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.
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).