Hackin’ Jose Reyes

With a healthy, productive season, Jose Reyes will become a very wealthy man next winter. The switch-hitter, eligible for free agency following 2011, could hit the market as a 28-year-old at a premium position with at least three 5.5+ WAR seasons to his name.

That’s not to say that Reyes’ game is without question marks, however. Hamstring issues that haunted him early in his big league career crept back up in 2009, costing him most of the season, and he missed time last year getting treatment for an overactive thyroid as well as nursing an oblique injury. Reyes didn’t play poorly in 2010, but a 2.8 WAR campaign was disappointing nonetheless. One of the biggest reasons that Reyes fell short of being the championship-caliber player we’ve come to expect was a downturn in his plate discipline.

From 2007-2009, Reyes swung at 24.8 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The MLB average over that time frame was a bit above 25 percent, so Reyes ventured outside slightly less than the average hitter. In 2010, though, he lunged at 32.1 percent of off-the-plate offerings (29.3 percent MLB average). That was about 10 percent above the big league average. Not surprisingly, Reyes’ walk rate dipped from 9.5 percent from ’07 to ’09 to just 5.1 percent last season. His wOBA was .329, his lowest mark since his first fully healthy year in Queens back in 2005.

What changed for the worse in Reyes’ plate approach last year? Courtesy of Pitch F/X Maestro Dave Allen, here are the shortstop’s swing contours from last season, compared to 2007-2009. The solid line indicates Reyes’ 60% swing contour — inside the contour, his swing rate is greater than 60 percent and outside it is less. The dotted line is his 50% swing contour — he swings more than 50 percent inside the contour line, and outside, less.

First, Reyes from the right side. Keep in mind that the sample sizes with the right-handed graph are fairly small, so it’s best not to draw sweeping conclusions based on it.

As a righty batter, Reyes expanded his zone on pitches thrown up and away. Now, here’s Reyes from the left side. This is the meatier graph for analytical purposes:

Batting from the left side, Reyes swung at fewer low-and-inside offerings, but he hacked at more up-and-away pitches from this side of the plate as well.

There have been rumblings that the Mets want Reyes to show better plate discipline and boost his OBP before the team explores a multi-year extension for their shortstop. Given Reyes’ potential price tag and the club’s imperiled finances, that might be a moot point. But Reyes will draw a bigger paycheck from someone this winter if he can stop pulling the trigger on so many pitches located eye-high and outside.

Print This Post

A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

28 Responses to “Hackin’ Jose Reyes”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. mettle says:

    I’m missing something: Shouldn’t the 60% curve be inside the 50% for batters that aren’t, say, me? Aren’t MLB batters more likely to swing at better, and therefore, more centered pitches?
    Doesn’t this currently show that Reyes is 10% less likely to swing at a pitch right in the heart of the plate as compared to one kind of on the plate?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Matt says:

      Especially when you take in to account this:

      “he solid line indicates Reyes’ 50% swing contour — inside the contour, his swing rate is greater than 50 percent and outside it is less.”

      If he swings at less than 50% of pitches outside of the solid line, how does he swing at 60% of the pitches in between the solid line and the dotted line?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Buster Posey says:

      The 60% is inside the 50% for all 4 comparisons. You need to compare the solid red to the dotted red, solid blue to dotted blue in each situation.

      And for matt below me, inside the middle circle he swings at 60%+ but expanding out more, he swings between 50-59% between the solid and dotted lines… and outside the dotted, <50%. Why doesn't that make sense to you?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. d says:

    “From 2007-2009, Reyes swung at 24.8 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The MLB average over that time frame was a bit above 25 percent, so Reyes ventured outside slightly less than most hitters. ”

    “The average hitter” and “most hitters” are not the same thing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. mattinm says:

    @Mettle – There is a 50% chance that he swings at a pitch within the solid lines and a 10% that he swings at a pitch in the area between the solid and dashed lines. The 60% is inclusive which is important to remember.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ToddM says:

      If this were true, then I’d venture a guess that Reyes strikes out looking more often than anyone in MLB history — if you don’t throw it right down the middle, there’s a 10% or less chance he swings!

