An apology to Ruben Tejada

Ruben TejadaA few weeks ago, I claimed that Ruben Tejada‘s time with New York was done. His rather putrid offensive and defensive numbers had been improving only slightly by that article’s publishing and there was no realistic indication that those improvements were going to stay. He had rebounded to have a few nice games, but for the most part was still stumbling to reassert himself as the everyday shortstop. I therefore thought he should go. It is time to reassess that claim.

Since May 11, Tejada is sporting a remarkable .284/.400/.418 slash line. He’s even hit two home runs during that span, which all Mets fans know is about as rare as a bases loaded knock these days. His BB% and K% both stand at an even 15%, which are above his career numbers, but his BABIP is a very average .321. If there is anything to complain about with Tejada, it’s that he has a paltry 9 RBI over the past month. Driving in runs has been a common problem with seemingly every Mets hitter though, so Tejada can certainly be forgiven for not carrying the offense workload.

Another area of some concern is Tejada’s defense, which still isn’t great. He has a UZR/150 of -4.3, but he’s only committed 3 errors on the season, which isn’t bad even when considering that he’s been sharing a good deal of playing time. Tejada’s size and speed will always keep him from being a rangy shortstop, but considering the defense he’s been giving the team lately, I think most Mets fans would take what he’s giving in a heartbeat.

So I was quite wrong by saying that the Mets would be better off without Tejada, and I apologize. Whether it was Wilmer Flores‘ presence, or if he just had an epiphany of how to play the game again, he has improved drastically lately both offensively and defensively. Is that improvement sustainable? Those elevated walk numbers probably won’t be, but a better average could be around to stay. Flores still offers better offensive potential, and since he hasn’t proven a liability in the field, deserves the chance to continue playing at shortstop. Tejada is making it tough for that to happen, but the Mets shouldn’t be complaining.

Of all the position battles that have occurred this year, two players performing well at the same post has not been the norm for the Mets. Lucas Duda won his job almost by default. Anthony Recker will most likely be the starting catcher because of Travis d’Arnaud‘s demotion. Meanwhile, Chris Young has Juan Lagares‘ hip, and Eric Young, Jr.’s legs to thank for playing everyday. Tejada is really the one player to see a challenger and win a job.

Tejada is important to the Mets in another way. This team is filled with call-ups and aging veterans, but Tejada is the only player on the team who spans that gap. He’s still only 24, but already has just shy of 400 games under his belt. If the Mets can afford to let anyone ride out a hot bat and hope for a career turn-around, it’s Tejada. He’s played well enough to earn that time.

If Tejada continues to play at this level, it is easily conceivable that Flores could be send down in order to get regular playing time in Las Vegas. Fans can only hope that the fire we’ve seen in Tejada doesn’t evaporate with his competition. We all know that he has been good before. The question is whether this play is an aberration, or if this is a return to the kind of player we hoped for after letting a franchise player go. By the All Star break, we might have our answer. Maybe Tejada will keep making me eat my words.

8 comments for “An apology to Ruben Tejada

  1. June 10, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Nah, I still think you were right. He is on a hot streak, but I think he will return to the pre-streak levels soon enough.

  2. Metsense
    June 10, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Tejada has been playing very well the last 28 days. His OPS is high because of the home runs, which he can’t sustain. Even with the home runs, he has the worst slugging pct among the 15 NL shortstops. If Tejada played to his 2011 or 2012 he would then be peaking as a just below average shortstop. So far, this year he is at replacement level. Tejada is a utility middle infielder not a starting shortstop for a playoff competitive team.
    If the Mets wanted to be competitive they would have planned to upgrade shortstop this past winter. If the Mets had a recent plan, they would have started Flores at SS or not promote him. If the Mets had a plan, they would realize that their good starting pitching can be sabotaged with inferior defense. A recent example would be the failed DP in deGrom’s last start. The Mets are last in DP’s turned. If the Mets had a plan they would have promoted Matt Reynolds or Tovar to AAA to get them closer to the majors.
    Tejada is a major league player but if the Mets wanted to be competitive then they should have upgraded the position.

  3. Joe Gomes
    June 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Tejada still stinks. I don’t know what you’re looking at. He is hitting 284 for about a month, so what? Tell me what his stats are projected to be at the end of the year and if that is worth it.

    Flores has huge upside as a hitter and the last time I checked, that’s what the Mets needed.

    If the Mets are going to improve, they must move on from the players and the mentality that has kept them running in place for the past couple of years.

    Look at how crazy some fans got because Ike Davis was hitting but what has he done lately? He is back to being Ike Davis and Tejada will go back to being Tejada.

  4. Jerry Grote
    June 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    In 2013, through the full year he is a .519 OPS hitter.
    In 2014, through May 20 is a .519 OPS hitter.

    Outside of the Mets and a team that plays in the only environment worse than Las Vegas, he gets a run of 38 plate appearances against the four worst pitching staffs in the National League – and produces a 1.160 OPS and a .417 BABIP.

    He commences to produce a sub-.500 OPS against the Giants.

    One of these things is not like the others. You might want to rethink that apology.

    • Chris F
      June 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Funny you put it that way JG. That’s pretty much how I feel about Wheelers last few starts…into the fray against a good team like SF, and poof…

      • Jerry Grote
        June 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

        Not sure the argument quite holds with Wheeler though.

        In 2014, the Marlins and Dbacks are 2nd and 6th in Team Runs Scored. I think it can be said that his best performances (12 IP, 1 ER, .442 OPS vMarlins)(13 IP, 4 ER, .655 OPS vDbacks have come against good hitting teams.

        Last year, his four lowest OPS against came against the Braves, Marlins, Dbacks and Giants. The DBacks and Braves were #5 and #4 in Team Runs Scored.

        More the problem from Wheeler is we have no direction from him. He owned the Braves, Giants and to some extent the Nats last year. He’s had his worst games against them this year. I just don’t know what we’ll get from game to game from him.

        In my mind, I think I know what we’ll get from Tejada over the long haul. I hope I’m wrong.

  5. SL
    June 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Tejada was below average, and still is. People seem to forget he was a 2d baseman foisted on us as a substitute for Reyes.

    It is literally obscene that the best offensive prospect that the team has is sitting on the bench.

    • June 12, 2014 at 8:40 am

      It’s not that “people seem to forget” but rather that it’s not true.

      Tejada played 481 games at SS in the minors, compared to 42 at 2B. His season high for games as a 2B was 19, which he accumulated as a 17 year old.

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