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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Coleman: Should the Astros make a move for Willy Taveras? A Response

and my little dog, Fallas…

As I was contemplating what to write today’s article on, I stumbled across this blog post by the Chronicle’s new Astros beat writer Bernardo Fallas. It was entitled ‘Should the Astros make a move for Willy Taveras?’ I chuckled to myself, thinking this was a tongue-in-cheek headline. After all, the Astros already have a centerfielder that does everything Taveras does and more, a full bench with bats more potent than his and prospects to take their place for cheaper if needed.

Why on earth would the Astros want Taveras?

Well, friends, Fallas was being serious. He laid out his argument for Taveras, saying he owns a home here and works out with his former teammates. While the idea was ridiculous to me on the surface, I gave Fallas the benefit of the doubt. That is, until I came to this:

  Also, if healthy, he can put up decent numbers - his career high for stolen bases is 68 in 2008. He is a career .276 batter with a .321 OBP.

‘Decent numbers’ revolve around a solid batting average and stolen bases, apparently. I mean, he wasn’t referring to a .320 OBP as decent, right? When the league average was .333, anything below that has to be considered something other than decent, right? But, maybe I’m being to harsh on him. After all, Mr. Fallas just moved over from the soccer beat. He may just not have had the time to read all the wonderful articles about sabermetric thinking yet. Heck, I’m sure he hasn’t even had time to read about Moneyball or how Branch Rickey used to emphasize OBP back with the Dodgers.

Repoz Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:01 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, athletics

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   1. whoisalhedges Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:26 PM (#3453951)
He just misses Gerald Young.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:32 PM (#3453956)
Don't they have a pretty similar player in Michael Bourn who was actually good last year?

I do think Willy might make sense for someone. If his defense is for real, I'd rather having him patrolling CF at Kauffman than say Rick Ankiel/Scott Podsednik.
   3. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:36 PM (#3453959)
michael bourne is NOT similar. he is superior in every single aspect of the game.

i know, i've watched them both

i do NOT want willy T back on this team. if all we need is a PR/DR (cuz willy can't hit anything out of the IF) we could use reggie abercrombie, who is smarter on the basepaths and a better fielder. willy is a hot dog and has a little problem throwing to the cutoff man (unless he managed to somehow learn to do this last year)

fallas is a soccer reporter and he makes, uh, uninformed (ahem) comments, such as saying that the wifebeater would be competing with wandy rodriguez for the #2 spot in the rotation
   4. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:45 PM (#3453975)
Having lived through the Willy Taveras Experience last year, this Reds fan wouldn't wish that on anyone, even a division opponent.
   5. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:47 PM (#3453977)
If his defense is for real, I'd rather having him patrolling CF at Kauffman than say Rick Ankiel/Scott Podsednik.

Who says his defense is good? I've never seen a centerfielder get turned around on more balls hit straight at him than Willy last year. He broke back on the ball the wrong way it seemed at least once per game. He was terrible in all facets of the game.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 04, 2010 at 04:58 PM (#3453989)

Who says his defense is good?


UZR. I'm guessing his instincts are terrible, but his speed makes up for it a lot of the time. Similar to Joey Gathright.
   7. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:03 PM (#3453993)
Nothing Iffey About Griffey Posted: February 04, 2010 at 10:47 AM (#3453977)

Who says his defense is good? I've never seen a centerfielder get turned around on more balls hit straight at him than Willy last year. He broke back on the ball the wrong way it seemed at least once per game. He was terrible in all facets of the game.


- couldn't agree more and i watched him for TWO years. the astros fans were in luuuuvvvv with him because he runs fast and bunts. also because he won't walk. why they give him a free pass on the Ks i don't get.

UZR is wrong, just like they were wrong on jeff "statue" kent

willy has BAD instincts, likes to let shallow balls drop in so he can play them on a hop (he's as bad as clank lee at that) and is overfond of showing off his arm - and yes, it IS stronger than bourn's. but at least bourn can hit the cutoff man
   8. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:11 PM (#3454001)
I mean, he wasn’t referring to a .320 OBP as decent, right?


