Jose Reyes: Then and Now

While taking full advantage of my MLB Extra Innings package last night a scrolling bottom line informed me that Mets shortstop Jose Reyes hit his 7th home run. At that point it dawned on me that a) Reyes is on pace for a career high in home runs and b) I have not been bombarded with Reyes on the national media circuit as much as the last couple of years.

Reyes has steadily improved from the time of his initial call-ups until now but, while scanning his statistics, I found that we can actually trace his improvement by comparing two seasons: His 2004 campaign and numbers accrued through the first 49 games of this season.

2004: 53 G, 56-220, 16 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 33 R, 14 RBI, 5 BB, 31 K
2008: 49 G, 58-208, 12 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 31 R, 24 RBI, 20 BB, 31 K

2004: 2.2 BB%, 14.1 K%, .271 OBP/.373 SLG, .644 OPS
2008: 8.8 BB%, 14.9 K%, .338 OBP/.486 SLG, .823 OPS

Everything is very similar with the exceptions of added power and an increase in walks. His increase in extra base hits and walk frequency has turned a player with the makings to be another Nick Punto into a legitimately effective offensive threat.

The years in between the two shown above saw Reyes make great strides towards improvement. Take a look at how his frequency of walks has increased through the years:


From 2005-2007 he went from walking 3.7% of the time all the way to 10.2%; inversely, his K% dipped to the 11.2%-12.5% range. This year, however, Reyes has been walking less and regressing to his strikeout rates of four years ago.

Oddly enough, he currently has a WPA of 0.00; he has a +4.44 +WPA and a -4.44 -WPA. Also odd, is Reyes’s BABIP of exactly .300. It has been suggested elsewhere, on numerous occasions, that speedy players are much more likely to post consistently higher batting averages of balls in play due to their ability to leg out infield singles or bunt hits. This has not been the case for Reyes (career .308 BABIP), who, by many accounts, is one of the fastest players in the entire game.

To check the reasons behind his decrease in walks and increase in strikeouts I turned to the swing data here to compare this year to last. Reyes is swinging at the same amount of pitches outside the zone yet making 7% less contact on those swings. He has also swung at 5% less pitches in the zone and is making close to 1% less contact. Pitchers have offered 6% more pitches in the zone than last year as well.

The increase in pitches seen in the zone could go a long way towards explaining the decrease in walks and his significant drop in out of zone contact definitely contributes to the explanation behind his strikeout increase. I’m sure Reyes will be fine and his Mets won’t play this poorly all year long, but I find it very interesting that we can seemingly track his improvement by comparing two half-seasons, five years removed.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Jose Reyes: Then and Now”

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  1. drew says:

    Reyes certainly has elite speed. If I had to guess why his BABIP doesn’t reflect his speed I would think it would have something to do with him not putting the ball on the ground enough. In 07 Figgins (47.4), Ichiro (56.3), Crawford (47.8), Jeter (56.1), all put the ball on the ground at a higher than avg rate and utilized their speed to get on base. Reyes put the ball on the ground 41.6% of the time and posted a .331 OBP with a BABIP of .303.

    Another speedy player, Rollins, also posted a BABIP of .303 and he only put the ball on the ground at a 35.9% clip. It is interesting that the knock on both those guys is that they do not get on base enough.

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  2. big baby says:

    Analyzing Reyes at this point of the season could be largely pointless. His May has been torrid, and could render his April just the after effects of a young player slump; hopefully, as a Met fan, similarly to Wright’s April last year.

    Another thing about Reyes is his struggles as a righty. He has, up until this season, been a much better hitter from the right side of the plate. His ISoD from the left side of the plate is where it was last year. Though he walks less from the right side, he should likely improve from that side of the plate.

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  3. Eric Seidman says:

    As I said at the end, I’m sure Reyes will be fine. I have no doubt he will continue to be productive; in fact, it’s not like he isn’t productive now as he still has an .823 OPS which should only improve.

    Analyzing him now is not pointless; drawing concrete conclusions would be pointless since it’s May. There’s a difference.

    Analyzing him involves looking at and explaining what has happened thus far. It would be pointless to say that Reyes won’t be good because he isn’t walking. It is not pointless to say that, so far this year, Reyes might be walking at a lower percentage because pitchers are throwing him 6% more pitches in the zone.

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  4. Interesting about his BABIP. You’d think it would be a bit higher. However, I feel like I’m missing something with the Nick Punto comparison.

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  5. Eric Seidman says:

    I’m doing a study soon to look at the speed vs. BABIP to see if that’s true anywhere. Nick Punto has a .636 career OPS (Reyes was .644 in 2004) and isn’t really an offensive threat though he has made flashy plays in the field on occasion.

    It wasn’t a comparison in the sense that every aspect of both players is identical but rather that Reyes went from a Punto-like level of offensive production to where he is now.

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  6. Sal Paradise says:

    THT says that LD% + .120 is generally equal to a player’s BABIP.

    2004: 19.4%, .289
    2005: 19.6%, .298
    2006: 20.9%, .320
    2007: 18.5%, .302
    2008: 21.8%, .295

    I think it would probably be more accurate to include BABIP averages for each hit type, and then specifically compare BABIP for ground balls between slow and fast hitters to see a real effect (if one exists).

    Anyone up to the task?

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  7. Eric Seidman says:

    Sal, that’s the study I had in mind when I mentioned I’d be doing a study on it. Separating GB from LD from FB with the top and bottom 30-40 players (in speed based on Pizza Cutter’s speed scores) for an extended period of time and comparing.

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  8. Jessica says:

    If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that one reason for Reyes’s relatively low BABIP for a player with his speed is that he hits a lot of pop-ups, especially when he’s in a slump.

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  9. Derek says:

    I’ve been a fan of Reyes since his call-up in 03 and see almost every game on SNY to watch his at-bats.

    Keep in mind he’s from the Dominican Republic where swinging at almost anything that appears heading into the strike zone is modus operandus. He’s still learning plate discipline, still learning to restrain swinging at the breaking ball.

    He’s got an easy scouting report. NL teams have adjusted to him and know what to expect. I haven’t seen many intentional walks given to him compared to last year or ’06.

    Reyes has to adjust his game at the plate and it’s happening slowly. I was relieved to read in the NY Times he’s watching video of his at-bats to see if he’s taking a large or small step with his lead foot when he hits well.

    I’m sure it’s tricky to adjust from his swing-swing-swing approach taught to everyone in his island country to out-adjusting the teams he plays against.

    As he’s said a few weeks ago, “I’m still learning the game.”

    He’ll be 25 on June 11th. Maybe there’s a good reason why a player is not in their prime until 28. And hopefully, the best is yet to come with Reyes.

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  10. Eric Seidman says:

    Derek, the “swinging off the island” theory is definitely relevant but he definitely improved his discipline from 2003 to today. As he gets older, like you said not even 25 yet, it should get even better.

    What I was pointing out in the analysis is that even though his BB% has decreased this year, it is likely a byproduct of more pitches being thrown in the zone. When you have a swing-at-anything mentality, why should a pitcher throw in the zone if he knows you’ll swing out of the zone.

    Now that Reyes is a bit more disciplined he is seeing more pitches in the zone because he is less likely to swing (down 3% from his 2006 O-Zone percentage) at those out of the zone. Due to this, he is seeing less balls and therefore walking less.

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