Optimism has been in short supply among Mets fans this year. But I was looking over some stats and I noticed something interesting:
Jose Reyes is 10th in the majors in VORP.
I looked into it a bit more, and I think I can say safely: the Mets have developed a stud. He just turned 25 years old a few days ago, and he’s in the midst of his best season in the bigs.
Last year, in the aftermath of the collapse, I wrote a brief appraisal of Jose Reyes. I pointed to two different statistics.
2006 LD% + GB%: 66.1%
2007 LD% + GB%: 60.1%
2006 HR/F: 10.6%
2007 HR/F: 5.4%
My point was that those statistics signified that Reyes had tried to elevate pitches that did not warrant elevation, leading to fewer groundballs (which he can beat out with his legs, often) and line drives (which he hits so well anyway).
Well, Reyes seems to have straightened that out, besting his excellent 2006.
2008 LD% + GB%: 67.9%
2008 HR/F: 10.9%
The 2006 version of Reyes is back with a vengeance. But the numbers look better so far. How about some more numbers?
This table warrants some interpretation.
2005: This was the Jose Reyes that many Mets fans wanted to trade. He was exciting, sure, but he didn’t get on base enough for a leadoff hitter, didn’t have much power, and, in essence, hit an empty .275.
2006: Reyes put it all together in 2006, walking at a serviceable level, hitting .300, hitting a few more line drives, and hitting for power.
2007: That was last year, complete with the terrible end-of-the-year slump. Reyes hit fewer line drives than he did even in 2005, perhaps because of a more power-driven game. He did, however, continue to gain selectivity.
2008: More power! More line drives! More extra base hits! And the fewer walks, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; Reyes could simply be showing improvement in recognizing pitches, swinging at more pitches that he can hit well (even one that might not be strikes).
I think that these statistics might be missing something, too. There is an argument to be made that Reyes started out the season slowly because he was “pressing” in the wake of the collapse. I can’t prove this statistically, of course, but I can put forth a case “historically,” by going to the archives.
Newsday ran a piece on May 18, 2008, discussing Reyes putting more “pressure” on himself. Former manager Willie Randolph was quoted as follows:
“I think Jose does put a lot of pressure on himself. He knows the importance of what he is to our club. I spoke to him the other day in my office privately and I asked him very simply, do you feel any weight on your shoulder, do you feel pressure? If there is, just knock it off. Just knock it off and have fun.”
It’s difficult to rely on these media reports, because the Daily News on May 26 described Reyes as a “blunder-prone .270 hitter,” when he had put up a .304/.381/.480 line in the 25 games preceding the column. But at some point this season, for whatever reason, be it random variation or some sort of attitude change, Reyes really started to hit:
AVE OBA SLG
3/31-4/27 .237 .272 .392
4/29-date .317 .386 .534
A graph can indicate this type of change a bit better. The following is a plot of the statistics for Reyes, with each part of the graph representing the statistics for the twenty games preceding the date on which it is plotted.
Everything starts out pretty bad, and the rolling average for mid-May is where things are worst (though his walk rate spiked there, which to me is the sign of a smart, struggling hitter knowing that he has to do what he can to get on base). But it all picked up around then. The batting average reached a consistently high level by mid-May. His power has been up, often above an isolated power of .200 (which he has sustained for two months, now). And, best of all, his strikeouts are trending down, while his walks are trending up (slightly). Everything looks good.
He’s due less than $30 million between now and 2011, assuming the Mets pick up his option. If he keeps this up, he’s a real bargain. More importantly, Reyes looks like he’s behind whatever ailed him in late 2007. Let’s hope the Mets as a whole can say the same sooner, rather than later.