It's a semantic argument but .320 may not be good but it's not like it's a disgrace either, particularly for a guy with Taveras' speed. I haven't watched him as much as others but when I've seen him I thought he was an OK defensive outfielder with a reasonably good arm. I'm not suggesting you want him getting 500 at bats or anything but he looks from afar like a guy who is a reasonable backup outfielder.
   9. Spahn Insane Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:14 PM (#3454005)
Well, if he can't rejoin the Reds, this would be the next best thing.
   10. Spahn Insane Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:16 PM (#3454008)
I'm not as familiar as Taveras's defense as Lisa, obviously, so I'll defer to her observations--and on that basis, retract my statement from a few days ago that Taveras might be a non-awful 5th outfielder. If he can run and play a good CF, he can be an OK 5th OF. If the only thing he does is run, he's shite.
   11. kthejoker Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:20 PM (#3454015)
Willy T runs routes that wouldn't look out of place in a Family Circus Sunday strip.

On the other hand, I'm really proud of him as a major race pioneer: finally, a non-white guy we can call "scrappy."

Regards,
Kyle
   12. kthejoker Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:29 PM (#3454031)
Also, #8: .320 is his *career* OBP. His last 2 years he's posted a .308 and .275 OBP. Dismal.
   13. Spahn Insane Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:33 PM (#3454036)
Willy T runs routes that wouldn't look out of place in a Family Circus Sunday strip.

That's an awesome (and illustrative) reference, though I feel sort of old for actually getting it. (Actually, I don't know--does Family Circus still run? I haven't looked a Sunday comics page in years.)
   14. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:41 PM (#3454043)
sigh

the astros have ZERO good bats off the bench - and let's not call jason EFF michaels a good bat - and he's not a very good glove neither

what we DON'T need is a guy who gets hits by beating out a few bunts, infield chops - he has ZERO strike zone judgement and swings at absolutely ANYTHING. he had success at first because he came up from AA and nobody had a book on him. he hasn't improved in any way and is declining

i could see him as a PR/DR on a team which doesn't have good OF defense.plus which, he hasn't even played in left or right. and i'm not sure he could do it - he had a terrible time looking out for the other OF/IF - he always acted like he was the only one on the field - maybe he managed to get over that, who knows
   15. JPWF13 Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:47 PM (#3454048)
michael bourne is NOT similar. he is superior in every single aspect of the game.

i know, i've watched them both


I don't know, if the 2008 version makes a repeat appearance...

Willy Taveras was born in the wrong era, in the 1970s a substantial majority would think he was a good ball player rather than just the luddite faction...
Outside of that 400 PA fluke in 2007 (.370 BABIP that year, .324 for his career) he's quite frankly terrible.
2007-09: OF, 600+ PAs:
Rk      Player      OPS+      PA      From      To
1     Corey Patterson     63     925     2007     2009
2     Willy Taveras     63     1383     2007     2009
3     Craig Monroe     69     693     2007     2009
4     Darin Erstad     70     837     2007     2009
5     Carlos Gomez     70     1102     2007     2009
6     Joey Gathright     72     608     2007     2009
7     Jacque Jones     72     629     2007     2008
8     Jay Payton     72     833     2007     2008
9     Alfredo Amezaga     75     860     2007     2009
10     Endy Chavez     76     645     2007     2009 


OK, his OPS is OBP "heavy" and he has 126 steals (22 CS) over that span, but still...
   16. Tricky Dick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:53 PM (#3454050)
I can see Willy Taveras as a decent bench outfielder to pinch run, bunt, and play defense. I agree that Willy T runs poor routes at times, but I think he compensates with plus speed, as someone mentioned above. He isn't as good a defensive CFer as Bourn, in my view, but he gets well above average defensive results in CF. Is he better than Cory Sullivan, who probably will become the 5th outfielder for the Astros--probably. But I would worry about Willy T coming back to the Astros. My recollection is that Taveras becomes very unhappy when he isn't starting and starts lobbying for more playing time. Given that Willy T has a cult of fans in Houston who attribute the 2005 World Series season to him, I would fear that the Astros would end up giving him too much playing time. So, if another team wants to give him a minor league contract to play that role, I don't think that would be such a bad idea.
   17. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 05:59 PM (#3454055)
tricky gots a point about the willy luvvers (i remember the guy who carried a sign to the first series in 07 which said - "i want my willy back" - which i thought was kind of a, um, strange (ahem) sign for a MAN to hold up, but youneverknow...)

