So I keep having this debate on how much speed affects a lineup and whether or not the Rockies are doing the right thing by basically letting Willy Taveras go?
Taveras led the major leagues last year with 68 stolen bases and if you have never seen this man run he is electric. There’s one little problem though..he hit .251 and a measely .308 OBP last season. Here begins the debate…
What good is his speed if he doesn’t get on base?
True. But baseball is a game of failure and does Taveras have a point that his numbers were low because he was not allowed to get into a rhythm and pulled? Yes and no. If I’m the skip how can i justify keeping a guy in the lineup (no matter how fast he is) if he is not getting on base either with hits or walks? Do I let this guy go 1-20 and hope he does get warm? If I’m Taveras how am I justifying helping the team?
But. What about his defense? Yes his speed does help in running down balls and I would make the argument to keep him in the lineup for defensive purposes but… 2008 was his worst year defensively. He had a career high 7 errors and career low fielding percentage .976. He does have the speed to track down a number of balls in the outfield but has he proven it?
Doesn’t his presence in the lineup make opposing defenses more cautious?
Sure watching the Rockies and Taveras was like watching what everybody knew was coming. I can’t count how many times I would listen to announcers comment that everyone knows Taveras is going to steal a base right now and he would.
But if I am an opposing skip and I see this guy is struggling I just tell my pitcher go right at him and take the risk so he doesn’t get on base. He’s batting .200 throw him the heat then a change-up and get the easy out.
Isn’t a lineup better with speed in general?
Yes. The ’07 Rockies had a dynamic duo in Kaz Matsui and Taveras who could steal a base at any time and it was a blast to watch. Small ball never seemed so fun watching these guys run out bunts and steal bases. Taveras also had his best year in the majors batting .320 and .367 OBP. He had those numbers in 97 games though.
No. If Ricky Henderson couldn’t get that lead off hit so many times, would he have been in the lineup or even nominated for the HOF? He had to get on base to steal a base.
In conclusion I think it’s a fun debate to have. Personally I think a team is much better off when you have at least one speedster who the pitcher knows is going to steal but more often than not cannot get out. The key I believe more than anything is OBP for a speedster. They won’t hit the long ball but getting on base is where they are most dangerous. Taveras will be a valuable commodity to any team if he can put his hitting together and get that batters eye. He is only coming into his sixth year in the bigs and batting .283 with .331 OBP.
The difference and maybe why the Rockies are willing to let Taveras go-Henderson in the first five years of his career hit .343 and .395 OBP and those are the numbers you want in your speedster.