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Willy T and the ROY Salvos of 11/8

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A lot of Statheads seem to dislike this man. . . . . .But most Astro fans give this man his props

Me and my big mouth.

I'm automatically subscribed to a mailing list for those hosting SBNation sites, and last night, appended to a totally unrelated email I sent out to the list, I had written the following, more as a lark than anything else:

Rookie of the Year: 312 AB 52 R 90 H .288 AVG 0 SB 60.1 RC
Willy T: 592 AB 82 R 172 H .291 AVG 34 SB 69.9 RC
Not making a serious case, just saying. . . .
And boy, you'd think I'd outed a CIA agent or something. Despite never claiming Willy Taveras should have actually won the award, I received a couple bits of vociferous email. First from our SBNation brother at Bucs Dugout:
Just saying what? That Taveras STOLE MORE BASES than Ryan Howard? Come on, man.

VORP: Duke 32.7
Howard 28.7
.
.
.
.
Taveras 11.9

Good thing you're not making a "serious case," or you'd have to confront the fact that Taveras shouldn't have been even mentioned as a candidate, let alone been awarded second place. Meanwhile, my guy finished fifth despite having an ERA under two as a starter, leading NL rookies in VORP and pitching more innings than the guy who won in the AL. You can't be happy with the NL pennant, you've got to have an ROY award you don't deserve too?

Whoa. Pretty harsh words there, and not very rational, either. First off, I DIDN'T SAY WILLY TAVERAS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. I didn't I didn't.

So what was I doing? I was pointing out an irony, I was perhaps highlighting a flaw with the guy that was picked, I was trying to be funny, fer chrissake. I mean, Garner did some campaigning for Willy T, and good for Phil, he's supposed to, but, Chronicle onlne polls aside, no-one who watched the team all year would ever want to make an argument for Willy Taveras as deserving of the Rookie of the Year. As exciting as his A-game is, the holes in Willy's game are just as spectacular.

It's no secret that Willy needs to like, quadruple, his walks, and that if no-one's gonna worry about his home run power, it still might be nice if he could hit 25 doubles or so.

BUT, since BD brings it up. . . .
As far as Zach Duke goes, maybe it's just 'cause the Astros hit .325 against him, or scored six runs in his ten innings of work against Houston, but the guy pitched 84 innings. That's like nine complete games and a couple relief stints. That's nothing. You're gonna stump for Zach Duke, why not for Chad Qualls, who appeared in 77 games--not 14--throwing only 5 less innings, and had both a better WHIP and a superior K/9IP to boot? Do you think that Qualls had more to do with the Astros' success than Duke had to do with whatever success the Pirates had?

Are these questions really as open and shut as they have been made to seem?

I mean, these are the kinds of issues you come across when you consider guys who played a half-season, if that. No-one had a bettter two and a half months than Andy Pettitte, but it was only a half (or a little more so, actually), and even Astro fans realize that that should get Lefty consideration only for the Cy.

But if Ryan Howard has a great half (or a little more) he wins the trophy?

Hmmmm.

So I fired the following over to Bucs Dugout:

I was just being funny, but since you ask: I'm saying just what I appear to, and no more: that Taveras played a whole season and not half a one, that he had almost twice as many hits, and that he had a better average than Ryan Howard, and created more runs. Further, I'm saying that no Rookie of the Year has EVER had so few at bats as Howard, not even in the '94 strike season.

If you read between the lines, you can also see that I'm saying that Taveras had a more daunting task in the player he replaced, and actually outperformed him by some measures, and that's not to diss Thome at all.

I am NOT, however, saying that Willy T should have been ROY. I AM saying I wish Ryan Howard had 450 plate appearances or even 400. And was trying to be funny about it. And I might also be saying that power ain't everything, although I know Willy's OBP is way too freaking low. . . .

No sooner had I fired that off, than I found a short email from Lone Star Ball, who told me simply,

A half season of very good play is better than a full season of mediocrity.

Mediocrity? Sheesh, what do people have against the guy? He hit .291, he started rallies, he made game-saving catches. Willy T was not mediocre.

So what could I do, I had to respond.

Boy have I stirred something up just in trying to be funny. . . .

I'm not saying Willy T should have been ROY--I AM saying that no rookie of the year has EVER had so few AB's as Howard.

Look at the way Francouer and Kelly Johnson plunged; who's to say Howard over time wouldn't have done the same? Sure he's an OPS monster in waiting, and he was scary there in the sixth slot or wherever they had him.

But there is something to establishing a level of play over a full season. And Willy T did score runs and at not much less of a pace than Howard.

Fact is there were no good candidates in my mind, and I know that at one point I would have probably given it to Atkins. . . . . at the end there was no-one I thought deserved it.

Besides, hitting .291 is mediocrity? Acceptably replacing Carlos Beltran is mediocrity? Scoring more runs in his rookie year than Jeff Bagwell did in his ROY year is mediocrity? If the points I'm making about Taveras are intentionally exaggerated, at least I was aware of it. . . . Another respondent said that Taveras shouldn't "have been even mentioned as a candidate" and that's just so ridiculous. Anybody who watched the guy play 100 games would find it self-evident that he wasn't ROY material, but also as obvious was that Taveras value to the otherwise stodgy 'Stros was enormous.

When Jeff Bagwell won the ROY in 1991, he had 554 at bats. He broke Spring Training as the surprise starter with the big club, he started in the second-to-last game of the year, and he played in 155 games in between. Am I the only one who thinks this is a considerable achievement? And that the job he did in '91 might be worthy of a bit more respect than if Jeff had been called up in June?

Look, I will say it here, flat out: Ryan Howard is a better player now than Willy Taveras. Ryan Howard will most likely be a far better player than Willy Taveras in 2006.

But the job that Willy Taveras did for the Astros in 2005 cannot be quantified simply in numbers. Can you imagine what the Astros' season would have looked like if Willy flunks out the way Luke Scott did?

VORP Schmorp. Get Willy T some respect.

And I'll do my part right here:

Astros Placing in the BBWA ROY Voting
Placed  Astro Year
2 Joe Morgan 1965
2 Sonny Jackson 1966
4 Cesar Cedeño 1970
2 Greg Gross 1974
4 Floyd Bannister 1977
2 Jeffrey Leonard 1979
5 Dave Smith 1980
5 Glenn Davis 1985
4 Charley Kerfeld 1986
T7 Jim Deshaies 1986
5 Gerald Young 1987
1 Jeff Bagwell 1991
7 Brian Williams 1992
T7 Shane Reynolds 1994
T7 Brian L Hunter 1995
5 Mitch Meluskey 2000
T6 Lance Berkman 2000
2 Roy Oswalt 2001
T5 Brad Lidge 2003
T7 Jeriome Robertson 2003
2 Willy Taveras 2005
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(Info kiped from Baseball-Reference,
where it looks like some of the earlier data
may not reflect all votes)