If you were to list the top 10 things that went right for the Mets this year, you would probably talk about R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey. After that you might have to think hard about what else to mention. But without a doubt one of the best things that has happened in 2010 has been the return of Jose Reyes.
Reyes missed most of 2009 and he started 2010 on the disabled list. While he was expected back after missing just a few games, no one was sure what he would produce this season. Would he be able to come back and stay healthy? Would he be able to steal bases and be a catalyst at the top of the order? Would he be able to be a plus defender at shortstop? Simply, there were more questions than answers on Opening Day.
As of August 23rd, Reyes has an overall line of .292/.329/.432 in 498 PA. His .762 OPS is right in line with his career .771 mark. But since May 3rd, Reyes has a .310/.343/.464 line, numbers closer to his 2006-2008 peak (.292/.355/.461) than his lifetime marks. With 61 runs scored in 88 games, Reyes would be on pace to score 111 runs if he played in 160 games, similar to the 113 runs he scored in 2008 when he played 159 games.
As for the questions surrounding him at the beginning of the year, Reyes has been healthy for the most part. And when he did come down with an injury that sidelined him in late June-early July, it was not to his legs but rather to an oblique muscle. Overall Reyes has played in 109 of the club’s 124 games. He is on pace to play 142 games this year and could end up playing as many as 147.
In his last full season, Reyes stole 56 bases. Right now he has exactly half that total, so he is not matching his previous pace. But Reyes is fourth in the National League currently with 28 steals and he has been successful on 80 percent of his stolen base attempts this year. So, Reyes is still a big threat on the basepaths.
Reyes has always had very good but not great runs totals. From 2006 to 2008, he finished fourth, fourth and fifth in runs in the NL. He is a threat to score every time he gets on base but he is simply not an elite player in OBP. Reyes has never recorded a top 10 finish in OBP and his personal best is .358, which he notched in 2008.
His AVG since 5/3 would be a career-best but his OBP still lags behind at just .343 due mainly to a 5.0 BB%. Reyes has continued taking on every 3-0 pitch he has seen (he has not swung at a 3-0 pitch since his debut season of 2003) but we have seen a different approach when the count is 3-1. In 2007 he saw a 3-1 count 83 times and swung 31 (37 percent). In 2008 he saw a 3-1 count 81 times and swung 30 (37 percent). This year he has seen a 3-1 counts 49 times and has swung 27 (55 percent).
It is more of the same when the count goes full. Reyes has seen 66 full counts this year and has swung 57 times (86 percent). In 2008 he swung 80 percent of the time on a full count. Overall, his Swing% is 44.6 compared to a 44.9 career rate. So, Reyes is taking more pitches early in the count but has not been patient when he gets to 3-1 or 3-2.
Defensively, Reyes appears a step slow in a purely subjective view point. Objectively the numbers are split. John Dewan’s sees him as basically average, with 3 Defensive Runs Saved. But UZR sees him as -6.1 runs, which ranks 19th out of 21 shortstops with enough innings to qualify.
Coming into the year, no one knew what to expect from Reyes. But after a slow start, he has produced offensive numbers that would fit in with his 2006-08 peak over his previous 88 games. Ideally Reyes would get on base more often with walks, but that has never been his strong suit. But he has been healthy and a catalyst when he does get on base.
A shortstop who can post an .800 OPS with an 80% SB success ratio is an extremely nice thing to have. Only Hanley Ramirez (.814) has an OPS that high among qualified MLB shortstops this season. And only Cliff Pennington (83 percent) has a higher success ratio on stolen base attempts.
So remember Reyes and his return from injury when recalling what went right in 2010 for the Mets. Now the question is if the Mets will feel confident enough in his abilities going forward to pick up the $11 million option they hold on Reyes for 2011. Even with his poor start and ugly UZR numbers, FanGraphs has Reyes with a 2.3 WAR so far in 2010, which it calculates as being worth $9.3 million. Given the lack of other SS options in the system, it would be a surprise if the Mets did not keep Reyes next season, even though they would undoubtedly enjoy having an extra $11 million in payroll flexibility.