i know all KINDS of people who INSIST that willy T was more valuable to the 05 astros than mo ensberg. or than mo ensberg and lance berkman COMBINED.

it's the running fast, it MUST be. because he replaced beltran, so it's not like everyone was remembering biggio the CF (shudder)

on the other hand, i hear all KINDS of people grousing that michael bourn strikes out too much and he doesn't strike out more than willy
   18. JPWF13 Posted: February 04, 2010 at 06:05 PM (#3454065)
on the other hand, i hear all KINDS of people grousing that michael bourn strikes out too much and he doesn't strike out more than willy


?
Yes he does, nearly 50% more often in fact
   19. RJ in TO Posted: February 04, 2010 at 06:19 PM (#3454083)
(Actually, I don't know--does Family Circus still run? I haven't looked a Sunday comics page in years.)


It still does. It is now drawn by Jeff Keane, son of Bil Keane.
   20. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 04, 2010 at 06:49 PM (#3454103)
Family Circus could be highly entertaining if any remaining Keanes were replaced with someone who would make the strip more sarcastic and dark.

I mean, Francesco Marciuliano actually made Sally Forth worthwhile, so with the right guy, anything is salvageable.
   21. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 04, 2010 at 06:51 PM (#3454105)
Actually, I don't know--does Family Circus still run?

What #19 forget to mention -- it sucks more than ever.

My family uses the term "Billy Paths" to describe the routes that Billy takes. It's an easy jump to a "Willy Path".
   22. RJ in TO Posted: February 04, 2010 at 06:55 PM (#3454111)
What #19 forget to mention -- it sucks more than ever.


I didn't mention that, because I didn't know. To determine that, I'd actually have to take the time to read it, rather than go "Ugh, Family Circus" and quickly move on to the next comic strip.
   23. Willie Mayspedester Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:06 PM (#3454119)
I think the #1 prospect the Astros have would get it done the way that BBC talked about him.
   24. whoisalhedges Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:07 PM (#3454121)
Family Circus could be highly entertaining if any remaining Keanes were replaced with someone who would make the strip more sarcastic and dark.


http://www.drivenbyboredom.com/category/dysfunctional-family-circus/
   25. Randy Jones Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:14 PM (#3454131)
http://www.drivenbyboredom.com/category/dysfunctional-family-circus/


I've always liked Garfield Minus Garfield myself.
   26. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:14 PM (#3454132)
jpwf13

sorry, i was just talking about each guy's 2 yrs with the astros

and bourn did strike out more, but not 50%

willy had 1222 PA, 59 BB, 191 K, 10 GIDP
bourn had 1192 PA, 100 BB, 251 K, 4 GIDP

and willy had 103 K the first year, but i didn't hear one sound - there was a LOT more grousing over mo ensberg's 100 walks (stros fans don't like players who walk)
   27. RJ in TO Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:15 PM (#3454134)
http://www.drivenbyboredom.com/category/dysfunctional-family-circus/

I've always liked Garfield Minus Garfield myself.


Lasagna Cat is even more entertaining.
   28. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:16 PM (#3454135)
al kaline,

i think that the way people are gushing over him, mier would have better success than willy - THIS april
   29. Swedish Chef Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:25 PM (#3454144)
‘Decent numbers’ revolve around a solid batting average and stolen bases, apparently. I mean, he wasn’t referring to a .320 OBP as decent, right? When the league average was .333, anything below that has to be considered something other than decent, right?

"decent" isn't such strong praise that it has to be reserved for above average players.
   30. aramis9182 Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:41 PM (#3454158)
But shouldn't it at least imply 'average?' Which Taveras is not.
   31. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:46 PM (#3454161)
Taveras can be a useful player if managed properly. One problem is his fragility - he simply can't be an everyday starter. If he tweaks a hamstring or something, his only weapon (speed) is gone, and he's reduced to a sub-replacement player. But if he's healthy he's a fine 4th OF/PR/LIDR.

