RBIs for Houston. Morgan was a premier rookie, actually placing second in the Rookie of the Year voting and garnering a couple of MVP votes.
What made Morgan so special as an Astro was his tremendous plate discipline. In 1965, Morgan led the National League with 97 walks and had a .271 batting average with a .373 on base percentage. This plate discipline carried Morgan through the good times and the bad, allowing him to become a more consistent player overall.
Unfortunately, I cannot put Morgan in the Top 2 Astros to ever play second base because of the fact that the Astros made the worst trade of all time when they sent him to the Reds. Morgan's best years were not in the Astrodome, but in Ohio. However, we certainly must recognize the contributions that Morgan made in Houston, as they were significant in every facet of the game. Here are some highlights from Morgan's time in an Astros uniform:
- Honored as a National League All-Star for the Houston Astros (1966, 1970)
- Finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1965
- Led National League in Walks in 1965 (97) and 1980 (93)
- Top 10 in WAR in National League (1965, 1967, 1971)
TIE AT #1: Jose Altuve, Craig Biggio
Alright now everybody just CALM DOWN. We're going to have a little bit of fun with this one. Yes, I know that Craig Biggio is the lone Astro in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. That is crystal clear. But, Jose Altuve has played himself into this conversation recently and his numbers are worthy of being compared next to Biggio's.
Now, for the sake of fairness, we are only going to use Biggio's first six years of playing second base for the Astros (<-- this is important, as Biggio played multiple positions and this is only an article about second base). These years were 1992-1997, arguably some of the best of Biggio's career. Here is a table to get us started:
|Jose Altuve||Craig Biggio|
This table certainly gives us a better side-by-side view of the two great second basemen. We can tell that they were both great offensive players, but this table also helps us determine what made these players such great threats at the plate.
Altuve beats you by slapping the ball around the field, getting hits on balls in play that other batters normally cannot turn into hits. Biggio was famous for his tremendous plate discipline, as he was always going to find a way to get on base. He certainly racked up a lot of hits (3,000+ in his career), but he also drew a ton of walks and was hit by a lot of pitches as well. Altuve never strikes out a lot, while Biggio can strike out more from being a bit too selective at times. The power numbers turn towards Biggio, but everything else is pretty much even here.
From a defensive standpoint, Biggio has separated himself. While Altuve is always hustling in the field, his range is a bit more limited. Biggio had a very similar style of play to Altuve's as he hustled constantly as well. During this six-year span, Biggio won three National League Gold Glove Awards for second base while Altuve was only able to claim one in the American League. This might be due to different competition in different eras, but three to one is a substantial difference.
CONCLUSION: Biggio Wins #1 Spot, Altuve Slides into 2nd
As time goes on, there's no doubt that this conclusion could change. Altuve is still finding ways to be the best player that he can be, and Biggio is one tough landmark for Altuve to reach as he climbs that mountain. Right now, however, Biggio's defensive lead is too much for Altuve to recover from, even though Altuve is a better contact hitter. These debates are always fun to have, especially when Astros fans are jostling between two of the best to ever play this position.
We hope you enjoyed this article and please let us know what you think in the forums! There's obviously a lot to discuss here. Look out for our next edition, Houston Astros All-Time Rankings: Third Base, to be posted some time tomorrow.