Jose Reyes stole his first base of the spring the other day in an exhibition against the Orioles, and that got me thinking. Speed is a tremendously important part of Jose’s game, and watching Reyes on the base paths is one of the great pleasures of the sport. Even my wife, who does not care over-much for baseball, laughs any time Jose hits a triple, because “no human should run that fast,” and I will admit that I enjoyed watching Jose make Armando Benitez crap the bed as much as the next man.
But while Reyes’s speed is a great asset, last year it may also have been his Achilles heel. Most people think that all that running wore Reyes down by September. Jose’s terrible final month certainly contributed to the Mets’ historic collapse, but let’s not go over that again.
The reason I bring it up at all is because I was curious if there was any pattern to his stolen base attempts, or his success rate, or something that would indicate whether or not he was tired, or if his slump in September was just bad timing in the ordinary ups-and-downs of the season. If we could figure out some pattern that led to Jose’s crappy September, hopefully we could avoid it in 2008.
Here’s a graph of Jose’s monthly stolen base attempts out of his total times on base, including when he reached on an error, but not the times that he was intentionally walked or hit home runs. I didn’t check, but I assume that nobody intentionally walked Jose when second base was open, because that’s a terrible idea. Anyway, Jose had a great April, successfully reaching base 54 times (including three times on errors) and attempting 20 steals while he was there – at an 85% success rate, too.
Incidentally, this also doesn’t include any times Jose reached on a fielder’s choice, because I couldn’t easily find that info and, um . . . life is short. I think this is close enough that you get my point.
Not counting crappy September, Jose got on base roughly 46 times a month, give or take, and tried to steal about a third of the time, with one notable exception: August. What I’m driving at might be clearer if we look at it like this:
In August Jose really upped the pace on his stolen base attempts. Out of the 45 times Jose was on base in August, he attempted 26 steals, or 58% of the time. That’s a lot. August was Jose’s biggest month for steals, both in terms of total attempts and the percentage of times he was on base that he attempted to steal. It was also his best month for total stolen bases (23) and success rate (88.5%).
Of course, he paid the price for all that August running in September, when his batting average (.205), on-base percentage (.279), slugging percentage (.333), stolen base attempts (just 9), and success rate (55.6%) all fell in the toilet. Is this just a coincidence? It could be. But if I’m the Mets, I would make sure Jose doesn’t run that wild in 2008.
So what was Jose doing running that much, anyway? Well, take a look at this here:
Those are Jose’s monthly stolen base totals. By the end of July, Jose had swiped 50 bags and was tantalizingly close to the all-time Mets stolen base record, held by a player whose name I will not mention because I hate him. I don’t know if Jose just decided that he was going to own that record come hell or high water, or if he was encouraged by Willie and the coaches, or the front office, or what. But I think he threw caution to the wind to make damn sure he did.
The irony is that at the end of July, Jose was on pace to steal roughly 77 bags anyway. The dotted portion of the line above is what Jose was projected to do if he’d maintained his pace through July to the end of the season. Jose ended up stealing 78 bases; if he’d just maintained his regular pace, he might have stolen that many anyway, but possibly without the horrible September swoon.
Stolen bases aren’t generally popular with the sabermetric crowd; but if he’s successful at a high rate I don’t see anything wrong with letting Reyes run. I hope Reyes steals 80 bases in 2008. Just, you know, spread it around a little, OK? No need to jam a third of your steals into a sixth of the season.
Special thanks to Baseball Reference, as always.