In early March I posted a tip in a fantasy baseball forum I frequent after noticing that Willie Taveras had stolen 94 bases over the past three years against right-handers, but just seven against lefties. Obviously the much larger number of ABs against righties magnified this bias.
I was looking into Taverasâ€™s splits because I was considering ways to maximize his speed while minimizing the power void. I advised forum readers to follow my plan and bench him against lefties. I did that until â€“ doh â€“ I sat him against Jonathan Sanchez and lost a three-SB night. I assumed it was a blip, that Sanchez perhaps was brutal in holding runners on.
But in checking his split stats this year on Yahoo I have discovered that this is part of a trend. Heâ€™s 16-1 (up to June 13 games) in 160 ABs against righties, and 13-1 in 50 ABs against lefties! Heâ€™s had 11 singles and three walks against lefties so I think itâ€™s safe to assume heâ€™s attempting to steal every time he gets on base against a southpaw.
I think this is a pretty significant development. Heâ€™s already on a 69-sb pace, according to CBS Sportsline, despite sitting a fair bit due to his crappy BA. His OBA of .294 is way below his career .333 OBA.
If he starts hitting a little better and wins back his manager’s confidence, and goes back to playing full-time, what’s this guy capable of? Granted, the fatigue factor would eventually set in if he’s playing every day, and maybe he’s running wild to prove something and will be less motivated if told he won’t sit again. And of course his pace now is inflated by his wild-running weekend.
Still, in pre-season many of us who thought about drafting him looked at a player who had been averaging around 30 steals a year and wondered if he could break out to 50 in a full season in Coors.
Now he appears to have a new skill. It should be fun for his owners to watch him use it, and the development raises questions about what Taveras could or should fetch on the trade market.
(Peter OÂ¹Neil, who covers Europe from Paris for a Canadian news agency, is a â€¨former stock market columnist for the Financial Times of Canada. He won theâ€¨ 2007 RotomanÂ¹s Regulars non-keeper title and is multiple winner of the Brianâ€¨ BaskinÂ¹s Fantasy Baseball Pool based in Ottawa.)