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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Faces, Part I: So Taguchi 

Time to look at some of the Phillies new faces and new reserve outfielder So Taguchi is a great place to start. The 38-year old Taguchi was part of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series winning team and might help to bring some veteran leadership to a team that is comparatively young.

What are the Phillies getting in Taguchi? Well, they are getting a guy who is versatile. In 2006 Taguchi played 63 games in centerfield, 41 in leftfield, 8 in rightfield, pinch-hit 38 times, pinch-ran 8 times and also played a game at second base. Not bad. Defensively Taguchi is pretty solid, making a lot of plays on balls hit near or outside of his zone in 2007. Expect to see Taguchi a lot in 2008 as a defensive substitution for Pat Burrell in left.

The Phillies also are getting a guy who is a solid contact kind of hitter. Taguchi struck-out just 9% of the time he strode to the plate, about twice as good as the N.L. average. To be sure, the Phillies aren’t getting someone who is going to swat 30+ home runs – Taguchi’s isolated power at the plate registered just .078, which is pretty bad. Taguchi got some hits and drew some walks in 2007. Taguchi’s biggest plus is his speed. In his career to date he’s swiped 36 bases in 48 tries, a good 75% success rate.

One red flag: 50% of Taguchi’s balls put into play were groundballs in 2006 (MLB average: 43%). As a consequence, Taguchi grounded into ten double plays in 2007, a relatively high number for a guy who had just 340 plate appearances.

Finally, the Phillies are getting a guy who isn’t white or black. The Phillies were the last N.L. team to integrate and their refusal to do so crippled the team and prevented it from contending in the 1950’s. The team’s historical race relations haven’t been good. Asian-American fans and Asian markets are going to be enormous in the coming decades in baseball and it makes sense for the Phillies to be a part of that and recruit Asian players. I’m not laboring under the delusion that millions of Japanese baseball fans are going to be at bars in Tokyo shrieking: “Taguchi!” but it is nice to see the Phillies diversify their lineup a little.

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Top pinch hitter last year also in the NL. He also makes the 5th OF spot a one who could potentially be a starter for a time.
I like this pickup. Gooch2 will surely prove to be useful for the Phils during the course of the season, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see his option picked up for '09 should he play well in reserve.
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