Tuesday night Jose Reyes went 0-3 with a walk.  A rather unexceptional night at the plate for the Mets’ leadoff hitter but in a year where Reyes has drawn very few free passes, seeing him reach via walk was a nice thing.  The base on balls gave him six in 16 September games.  That works out to an 8.3 BB%, his highest for any month this season.

Not only is it his best month for walks, this is only the second time all year Reyes has strung together a stretch like this.  Starting on May 29th, Reyes drew seven walks in nine games.  But he followed that up by drawing just one free pass in his next 13 contests.

Prior to this year, Reyes had been fairly consistent with his walk totals the previous four seasons.  His BB% breaks down as follows:

2006 – 7.5
2007 – 10.1
2008 – 8.7
2009 – 10.8

Of course, last year’s total, a career-high, was produced in just 36 games and 166 PA.  But that was much closer to his established norm than this year’s 5.3 rate, his lowest mark since his first full-time season in 2005.

On the surface Reyes does not appear to be any more aggressive at the plate here in 2010 than he was in the past.  He is averaging 3.70 pitches/per plate appearance.  He has a lifetime mark of 3.64 and this year’s total is slightly higher than what he saw between 2006-08.

But if we did a little deeper, we see Reyes’ Swing% of 44.7 is his highest mark since 2006 and up from last year’s 39.0 rate.  He still swings at the same rate at pitches in the strike zone.  Reyes has a 60.5 Z-Swing% this year, compared to a 59.4 mark last year and a 62.4 lifetime rate.

Where he really has changed is swings at pitches outside the strike zone.  This year he has a career-worst 31.8 O-Swing%.  Lifetime his mark in the category is 25.9 and last year Reyes swung at just 20.9 percent of pitches outside the strike zone.

Chasing pitches outside the zone has not hurt Reyes’ contact rates.  His 11.3 K% is right in line both with what he has done recently and his lifetime marks.  Reyes’ 87.0 Contact% this year is exactly what he posted in 2009.  Furthermore, his BABIP of .300 is right where it always is, too.

The only area where Reyes chasing more pitches is hurting him is with his OBP.  After posting OBPs from .354-.358 the past four seasons, Reyes sits with a .322 mark this year.  Of course, 35 points of OBP is a huge deal.

Reyes has hit for more power this year than a season ago.  His ISO sits at .144, compared to .116 last year.  But it still trails the marks he posted in 2006 (.187) and 2008 (.179).  If Reyes is consciously swinging at more pitches to increase his power output, it is a tradeoff not worth making.  Instead of wOBA in the .360s, like he did in ’06 and ’08, Reyes has a .329 mark this year.

Despite Jerry Manuel’s brief insistence in batting Reyes third, he remains the club’s best option as a leadoff hitter.  Ideally, Reyes would post OBPs in the .350 range like he did prior to this season.  He needs to get back to swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone in order to be the impact leadoff batter he has been in the recent past.

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