Speed Kills

The Astros wake up this morning 11 games below .500 and two touchdowns behind first place St. Louis. If you are an Astro fan, not exactly what you had in mind on opening day. One reason for hope (beyond 2005) is the play of Willy Taveras. The batting champion at AA Round Rock in ’04 is Tavares more than holding his own at the big league level. He is hitting .288 and his 17 stolen bases as of this writing are good for third in the NL. I’m not sure what the modern record for infield hits is, but Willy has 27 already and if he maintains that pace he would have to be in the ballpark. Infield hits obviously don’t have any more value than any other single.As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen anyone go first to third on a base hit to short. What all those infield hits indicates is that you have a player who should be able to hit for a decent average and contribute even when he may not be swinging the bat all that well. The old adage "speed never slumps" certainly applies to Taveras. To say that he is fast is like saying Michael Jackson is a little different. He is a good bunter and getting better. Because of his speed, there is almost no such thing as a routine ground out for him. Third basemen have to shorten up on him and if he learns to pull the ball the doubles will follow. I also believe he will develop into more than a singles hitter. He is a strong kid who should be able to split some gaps and that is when the real fun will start for him.

Perhaps the final piece of the Taveras package would be the ability to switch hit. He worked on it some last year at AA, but abandoned the idea this spring (at least temporarily) as he focused on trying to make the team. With an eye toward the future, maybe now is the time for Taveras to start working on it in BP and perhaps during winter ball. Even if he never mastered the left side, he could get a number of hits by just slapping the ball to the short-stop side and relying on his speed, which would obviously be more valuable from the left-handed box.

13 Comments

Hey JD,
I agree with everything you said about Taveras. He’s developed into my favorite player this year because of his speed, ability to steal bases, and fielding ability. I can’t believe he spent last year in AAA!! Now we’ve just got to take care of the Orioles tonight and the Royals in the next three. I haven’t given up on the season yet. Our pitchers almost never give up runs, we just need to get the bats going!!

What do you think about this lineup?

1. Taveras

2. Biggio

3. Ensberg

4. Berkman

5. Lane

6. Burke

7. Everett

8. Ausmus

I think that we need to move Lane up a spot in the lineup. He’s been doing great in June. It might do Burke some good to take some pressure off of him and move him down in the lineup, maybe even to 7. Lane looks like he’s ready to step up.

Just found the blog today, looking good!

-Sam Sherman

Why does Palmeiro never get any starts? He could start over Burke easily, and with him being one of the few hitters even close to 300 on the team, why is he not getting the at bats?

-Mark Hildreth

Palmeiro doesn’t start because he’s not our future, weather you want to admit it or not this is a rebuild year and we should have known this when this team didn’t sign any worthy bats in the off-season. Burke starts because we are trying to get him use to the big league pitching so he can be ready for years to come.

I don’t quite agree with your assessment of Willie’s bunting ability or have I only seen the bad ones? (I watch the Astros every night.)I think Willie needs to spend more time working on his bunting. I do think he is well on his way to being a premier player in a couple years. (I already bought his rookie card!)

Tavares was only in AA and still has a lot to learn. His upside is great and I love watching him play. This was another master stroke by Gerry, first getting him in the rule V and then trading J.Robertson for him & Scott. I agree that this is somewhat of a rebuild year and that’s not so bad. Every once in while you need to retool and see what your real weaknesses are and then address them. I don’t believe thay planned it this way(Beltran fiasco) but I’m not that disappointed with the way things worked out. At least it’s not a total flush out of talent and start over from square one deal. The Astros will still be competettive. The thing I hope they are thinking about is holding onto Andy and Brandon and Roy and who knows even Roger…who’s to say he won’t be back. The guy is dominating and I doubt he’ll want to sit back a few years from now and say “Ok I left on top, but I probably could have pitched a few years more and still leave on top”.
Anyway, I think the future is still bright for this team. Keep getting AB’s for Lane and Burke, so they’ll be ready for a push next year.

PS JD. You’re the greatest, you and Bill make a great team and I’ve been waiting for years for you to be an every day guy. Houston fans should be thankful for you guys. I’ll catch other teams broadcasts at times and say “man these guys ****…tell me something will ya”. You guys are always giving out info and it makes the listener feel like he’s hanging with you guys watching the game. Keep up the good work.

Hi Jimmy…Last saw you at church the last day of spring training. Just as I suspected I kind of knew they had a good pitching staff, but lacked punch. I am surprised that no trade was made early on, even knowing it was a rebuilding year.
Tavares is doing great, let him loose, the need for speed is apparent when there is lack of hitting. You have to manufacture runs.

Am thinking of coming to Houston, would love to see the clubhouse guys and some of the players I befriended, do you think that would be possible? If not see you next Spring.

Best to all…Ray (Security)

I think Tavares is a great talant, one that may not be quite ready for the big leagues, he is fast, but it seems that he is using his speed to make up for mistakes, epspecally in the field. For a guy playing pro ball, you have to expect them to know the right times to drop down bunts for hits, There have been a couple of situatons, where he did it with one out and a man on second, and it just baffled me, even though he is a lead off man, he has got to cut down on the rookie mistakes and keep focused. On the upside, this is his year to make those kinds of mistakes, and I hope he doesn’t have many kangaroo court appearances. Speaking of Kangaroo court, how come the fans aren’t suppose to know what goes on? JD here’s your chance at a reality show!!!

Great BLOG, JD.

Not only does speed kill, it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

Willie T. has the makings of a big star in this league.

Hey JD, I saw last night that you switched with Dierker for the road trip to Colorado. Some weeks back, you were talking about being a jinx for the road losses, and mentioned not wanting to switch. What changed?
On the other hand, the guys did great!

And on the topic above, Willie T showed on two balls hit to deep center that he still doesn’t have good instincts in center. I hope someone on the staff is working with him to improve that. –John

I’m glad we have Willy. I snapped up the sponsorship of his page at http://www.baseball-reference.com because I expected his speed would be an asset. I agree with crownedone that he’s still learning in the field, but what do you expect from a guy who skipped AAA?

J.D.

I love your color commentary, but do you ever update this site?

J.D.,

Darrell’s right. There’s too much going on right now (winning streak, trade deadline, etc.). Got busy???

Hey J.D.

Hey man you forget about us? You got me completly addicted to blogging, and have even started my own! But this is the only blog that I want to talk astros in, its either that or go down to the pub and talk about it with all the drunks! And when you got a slobbering fat guy trying to tell you that Jose Cruz is the best astro ever that they should bring him back to play left field, then you really got your work cut out for you. And this man, is why I need your blog!

I know this much though, I am getting ready for the trade deadline to pass, I don’t think they should make a move, and I really hope no one has any realistic hopes of getting Adam Dunn, even if he is he a home town guy, and probably would love to play here, we have to remember that Cinci is in our divison and any trade of Dunn would have to be whats in the best intrest of a rival, and not Dunn.

So come back and say Hi to all your new online buddies. – Shane

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