Reyes’ Upswing

Jo-Jo Reyes was demoted out of the Atlanta starting rotation in May and then in his first appearance out of the pen, injured his hamstring landing him on the disabled list. Coming back on rehab, Reyes lasted just five pitches before coming out with the hamstring re-injured. That was on June 9th and Reyes has not pitched since.

Reyes was demoted out of the rotation in large part to his proclivity toward walks and home runs, which were teaming up to help drive his ERA up to 7.00. However, there was another huge key to that ERA. Reyes’ LOB%, largely a measure that will tell you how lucky or unlucky a pitcher has been at avoiding costly groupings of hits, was sitting at just over 45% at the time of his demotion. Pitchers normally sit around the low 70s with some fluctuation based on how often they generate strikeouts. In other words, Reyes was getting hammered by the bad luck, for lack of more conclusive evidence, of having his hits grouped more closely together, making them more likely to push runners across the plate.

Reyes’ FIP was 4.99. That’s not a great number, but it is a far sight better than 7.00 and a lot of that high FIP was tied up in a 14.3 home run per fly ball rate. ZiPS projected a 4.49 FIP going forward. That is not the only reason for optimism when it comes to Reyes’ future.

Jo-Jo Reyes also holds the distinction of having the largest increase in swinging strike rate among starting pitches with at least 100 batters faced in both 2008 and 2009. 2007 and 2008 established Reyes as a pitcher with a slightly below average 6.5% missed bat ratio. Enter 2009 and through about 500 pitches, Reyes has jumped that rate a whopping four points to just under 10.5%. Now, that is not a terribly large sample, but swinging strike rate happens to be one the quickest stats to stabilize and even if Reyes did not maintain a rate above 10%, it was still pointing toward him making a big jump in skill this season.

The reason is a lot harder to fetter out, but of note is that Reyes did start throwing his slider a lot more often this season compared to the prior two. And that despite his average fastball speed losing a tick, his other offerings all gained in speed.

It would be easy to dismiss Reyes based on his 6.09 career ERA at the Major League level, but doing so would be bypassing a pitcher who just might have taken a big step forward. He will be interested to watch when he gets back on the mound, wherever that is.

We hoped you liked reading Reyes’ Upswing by Matthew Carruth!

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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What kind of upside does he have? I remember him being a fairly highly ranked prospect, but I wasn’t really following prospects much back then.