Ruben TejadaEx-Met shortstop Jose Reyes made a small bit of news this week when he was critical of Ruben Tejada‘s inability to lock down the starting shortstop job. Specifically, Reyes insinuated that perhaps Tejada simply had not put in the required work to hold it down long-term. This is mostly of note because Reyes isn’t very critical of anybody publicly. It also wasn’t that long ago when he had nothing but good things to say about Tejada.

The criticism is certainly not unfounded. After going a long way in helping reduce the sting of losing Reyes, Tejada irked Mets brass by showing up for the season out of shape in both 2013 and 2014. With no shortstop solution on the horizon the job was his to lose, and boy did he lose it. The fact that the team would rather plug yet another player into a position in which they’ve been deemed a defensive liability speaks volumes. Wilmer Flores has much more offensive upside than Tejada ever did, of course, but Tejada had years to establish himself at the position.

The larger point here is that, despite manager Terry Collins‘ misguided attempt to keep his hopes alive, Tejada will have to significantly outperform Flores to win whatever pseudo “competition” exists. How did Tejada fail so fantastically at a job in which he had such a firm grip? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Tejada slashed .284/.360/.335 in 2011 and followed that up with .289/.333/.351 in 2012. He hit for absolutely no power, but managed to get on base at a decent rate. Those numbers with average defense at shortstop would work just fine if he could keep it up. The wheels fell off when he absolutely bombed in 2013 with .202/.259/.260 (in only 57 games). He followed that with a disappointing .237/.342/.310 in 2014.

What happened here? Below is a table with select stats across all four seasons.

2011 0 9.3 % 13.3 % .052 .331
2012 1 5.4 % 14.6 % .063 .339
2013 0 6.6 % 10.6 % .058 .228
2014 5 11.9 % 17.4 % .073 .283

He maintained an average to above-average strikeout rate across all four seasons while yo-yoing between poor and average walk rates. The change in walk rate was sizable, but wouldn’t really explain the drastic drop in overall performance. He got on base just fine in 2012 with a poor rate, but it came back to bite him in 2013. He also hit for more power in 2014 with a career high in both ISO and total home runs.

What really stands out in the table above is the stark differences in BABIP when comparing his more productive seasons to the disasters. His BABIP in 2011-2012 was above average while it was well below average in 2013-2014. Could it be that he simply had very bad luck in conjunction with a perceived lack of effort to keep himself in shape? Was the reduced BABIP the result of a change in approach? We’ll take a look at two aspects of his game to see if we can pinpoint anything obvious: his plate discipline and his batted ball outcomes.

The table below presents his plate discipline from 2011-2014.

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Zone% SwStr%
2011 29.7 % 68.3 % 72.3 % 90.6 % 48.2 % 7.2 %
2012 31.3 % 63.3 % 74.3 % 93.4 % 47.3 % 6.2 %
2013 27.2 % 62.7 % 75.6 % 94.6 % 48.4 % 5.0 %
2014 25.6 % 69.7 % 65.2 % 90.6 % 47.8 % 7.5 %

The “O-” stats represent pitches outside the strike zone while “Z-” represents inside the zone. We can see that Tejada swung more at pitches outside of the zone in his successful seasons than in those that were less successful. Although there are a few blips here and there (specifically a noticeable reduction in contact to pitches outside of the strike zone in 2014), nothing really jumps out here. Additionally, his Zone% shows that pitchers generally threw him the same amount of strikes over all four seasons. If we take a peek at the pitch types he saw from 2011-2014 we can also see that pitchers didn’t really pitch him all that differently from season to season.

The table below presents his batted ball outcomes over the seasons in question.

2010 1.13 22.5 % 41.0 % 36.4 % 7.9 % 1.6 % 4.2 %
2011 1.51 25.7 % 44.6 % 29.6 % 7.2 % 0.0 % 7.2 %
2012 1.31 30.0 % 39.7 % 30.3 % 6.8 % 0.8 % 9.0 %
2013 1.37 19.2 % 46.7 % 34.1 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 5.9 %
2014 1.15 24.3 % 40.5 % 35.2 % 10.0 % 5.0 % 4.3 %

Two things jump out here. First, the reduction in infield hit rate (IFH%) from 2011-2012 to 2013-2014 is noticeable. Could this be a consequence of poor conditioning? It might make sense that he couldn’t beat out as many if he was out of shape. That may be a bit of a stretch, though, since so many variables come into play when a ball is hit on the infield.

The second is the nosedive in 2013 in his linedrive rate. The graph below from Brooks Baseball reinforces this idea, and we can clearly see that Tejada’s linedrive rate dipped noticeably on fastballs and significantly on breaking balls.

With the information we have so far, it seems as though Tejada’s main problem in 2013 was his ability to make solid contact, at least in terms of generating a linedrive outcome. It’s possible that the lack of linedrives contributed to the radical drop in BABIP as well. Was this the result of a lack of conditioning? This writer is not a professional baseball player and can’t realistically opine either way, but anything is possible.

The good news is that Tejada showed signs of recovery in 2014. His linedrive rate ticked back up, as did the rest of his stats (including BABIP). The fact that Tejada showed up to Spring Training in “great” shape this year and has Collins’ support is a positive sign. If he can’t get himself on the front office’s good side, there may not be a chance for him to win his job back from Flores. Even so, let’s not quite count Tejada out at this point. This is the first time he’s had any real “competition” for the shortstop job. Maybe things have finally clicked for him. Still, he’ll now have to win the job rather than simply hold on to it.

