When I was younger, “sublime” was a word which I had a hard time accepting the definition. It sounded like a word that should describe something that was mediocre, if not worse. If I could travel back in time, I would tell the younger me that the first half of the 2011 season of Jose Reyes was sublime. His at-bats were truly something to behold, something usually only found in power hitters on a hot streak.
Unfortunately, the second half off the season has been entirely different for Reyes. Undoubtedly, the injuries and the two stints on the disabled list have disrupted the flow of what was a magical season. As a Mets fan I feel cheated that I didn’t get to see this tremendous performance over an entire season. It was exhilarating knowing that Reyes was going to hit the ball hard and fly around the bases multiple times per night.
Since the All-Star break, Reyes has a .259/.277/.380 line in 113 PA. It’s hard for a non-slugger to put up an impressive batting line with just a .260 BABIP. Baseball is a humbling game and every hitter is going to go through streaks like this. The fact that hits are not falling in for Reyes right now is disappointing. What’s depressing is the way his at-bats are unfolding.
The worst thing to see is Reyes popping the ball up. In his outstanding first half of the year, he had a pop-up rate of just 6.05 percent, according to the data at TexasLeaguers.com. Reyes was too busy driving balls into the gap to hit weak pop-ups to infielders barely on the outfield grass.
But, in the second half of the year, Reyes has a pop-up rate of 13.27 percent.
It’s hard to be sublime when so many of your at-bats deprive fans of seeing you have the chance to run the bases. Even on ground outs, Reyes instills fear into fielders, who may rush their throws and at least offer the hint of something exciting to happen. A pop-up is just so deflating.
The other depressing thing to witness from Reyes here in the second half has been the collapse of his walk rate. While it is important to note that Reyes has never been known for his ability to draw a ton of walks, what he is doing here in the second half of the season is downright discouraging.
Walks are a wonderful by-product of a selective approach at the plate. Ideally a batter waits for his pitch and then drives it into the gap for an extra-base hit. Sometimes that pitch to drive comes early in the count and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. And when it doesn’t come at all is when you should pile up walks.
In Monday’s game, Reyes came to the plate four times and saw a total of nine pitches. He drew no walks, had no extra-base hits and went 1-4.
In the first half of the season, Reyes had a 7.1 BB% and 40 extra-base hits in 350 ABs, which produced a .175 ISO. Here in the second half of the year, he has a 2.7 BB% and 8 extra-base hits in 108 ABs, which has produced a .121 ISO.
Most likely it was unrealistic to expect Reyes to maintain his level of production from the first half of the year. But what Reyes has given the club here in the second half is simply unacceptable. Since the All-Star break, Reyes has a .656 OPS, or essentially what Yuniesky Betancourt has produced this year with the Brewers. Betancourt ranks 16th out of 23 full-time shortstops in 2011 with a .653 OPS. And the 15th-ranked shortstop has a 41-point OPS lead on him.
For another point of comparison, Ruben Tejada has a .706 OPS this year in 288 PA.
It’s wise to keep in mind that Reyes’ poor second half is just 113 PA. But we should also recall that this is a player in the prime of his career, playing for what will likely be the biggest contract of his life, and he is laying an egg.
It will be fascinating to see how the Reyes contract talks play out in the offseason. For three months, we witnessed the impact that he can have on a team, as he was in the discussion, if not the winner, of the mythical first-half MVP.
But here in the second half we’ve seen all the reasons to avoid giving Reyes a nine-figure contract. We have the injuries and we have the over-aggressiveness which has led to weak contact and easy outs. A Reyes who plays every day and puts up a .927 OPS is easily worth a Carl Crawford-type contract. A Reyes constantly nursing injuries and putting up a .656 OPS is a non-tender candidate.
Here’s hoping Reyes rediscovers his patience and results from earlier in the year for the final three weeks of the season. He was a joy to watch the first three months of the year and I want nothing more than to see that player finish his career with the Mets.