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.
That has to explain why Fallas tries to reason out where Taveras will land, since Oakland surely doesn't want to lose him for nothing and will try to trade him. Maybe he doesn't realize that BIlly Beane is a shrewder negotiator than that; if he wants to trade a player, he doesn't put himself in a postion where he HAS to trade said player. Not to mention the fact that any team trading for him assumes his contract as well. You know, the one that pays 4 million dollars who has a -.3 WAR the past two seasons and .7 WAR in the past three.
No, he's probably still picking up on things like that. Now that my snarkiness is out of the way, let's go to some bullet points to better illustrate why this would be a bad idea.
- Oakland basically acquired Taveras to pick up Adam Rosales, a young utility infielder. The A's already have a ton of outfielders and they weren't going to let Taveras clog up that rotation. He probably views Taveras as the opportunity cost to pick up Rosales and treated him as such by DFA'ing him hours after acquiring him.
- What skillset does Taveras offer? I already mentioned his low OBP, but how about his 5% walk rate or his 16% strikeout rate? Or his .35 BB/K ratio? Or his .045 ISO? Does that sound like a good bench player to you? He'd basically just be a pinch-runner, right? No one would run him out there to pinch hit unless he was the last guy on the bench, right?
- At least his defense is pretty sound. Outside of posting negative UZRs in spacious Colorado, Taveras has had a pretty good track record in the field. His range is good, he has a sneaky good arm and can cover some ground. Of course, he's also getting older, slower and more brittle, thus more susceptible to injuries. That sounds like the perfect defensive replacement in the outfield. Or Darin Erstad. Your pick.
- As I mentioned, Taveras has been almost exactly useless by WAR standards for the past two seasons. This in spite of the fact that he put up relatively good defensive numbers. Do you know how bad you have to be with the bat to post a negative WAR with 8.3 fielding runs above replacement? Try negative 27 runs above replacement. It appears Taveras was hitting too many fly balls and not enough ground balls, as his GB% was the lowest of his career and his FB% was the highest. Granted both of these came in a very limited sample size, but it's not encouraging.
- The other factor here is that the Astros already have to fairly decent defensive outfielders who can hit a little on the bench. If they needed a defense first guy, they'd look no further than Yordany Ramirez. If they needed a guy with a little more pop, they've got Brian Bogusevic. While Jason Michaels and Cory Sullivan don't light up the eyes of Astros fans, they're still better than Taveras.
- There is always a touch of nostalgia that comes with players returning to a team. With Taveras, he played on two of the most successful Astros teams in the history of the franchise. In 2004, his team won the first postseason series in club history. In 2005, of course, he went to the World Series. People quickly forget that his offensive struggles were also a reason why the Astros didn't score enough runs against the White Sox. Time heals all fan memories, but statistics don't lie. I'm betting Ed Wade will rely more on the latter than on the former. UPDATE: timmy rightly checked my facts on this. I didn't do my due diligence and am rightfully shamed.
Now, I know how this probably comes off. The snobby blogger takes down the hard-working sports reporter. I don't mean to be like that. Fallas is a good reporter that did some great work on the Dynamo the past few years. He even helped me out on a story with The Eagle a few years back, getting me hooked up with the Dynamo's front office. And I get the point of posts like this. You want to generate comments by stirring things up. Goodness knows I've made some pot-stirring posts in the past, playing devil's advocate on losing Manny Acta, exploring trade possibilities for Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, etc. It's what we do until real baseball happens again. I get that's what he was trying to do. I just also know that I haven't seen Zach Levine, Brian McTaggart or, most tellingly, Richard Justice making this same point.
Should the Astros bring back Willy T? The short answer is, Ahhh, no. I guess I could have saved us all some time by writing that at the beginning, eh?