11 comments on “There may still be hope for Ruben Tejada

  • NCMetFan

    LD rate dropped but equally or more telling is the jump in fly ball rate. Less line drives, more fly balls and an increase in HRs. Sounds like a player trying to hit for power when he is ill equipped to do so. A spray chart would likely show a reduction in the fraction of balls in play to the opposite field. Did Tejada muscle-up in response to the team’s emphasis on power hitting or was it something he would have done regardless. There is a place as a starter on a Major League roster somewhere for an above average defender that hits .280/.350/.330.

    • Cheese Sandwich

      Yes, this is what I saw. (Okay, I’d trust a spray chart more than my own eyes, but I am too lazy to make or find a spray chart.) Tejada can be a serviceable #8 hitter if he plays his game. Take a walk if one if offered, bunt when needed, and turn strikes into line drives. He has no speed and no power, and he has no chance of developing those, so just forget it. A good fielder at SS who can handle the bat in the #8 hole is valuable enough on a good team (i.e. a team that doesn’t need to make up for other deficiencies with a big hitting shortstop). Despite all the Tejada hate, he has the tools to be an MLB bench player/fringe regular. I will be rooting for Flores, and I hope they do not bat him #8, since Wilmer is in there for his RBI bat. However, I feel we have a quality backup in Tejada.

    • Rob Rogan

      Excellent point! He definitely showed the signs of trying to “muscle” up and hit more homers in 2014, including the higher FB% and a higher K%.

      A quick glance at his 2014 spray chart shows he was prone to pulling his grounders and linedrives while a lot of his flyballs went center/opposite. Perhaps this is indicative of Tejada trying to turn on pitches and put them in the air, which would obviously be a mistake considering his lack of power. More likely the popups/flyballs were the result of poor contact and not getting around on time. Unsurprisingly, all of his homers were dead pulls.

  • Joe F

    Say what you will about Terry’s love affair with Tejada, but he has been very vocal over the past two years about what he perceives to be RT’s biggest weakness and that is his continual effort to put a charge in the ball, resulting in far more fly balls. They have tried to drill into his head to put the ball on the ground or stick to line drives, but it hasn’t gotten through. I think the biggest issue right now with Tejada is that he does not fit with the offensive profile of this team. The Mets do not have any real dynamic hitters, other than Duda’s power and that needs to repeat, but the lineup construction at this point does not have any real automatic outs; every player (Flores still need to prove) are competent offensive player in their own right and I think the plan is to try to keep the train moving and deliver timely hits. Tejada over the past few years has not demonstrated that level of offensive ability and since the Mets need everyone to hit a little bit, they cannot afford to have a player in the lineup who hits .220 without any power. Given what has happened to offense in the game over the past few years, this is actually a pretty sensible approach for trying to score runs. It of course depends on health and no players absolutely stinking the joint up, like TDA, Wright and Grandy did last year. They don’t need to have monster years, but they cannot fall down

    • Cheese Sandwich

      We can agree that .220 with no power cannot start. Maybe with the glove of Rey O and the speed of Billy Hamilton you could sneak that into a lineup everyday, but Tejada is merely a good glove man with feet of clay. But what if he consistently put up a slash line like .255/.320/.300 in the #8 spot, which is a very reasonable expectation based on past performance (both good and bad). You wouldn’t be excited about it, and you would keep looking for something better, but it wouldn’t kill you, and you’d be hard pressed to DFA the guy.

      Joe F is right that we will be looking to string hits together. With the station-to-station approach, though, you might wish for some base-running smarts and a little bit of team speed. We’ve had some success taking the extra base, but I don’t know if that can be repeated.

  • […] There Still May be Hope for Ruben Tejada- Ex-Met shortstop Jose Reyes made a small bit of news this week when he was critical of Ruben Tejada‘s inability to lock down the starting shortstop job. Specifically, Reyes insinuated that perhaps Tejada simply had not put in the required work to hold it down long-term. Click here for more from Mets360. […]

  • Ian

    Dear, please God, no. Everyone here said it better, but I’ll only add: we know what Tejada is at this point, which is a backup infielder. Good for late inning defense replacement and being hit in front of the pitcher in the lineup, so they can Intentionally-BB him to overinflate his already painfully retarded OBP stats.


    I am still miffed at Terry’s love affair with him, but sometimes certain questions have no answers 🙁

    • James Preller

      My take has always been that TC does not believe in Flores’ glove.

      He might be right.

      The problem is that we already know Tejada is not the answer.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    Very good article Rob. I don’t know if Tejada will have an opportunity to return to those LD% if he’s riding the bench. If he finds starting success again, it may have to be with another team. But he has done it before, so I imagine he can do it again.

  • Metsense

    Nice analytical article Rob and the posters all seem in agreement that Tejada is a backup middle infielder. I think that too and see him as a major leaguer for many years to come. I really don’t want him to be the back up Met middle infielder though. (but really what choice do we have). Tejada should have been moved sometime this winter and another viable backup brought in. The Gee for Escobar trade would have accomplished this. As a fan, I just don’t see it as a positive if a failed Tejada was forced into service due to a failed Flores or an injury. He has already shown that he isn’t the solution so why is he still around? It sends off negative vibes to the fans and a malaise by the GM.

  • Rob Rogan

    Thanks for reading, all! Tejada, at his best, is an average shortstop that would be just fine as a starter on a team that doesn’t need major offensive output from the position. In 2012 he was middle of the pack offensively and defensively (when compared to other shortstops) and worth 1.8 fWAR (again pretty much average). The problem is that he hasn’t been able to replicate that output.

    But that doesn’t mean the Mets shouldn’t try to improve at the position even if Tejada remained at his 2012 levels. It just wouldn’t have been such a glaring issue heading into 2015. I’m a huge fan Wilmer Flores (as you will all see with our next set of projections), but we can’t ignore the fact that it remains to be seen how much his value will be diminished because of his defense. The 2012 version of Tejada would make the position much less of a looming issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here