By this point, I am sure that everyone has seen Jonathan Villar getting up close and personal with Brandon Phillips. While it turned into a humorous moment and a punch line, it is also a microcosm for the Astros’ 2013 season.
Jonathan Villar (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
What gets lost in the awkward slide, is that Villar is actually having a pretty good rookie season for Houston. If he continues his success, the shortstop projects to form a pretty good double play combination with Jose Altuve. Between the two, 80 stolen bases and 175 runs scored combined is not out of the question.
But before we get there, Villar needs to improve his base running, his decision making, and his consistency. If last week’s play was an isolated incident, then perhaps I would be able to laugh a little more and write it off simply as a rookie blunder.
Instead, it was just part of an ongoing trend that needs to be addressed and corrected. Villar has consistently made mental mistakes in all aspects of the game, and was even pulled from one game by Bo Porter because of that.
The Astros were trailing 4-0 after the first inning, so as they batted for the first time, getting base runners was the priority. There was no need to take unnecessary chances, just get on base.
Villar led off the game with what appeared to be a solid single into center field. I am all for running hard and forcing the opposing team to make a play, but you also need to understand the situation. This is a problem that is not limited just to Villar, and is in fact a team wide epidemic. Houston’s young players have consistently tried to do too much this season and it has gotten them into trouble.
So as continuing with the trend of the season, Villar unnecessarily continued on to second base where he was thrown out and also violated Phillips at the same time. Yet another instance where Villar put too much weight in his speed and cost the Astros a base runner and an out.
And it isn’t like Villar couldn’t have easily stolen second base either. In 50 games so far this season, he has stolen 17 bases. The problem is that he has also been caught stealing seven times and he needs to get better at picking his spots.
There is clear talent here, it just needs to be fine tuned. If these mistakes continue into next season, then there will be a real problem and cause for concern.