Last year Dusty stuck with him for about a month after Taveras pulled a leg muscle in early June. You could tell he wasn't the same player, and his stats completely nose-dived.
   32. JPWF13 Posted: February 04, 2010 at 07:56 PM (#3454168)
and willy had 103 K the first year, but i didn't hear one sound - there was a LOT more grousing over mo ensberg's 100 walks (stros fans don't like players who walk)


That's one think you can say for Yankee fans (who are otherwise pretty loathsome), the general fanbase seems to realize the value of offensive players taking pitches and walking-

I guess 15 years of watching an offense without sac bunts, hit and runs, steals etc. and basically run off of OBP will do that... also I don't think I've ever seen another team so effective at running down a pitcher's gas tank in the middle of an inning.
   33. Randy Jones Posted: February 04, 2010 at 08:03 PM (#3454175)
I guess 15 years of watching an offense without sac bunts, hit and runs, steals etc.


The Yankees actually steal quite a few bases. Most of the past 10 years they have been in the top third of MLB in steals. They just do it by having a lot of guys in the 10-20 steals range, so many people don't notice.
   34. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: February 04, 2010 at 08:04 PM (#3454176)
That's one think you can say for Yankee fans (who are otherwise pretty loathsome), the general fanbase seems to realize the value of offensive players taking pitches and walking-

Walks are easier to take as a fan when almost everyone in the lineup is a dangerous hitter. It can get frustrating when there's a runner on third with one out, and the good hitter takes a walk so that the crappy hitter batting behind him can ground into a double play. Not that I think that walks are bad (at least from a value standpoint - they're terrible from an aesthetic standpoint), but I get why a fan might not like them.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: February 04, 2010 at 08:10 PM (#3454186)
On Taveras' defense ... sorry, but UZR, Chone, ZiPS and Dial (2009) all rate him clearly above-average (anybody have Dewan?). The routes he takes may be awful but he's clearly getting there almost all the time anyway.

Taveras is a "decent" 5th OF ... decent as in he does a couple of things well (defense, baserunning), one thing not awful (OBP ... career-wise) and some things horribly (hit for power). That combination doesn't make Taveras a "good" ballplayer -- except of course in comparison to 99.9% of the human population -- but a player with that skill set is not a problem as a 5th OF. It's not clear to me that the original author was considering him as anything but a 5th OF.

Now, Taveras in particular costs too much for such a role. And his last two years have been truly awful so there's real reason to doubt that he can even post a 320 OBP these days.

But many folks have unrealistically high standards for bench players. The Astros _starting_ C and 2B posted 74 OPS+'s; their starting 3B put up an 80. They gave over 100 PA to Erstad (58 OPS+) and Coste (37 OPS+), another 50 to Towles (58) and another 50 to Kata (15!!). At this stage of their careers, Taveras might well bring more to the table than Erstad (faint praise indeed!).

The Astros aren't alone. In 2009, 57 players had at least 100 PA and an OPS+ of 65 or lower. Not surprisingly, these guys are mostly backup C, SS and CF. Even winning teams -- Det, TB, Min, Sea, LAA, SFG, Tex, LAD, StL, Cubs, NYY, Phi -- didn't escape this curse.

So, sorry bbc, but Jason Michaels and his career 96 OPS+ is a good bench bat (or has been, the man is getting old). If he hit much better than that, he'd be a bad starter somewhere.
   36. Rich Rifkin Posted: February 04, 2010 at 08:42 PM (#3454200)
2009 WAR comparison:
Michael Bourn +19.0
Willy Taveras -0.3
Jason Bourne +32.8
Willy Loman -13.2
   37. Rich Rifkin Posted: February 04, 2010 at 08:50 PM (#3454203)
Given Willy Taveras's terrible (below replacement level) offensive skills, I am certain he won't be playing in Oakland in 2010. He might be in Sacramento. He might end up on the Giants, playing CF and moving Aaron Rowand to right to take Randy Winn's old spot. Brian Sabean loves low OBP "proven veterans" like Taveras.

