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.