Reyes on the Other Side of the BallBy: Brendan Bilko
If you are a fan of the Mets, you have definitely heard the expression “as Reyes goes, the Mets go.” Last season the absence of Jose Reyes was felt by both the team and fans alike. From our standpoint, aside from the obvious lack of a catalyst at the top of the lineup, the game was just not the same without him. Well now the healthy smiling shortstop is back and looking to make a comeback from an injury plagued 2009 season. Needless to say he has been a huge topic of discussion this spring.
The capital argument revolving around Reyes has been his spot in the batting order. As we all know, manager Jerry Manuel flirted with this idea last spring and ultimately had him in the leadoff slot come opening day. We know that when probed about the issue Reyes says he’s willing to hit wherever he’s asked and we also know that the beat writers will spin it to say that he does not seem happy about it. Most importantly though, we know that Jose can and will hit no matter where he is slotted. CHONE projects a 18.6 wRAA season from him in a limited number of games (127). Based upon his play from ’05 – ’08 it is safe enough to say that we’ll see a good season at the dish from Jose. However offense is not the only part of Jose’s game.
Is Jose Reyes the best defensive shortstop in the National League? Certainly not. Though that isn’t to say he has been a liability during his major league service time. As a matter of fact, he has been a plus defender and it is often an aspect of his game that is overlooked. Due to the wonderful accessibility of these statistics at Fangraphs, we see that over his last three full seasons Jose’s UZR/150 averages out at approximately 3.5 runs saved per season. So what does that mean for his 2010 season?
Now we know that you need three seasons of fielding data to make any sort of conclusion about a position player’s defensive prowess. This doesn’t change the fact that his UZR rating has been inconsistent from season to season, making it slightly difficult to give outright credence to a 2010 CHONE projection of a 7.6 UZR. If there were more of a correlation in his seasonal ratings like there are with some other players in MLB (see: Jimmy Rollins and for the sake of sticking within the division Christian Guzman), it would be easier to accept.
Reyes turns 27 in June of this year, putting him at an age to start peaking, barring injury. The kid has a serious arm and a history of plus defense. Another positive season around a rating of 3.5 certainly seems likely. While the CHONE projection for 2010 appears to be a bit on the high side, with proper defensive positioning and good health it certainly isn’t out of the question.