I'll just say that despite his pedigree in the Astro organization, Manny Acta lacks our imagination.
Two outs, bottom of the ninth, man on for the Dominicans, down by two. . . and Willy T due up. I'm not sure why Acta doesn't see it. Alfonso Soriano to pinch-hit? The guy's a loser! For me, it's September 7, 2005 vs. the Phillies all over again, and Taveras gets it done by hook or crook. I'm looking for the bobbled ball as the Cuban shortstop Paret can't hang. I'm seeing Willy dash up the line, safe by a fraction, as he starts clapping his hands frantically the way he does and the Dominicans are in business for Polanco who has two hits already.
But nooooo, Acta goes with Soriano, and the Domincans lose.
OK, OK. I probably would have pinch hit for Willy, too, but man, I hope Acta knew enough to be at least tempted.
I guess it's generally well-recognized that Taveras has mastered the art of the infield hit, but because of the lapses in his routes that sometimes occurred, I'm guessing that fewer are aware of his excellent throwing arm. I wass seeing the other day on Hardball Times where a guy by the name of John Walsh was trying to quantify outfield arms, and Willy couldn't be ignored.
Taveras eliminated more than twice as many base runners as expected. He did not hold runners well, but I think it's fairly common for rookies to have poor hold rates, since opposing teams are going to test their arms. Especially, when they are six feet tall and weigh 160 lbs. Six of Taveras' kills came in the critical situations 2-4, where the key play occurs at the plate. This results in Taveras having a large number of runs saved, as we'll see shortly.
Taveras ends up as Walsh's number one "Center Field Arm by Kill Rate," and ends up number six behind guys like Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds in "Runs Saved per 200 Opportunities."
But don't take my word for it--the entire article was interesting, plus it's worth reading just for the link he uses to illustrate Johnny Damon's arm.
Another thing I learned from that same saunter over to The Hardball Times was just how much Willy's style of play influenced the way the 2005 Astros look statistically as a team. Dave Studeman got ahold of The Fielding Bible and started breaking down teams by where their hits went. Not only--thanks to Willy--did the Astros lead the majors in infield hits, they also had the most hits to the left side and the second fewest to the right.
Now I don't have a spray chart or anything, but that sure sounds like Willy. Studeman also says that Houston was fifth worse in the majors for hits to the right field gap, but I don't think we give Willy credit for that one: this team has been terrible going the other way since we acquired a certain influential slugging first baseman who used to play in the Red Sox chain. . . .