2010 Analysis: Jose Reyes

On paper, Reyes was not even the third-best shortstop in the NL East going into 2010. Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Yunel Escobar all had excellent seasons in 2009 while Jose spent most of the year on the DL. However, by the time 2010 ended, Jose had found his way back toward the top – though it was more due to drop-offs by the others than a great performance by Reyes.

Ramirez remained on his own planet, but Rollins was dogged by a nagging leg injury and Escobar shat the bed before ultimately being permanently sent to Siberia Toronto. Meanwhile, Jose Reyes came back from a thyroid issue to play in 133 games, hitting .282 with 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 SB, and 83 R. Two negative numbers jumped out, however: a .321 OBP and 10 times caught stealing. Looking at the final stat line, these numbers are disappointing and concerning, but one must consider the fact that Reyes was definitely, positively, not ready for MLB action when he returned to the lineup on April 5th.

For those who forgot, Reyes’ thyroid problem forced him to sit his butt on the couch for about a month. If you have never participated in athletics, please take my word for it: an athlete – no matter what level, no matter what age, no matter what shape – cannot be a couch potato for almost a month and then jump right back into world-class competition. It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to get into good shape (for any sport), but it only takes 2-3 weeks to fall out of shape. That’s not my opinion – it’s biological fact. Now, consider that in addition to needing to whip himself back into shape – i.e., to increase his lung capacity or “wind” – Reyes also had to get “back into the swing of things” (pardon the pun) in regard to throwing, hitting, and fielding.

But, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel were both making decisions based on their job security back in April, so once Reyes showed he could stay on the field for 9 straight innings, he was back in the lineup. All things considered, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Reyes faltered mightily until June; he was, after all, experiencing “spring training” during the first two months of the season in MLB games, rather than on a sunny field in Port St. Lucie.

So we should look at those final stats with a grain of salt. Further, we should look at his .314 AVG in June, .310 in July, and .302 in August. He once again slowed down in September with a .269 AVG, but he did have an .808 OPS that final month.

I have to admit, though, I’m a little concerned about that low OBP and the meager 31 walks he drew. Getting caught stealing could have been a combination of bad timing and not being in great running shape, but there is no excuse for the low walk total – plate discipline is something that can be an issue at first, but it should have improved over time. The only explanation I can hope for is a mental one; perhaps Reyes felt he had to be more than he could be, considering the team’s struggles, and in turn expanded his strike zone. We saw Reyes show good strike-zone judgment while Willie Randolph was his manager (and Rick Down his hitting coach), so we know he is capable of being a disciplined hitter. Whether we’ll see him return to that efficiency remains to be seen.

2011 Projection

Guess what, folks – Jose Reyes ain’t young anymore. He is 27 years old now and will be 28 next June – the age when most players enter their prime years. After 130+ healthy games and the thyroid issue seemingly behind him, Reyes is primed for the best season of his career. The question is, will there be a strong influence on the bench reminding him to be patient and disciplined – the way he was under Randolph and Down? If so, Reyes could return to being one of the top 3 players in fantasy baseball, and one of the most dynamic offensive forces in “real” baseball (the game they play on grass and dirt, for team wins and losses). Without that discipline, Reyes may or may not be the second or third-best shortstop in the NL East (look out – Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa could be gaining on him).

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 November 15, 2010 at 10:47 am
    I agree, overall — we’re still waiting on a ton of “development” when it comes to Jose Reyes.

    Pretty scary that he’ll be playing in this league for close to a decade now (2011 will be his 9th Major League season).

    I love Reyes in terms of what he brings to the table. On the flip-side, I hate that he seems even more aloof on the field than any Met fan around these parts used to give Manny Ramirez a ton of crap for.

    Aside from keeping himself healthy – which is the most obvious issue – Reyes has needed work in the area of “focus” for years.

    Whether it be:

    – standing on 1st base, instead of turning himself loose on the right pitch. As a leadoff hitter for a majority of my life, I know this is hard to do when you’re not 100% — I really do. But keep in mind, he’s not getting any faster as the calendar years flip….he has obviously lost a step getting down the line; nevermind the CS’.

    – Popping the ball up on terrible pitches at the plate, because he was looking to jack whatever he was thrown out of the park. His pitch selection is still awful; and I don’t care if it’s because he was looking to jump right back into the swing of things…..you need to know what pitches you can handle at this stage of your career.

    ^ I blame this on the constant nature of: “Is he a leadoff guy, or will be ultimately be a power hitter in this league?”

    – Watching the flight of a ball, then turning on the jets as he saw it hit the wall. Granted, he grabs some easy triples whenever a ball approaches the alley, but he loves watching anything he hits well in the air. (Not particularly interested in hearing the defense of, “He flies as soon as he sees the ball didn’t go out.”)

    – Getting thrown out at 3rd base on a ground ball to short, with the play right in front of him, or

    – Throwing his glove down to the floor like a little leaguer, after he didn’t make a play…..or slamming his bat down like a carnival hammer if he strikes out.

    These are the types of things that would drive any baseball fan absolutely mad……and we still see it from Reyes.

    The constant:

    I love Jose Reyes’ tools.

    He’s exciting as they come……he’s got a boatload of talent, and is able to harness it at points, for the better of the club.

    However, he needs to put it all together at some point; and above all else, stay on the field for 145+ games.

    I still want to see how Reyes would benefit from a tough-love Manager, who stuck to his guns…..and a hitting instructor who encouraged him to be aggressive, yet selective at the plate.

    This has nothing to do with haircuts or handshakes here……just baseball.

    The positive: he did heat up as the Summer progressed [tailing off a little in September/October].

    All throughout, though – his OBP was suspect. He needs to be getting on base, and getting things going for this team.

    2011 is going to be huge for him the rest of the way. Hope he’s up to the task…..everyone will benefit as a result.

  2. CatchDog November 16, 2010 at 8:52 am
    Great analysis and above reply.

    AA had a hit tracker on Jose back in 2008 which identified all of his lazy left-side of the diamond pop ups. At one point, they were better than one-third of his outs.

    Better OBP is the key to Reyes’ offensive game. And it begins with hitting the top half of the ball. And defensively, he needs to stay focused.

    These are not difficult tasks for Jose. The gift is there. If harnessed correctly, he is one of very few players in baseball capable of putting up a season which could re-write the record books in a number of catagories.

  3. argonbunnies November 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm
    I know a lot of athletes cheat on ADD diagnoses to get Ritalin and use it as speed. But Jose might actually benefit from the stuff. He seems to care, but to nevertheless have trouble focusing.

    I’m not worried about the CS total; he got nailed by an unfathomable amount of perfect throws this year. Honestly, I’d like him to take more chances early in the year, to find his groove in terms of getting jumps. Whoever said “speed never slumps” clearly wasn’t talking honestly about basestealing.