      The correct correction is the author’s, below.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. David Golebiewski says:

    Good catch on the swing contours, guys — they were reversed. The graphs are fixed now.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Mike says:

    I don’t think that it’s valid using O-Swing% as you did earlier in the post. I’m not trying to rip on you but it’s because that if you look at most hitters in the league, you can see that their O-Swing is much higher then it should be and that the league average is also higher than previous years due to the “year of the pitcher”. So Using O-Swing for Reyes suggests that he is the only one whose plate discipline changed this year when in fact it was most of the league, not just Reyes.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. David Golebiewski says:


    The O-Swing average did change this year, and it’s hard to say exactly what the cause was (though I suspect a change in the way BIS charts things). But I tried to account for that by referring to the MLB average over both time frames, and comparing Reyes’ O-Swing relative to that average in both instances. From ’07 to ’09, his O-Swing was less than the league average. Last year, it was considerably higher than the average. When I say that Reyes’ 2010 O-Swing was 10 percent higher than average, that’s already accounting for the higher league average (Reyes’ 32.1 divided by MLB’s 29.3)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Andrew says:

    Having watched Reyes a lot last year, I think I can offer something beyond the numbers, which is that a large part of the impatience he showed was due to injuries. First he missed all of spring training, so really the first month he was back was spring training to him, just getting his timing right and regaining that recognition for live pitching. Second, with the oblique preventing him from batting from the left side (if memory serves) for a time, he was lunging at pitches when batting righty-on-righty because he was so unused to the perspective. I expect Reyes to return to his typical .350-.360 OBP ways, although he certainly has the tools to hit for a high average, which could push that up further.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Heyward says:

    Braves and Reyes seem like a match next year. Of course Boston might pull out the wallet.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Bayarlalaa says:

    Jose Reyes is Dominican trash.

    -30 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Jesse says:

    Wait from 2004-2009 players swung at 25% of pitching outside the zone and last year that number was 29%??

    That seems like quite a jump. Was the ‘year of the pitcher” an outlier or is that sustainable or will offenses be slated to rebound?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Kevin Ebert says:

    I’ve been wondering about the change in O Swing % for quite some time. It doesn’t make any sense that the multiple year average of 25% would all of a sudden jump to 29% based on a change in hitters swing patterns.

    It makes much more sense that BIS was using a different strike zone to measure in zone and out of zone swings. Why would they change their strike zone when it screws up the ability to compare outside the zone swing rates over multiple seasons?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. CircleChange11 says:

    BTB produced some info recently concluding that players rarely, if ever, dramatically improve PD … Which is something a lot of folks already knew. In that regard it’s like QB acurracy in the NFL.

    Add in that players from the DR are signed for their tools and not for their skills (in general) and the Mets are asking for a lot.

    Reyes has had this approach for his career, and the Mets want him to change it this year? A contract year when his natural tendency is going to be to be more aggressive than ever, trying to put up big numbers to show his value. Good Luck.

    This is akin to asking someone to change their personality. Not likely. He should have a decent season and with some BIP luck, a great one, if he’s healthy. Throw in good amounts of SB’s, HR, and triples … And the bidding war will begin.

    I’m not saying he won’t improve his decision making, just that reverting to his career norms is about all you can ask for.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Saul says:

      If he went back to his career norms, he would still rake in a 9-figure deal.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        I have no doubt that he’s going to rake in the money. I think e’ll bring in huge cash whether he reverts to career norm plate discipline or not.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BlackOps says:

      Wait, you do realize they already asked him to change and he already did, right? In his first full season, he walked 3.7% of the time (!, that’s 27 unintentional walks in 733 PA); in his first two incomplete seasons prior to that he walked 4.5% and 2.2% of the time. Then he did a lot of work with Rickey Henderson during the next few years: the two years after that, it rose to 7.5% and then 10.1%. He hovered near that for a few years and this past season it dipped.

      I remember the article on BtB, but I know that the Mets told Jose to walk more and hired Henderson to help him out, and it worked. Reyes is a success story when actively trying to walk more: he ended up doubling his career rate.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Johnston says:

    The correct word is not “trash” but rather “garbage”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. bill says:

    I’m more amazed that the MLB average went from ~25% to ~29%. What changed?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Dave G says:

    The pitch that really fools Reyes the most from the left side are low curves and change ups. He has a hard time laying off. Seems like this graph does reflect that some.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. bob says:

    jose reyes learn english or go back to the bean fields in the doninican.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CircleChange11 says:

      You’re confusing your ethnic insults.

      Accuracy first. Bigotry second.

      I know I’m asking a lot out of a racist, but still.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>