New Blood :: Willy Taveras

Last week the Giants were in Houston for a three game set, and thanks to MLB TV I was able to watch parts of all three. It was nice to get a chance to see my old hometown team, even if I had to listen to the Houston broadcast crew. I saw all of the Thursday game and the most interesting thing I saw wasn't the adequate start from Hennessey, or the loss from Petite. Willy Taveras came up in the third with one out. I hadn't really heard much about Taveras, although I knew that the Astros were using him in their starting lineup. He bunted to the left side of the infield, Hennessey fielded the ball cleanly and threw in what I thought would be more than enough time to get him at first. Taveras beat the throw by at least a half step. A few pitches into Morgan Ensberg's at bat, Taveras took off for second. Metheney is a good fielding catcher (35% CS for his career) and I thought there would be a good chance to get Taveras. I was wrong, as he was in with time to spare. The Ensberg at bat wore on, and as Ensberg took ball four, Taveras took off for third. Again, Taveras was clearly in before the throw. Hennessy pitched out of the inning without surrendering a run, but I realized that Taveras created a first and third one out scenario base solely on his speed. Watching him, it was clear he is blindingly fast, and the impotant thing to realize about his bunt single is that Taveras is right handed, which costs him two steps. The play at first would have been laughable if he was a lefty.

I was curious to compare Willy's first major league season to a few other well known speedsters. The first two lines are for Ricky Henderson, in his rookie year and the year he was 23, the same age as Taveras. Lou Brock at 23 in his first full season is next, then Joe Morgan's first full season and his season at age 23, and finally, Taveras' projected numbers for the year.

R('79) 89 351 49 96 13 3 1 26 33 11 34 39 .274 .338 .336
R('82) 149 536 119 143 24 4 10 51 130 42 116 94 .267 .398 .382
B('62) 123 434 73 114 24 7 9 35 16 7 35 96 .263 .319 .412
M('65) 157 601 100 163 22 12 14 40 20 9 97 77 .271 .373 .418
M('67) 133 494 73 136 27 11 6 42 29 5 81 51 .275 .378 .411
T('05) 162 590 90 149 9 9 9 41 59 9 45 122 .252 .313 .344
So while Taveras' numbers aren't mindblowing, they match up fairly well with some of the best basestealers / early-in-the-order hitters of the modern era, and if hitting is indeed contagious, then Taveras is playing on a team that is dragging him down. The Astros are hitting .244, 26th in the majors. The only disturbing stat is that his strikeouts are so high. His minor league numbers also show increases at each level. These may be due to adjustment, and they might be signs of what is to come for this young man. Only time will tell, but for the time being, he is entertaining to watch, and may prove to be a player of note in a few years. Keep your eye on this kid.

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