Ruben Tejada has little speed and less power. Yet despite that damning duo, Tejada was able to post a 2.1 fWAR last year in 114 games. If he plays a full season in 2013, it’s within reach for the Mets’ 23-year-old shortstop to put up a 3-WAR year. Mets fans got used to that type of production with Jose Reyes, but the only other shortstops in team history to post a 3.0 fWAR are Buddy Harrelson (twice) and Rey Ordonez (once).
While Tejada exceeded expectations last year, he suffered a significant dropoff in his offensive numbers between the first and second half. His OPS before the All-Star break was .786 while it fell to .628 in the second half of the year. Particularly disappointing was his production in September, when he posted a .266/.310/.294 slash line over his final 118 PA.
It was hard to chalk that up to getting tired, as he missed significant time during the year. Besides, a 22-year-old position player should be able to play a full season in a cold-weather city without falling apart. Instead, what did Tejada in down the stretch was some poor luck in his BABIP.
Before the break, Tejada had a .393 BABIP while in the second half he posted just a .311 mark in the category. In September, Tejada’s BABIP was just .302 over his final 118 PA. But if we look at his batted ball profile, we would have expected him to perform much better in the category.
Those people who post a high BABIP typically hit line drives, avoid infield pop ups and beat out infield hits. In September, Tejada had the sixth-best LD% among 166 qualified batters in MLB with a 29.2 percent mark. The top five batters who posted better LD% numbers in September had the following BABIP numbers: .333, .363, .429, .276, .357
Additionally, Tejada did not hit an infield fly ball and he beat out three infield hits in the month. Tejada should have had a BABIP closer to his first half numbers than what he ultimately posted.
A big question coming into the season was whether Tejada could come close to matching his 25.7 LD% from 2011 and his .331 BABIP. It turns out that he exceeded his LD% from the previous year, as Tejada posted a 30.0 LD% last year. But his BABIP only went up eight points.
We are coming into the point of the season where FanGraphs starts posting projections. Right now only the Bill James projection is available and that one has Tejada essentially matching his 2012 production. This projection sees Tejada notching a .685 OPS, identical to what he did in 2012, and with a .302 wOBA, two points lower than a season ago.
Last year’s Bill James projection had Tejada with a .656 OPS, 29 points below what he actually hit. Here’s hoping he can match last year’s 30.0 LD% and have a little better luck with the hits falling in. If he does that, I feel confident he will once again surpass his preseason projection.