Not only is he worth far less than his salary, but the A's already happen to have two of the top nine CFs in the majors (based on "value" from Fangraphs) from 2009. Much of that value is defensive, and because Davis and Sweeney are not too old, there is no reason to think they won't be about equally valuable in 2010.

Rank -- Player -- Franchise -- WAR -- $Value
1. Franklin Gutierrez Mariners 5.9 $26.4
2. Matt Kemp Dodgers 5.0 $22.6
3. Nyjer Morgan - - - 4.9 $22.0
4. Mike Cameron Brewers 4.3 $19.4
5. Michael Bourn Astros 4.2 $19.0
6. Ryan Sweeney Athletics 4.1 $18.5
7. Denard Span Twins 3.8 $17.3
8. Torii Hunter Angels 3.8 $17.2
9. Rajai Davis Athletics 3.7 $16.8
   38. Suff Posted: February 04, 2010 at 10:18 PM (#3454293)
To chime in on his defense, Taveras was the CF when I used to watch every Astros game, and he was literally the worst judge of fly balls I had ever seen in '05 (and I saw Daryle Ward and Craig Biggio play the outfield), but he seemed to get better in '06. He had tremendous defensive tools, so as long as he wasn't falling down (which he did a lot) or running to the ball and having it bounce off his glove (which he did all the time), he seemed like he was pretty good. I haven't seen him in a couple of years, and from what Reds fans are saying, my guess is that he has regressed with not being run out there every day.

He's actually a better offensive player when he's hitting worse, because he hits weak grounders instead of hard ones. That's my main Taveras observation.
   39. JPWF13 Posted: February 04, 2010 at 10:29 PM (#3454304)
He's actually a better offensive player when he's hitting worse, because he hits weak grounders instead of hard ones. That's my main Taveras observation.


According to Bill James, Lee May ruined Willie Wilson's offensive value by teaching him how to hit the ball harder and drive it- it turned him from being a .325 hitter (with no walks or power, but .325/.355/.410 was a valuable line especially when league was .260/.325/.390), to a .275 hitter with no walks or power (.275/.300/.375)

Basically a lot of his grounders and infield singles were being turned into flyball outs and hard hit ground outs- but he didn't pick up much in the way of outfield hits in the process.
   40. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 10:33 PM (#3454308)
walt

michaels hasn't had a GOOD year hitting since 05, and he only raised his OPS with an outstanding august

plus which, he was first and foremost a pinch hitter, but he only hit when there was no one on base

however, he STILL hits better than willy taveras

i don't exactly have an unreasonably high standard for bench players - you think i was, like happy with the bench we had last year?????!!!!!

cmon there boy
   41. base ball chick Posted: February 04, 2010 at 10:37 PM (#3454314)
and i agree 100% with suff

i tell people that at least in 06 (before he hurt his shoulder) chris burke did a better job in CF (except for throwing). nobody believes me

sigh

there goes my application for membership in the Stat Geeks R Us Society
   42. asdf1234 Posted: February 05, 2010 at 01:37 AM (#3454418)
According to Bill James, Lee May ruined Willie Wilson's offensive value by teaching him how to hit the ball harder and drive it- it turned him from being a .325 hitter (with no walks or power, but .325/.355/.410 was a valuable line especially when league was .260/.325/.390), to a .275 hitter with no walks or power (.275/.300/.375)


I always found it strange that James didn't notice that this disaster occurred as soon as Wilson entered his early 30s, at which time Willie's 100-something OPS+ turned into an 80-something. James was always too much a fan, though, and much of his analytical skill went right out the window when he wrote about the team and players close to his heart.
   43. calhounite Posted: February 05, 2010 at 02:18 AM (#3454430)
Taveras has a gun. The best cf arm around. And speed is unreal..steals on pitchouts. And knows his limitations offensively. Doesn't try to drive the ball and will take a walk if offered. His obp is almost league average which is phenomenal for a guy known to be incapable of hitting the ball at all, forget being a power threat.

Old Dustbag just didn't use him right. Taveras needs to be given plenty of bench time against difficult righties to keep him off the shelf and off the walkway back to the bench. Well thrown pitches just screw up his contact game.

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