To say that poor Willy fell apart starting the next day would be kind. His slashline from 5/14 through last night:
Keep in mind this isn't some small sample the streak, highlighted by a 1-46 with 0 walks stretch, covers 244 plate appearances.
Thanks largely to Taveras the Reds leadoff hitters to date have 'produced' the following line - .232/.273/.297 for a comical .570 OPS. Out of morbid curiosity I decided to go back and look for a team that produced a worse line than that out of the lead-off spot. Here are the recent 'top 10' including the '09 Reds with primary lead off hitter(s). I was too lazy to make the calculations for OPS+ so I simply added the league average OPS as a decent comparison.
Team/Yr OPS Lg. Avg. Hitters
Cubs 1981 .527 .683 Ivan DeJesus/Bobby Bonds
Toronto 1981 .537 .693 Alfredo Griffin
San Diego 1981 .551 .683 Ozzie Smith
White Sox 1976 .556 .681 Chet Lemon/Pat Kelly/Jerry Hairston
Cincinnati 2009 .570 .740 Willy Taveras/Chris Dickerson
Boston 1992 .573 .713 Wade Boggs/Billy Hatcher/Jody Reed
Seattle 1994 .575 .779 Rich Amaral/Felix Fermin/Brian Turang
St. Louis 1986 .576 .702 Vince Coleman
Oakland 1978 .578 .711 Mike Edwards/Miguel Dilone/Joe Wallis
L.A. 1989 .578 .678 Alfredo Griffin/Willie Randolph
Some suprising names huh? A couple of Hall of Famers and a few other players that had solid careers. Quite an accomplishement for Alfredo Griffin to have 2 of the 10 worst lead-off seasons in the past 34 years. Anyway, I think 1981 should be ignored, it was a very odd season with the August re-start after a roughly 2 month strike, it obviously doesn't compare well to any other season listed here. When using league OPS as a comparison that one team that under-performed the '09 Reds out of the lead-off spot was the 1994 Seattle Mariners who managed to have a below average offense despite a monster season by Juinor Griffey and very fine seasons from Buhner and both Edgar and Tino Martinez.
Interesting exercise, but is there anything the Reds could do differently over the last couple of months of the season? Being the Reds the options aren't great, but there are a couple of alternatives superior to writing Taveras in as the lead-off hitter every day. 1) Put Chris Dickerson there once he comes off the D.L. or 2) Call-up Drew Stubbs from Louisville.
Dickerson is not a great player by any stretch, his scorching hot 6 weeks last year can be ignored, but he has some value. He's walked in roughly 13% of his plate appearances; he has some pop in his bat, has some speed, and the very small sample suggests he can handle CF. His .259/.355/.359 line this year is considerably better than what Taveras offers.
Stubbs is a former #1 pick of the Reds out of the University of Texas and has been somewhat of a disappointment. He strikes out an awful lot, and most of his power has left as he's cut down on his swing in an attempt to reduce K's. He does have pluses however - he's considered an outstanding defensive CF'er; is a terrific base stealer (44-51 SB's this year); and will draw walks. At age 24 calling him up now would hardly qualify as a rush. Stubbs major league equivalency this year isn't impressive - .238/.308/.315. The point is that 2009 is lost to the Reds, they may as well call up Stubbs and see if he can be part of the future.
The Reds of course will do neither. Taveras makes 4M next year, and the concept of sunk costs is foreign to them. Plus Dusty loves his veterans. Jay Bruce and Dickerson are both out with injuries, yet Dusty made it clear he wanted no part of Stubbs or Chris Heisey (another modest OF prospect in AAA). Far better to roll with Laynce Nix/Taveras/Johnny Gomes - strikes me as the core of a pennant contender....