I was a vocal critic of the Mets front office last after letting Jose Reyes walk. Not only did Jose provide nearly all of the little excitement the Mets created last year, but he was an everyday shortstop—a position of undeniable import—and the Mets had no true heir apparent. Sure Ruben Tejada was fine as a fill-in, but he had hardly looked the part of a 162 game starter. To put it frankly, I was not anticipating a day when Mets concession stands would feature a $12 Tejada, Reuben sandwich, or any other punny variation on his name.
Until recently, while I took what little solace I could in the fact that, while the Mets have had great difficulty at fielding a regular shortstop (our defense Valdespins me right right, like a record baby right round), at least I had been right all along, and the Mets had been fools to let Jose walk.
Today, after looking at the numbers, I am going to have to make an imaginary phone call to Sandy Alderson and apologize to him for all of the very crass and mean imaginary things I said to imaginary him. Today, after looking at the numbers, I appear to have been wrong.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, let me say that I am not a sabermetric guy. I know what UZI and WAR are—and that they would be beneficial in factoring in these findings—I don’t particularly care for high-falluting mathematics. So I looked at basic stats to compare Jose and the Mets who have ultimately replaced him. Offensively: hits, homeruns, RBI, runs, steals and at bats. Defensively: innings, total chances, putouts, double plays, errors and fielding percentage.
To start, I had the unenviable task of identifying who exactly has been on the shortstop carousel for the Mets this season, and the list I came up with, and totall innings spent at the position, is as follows:
David Wright 6 innings
Jordany Valdespin 18.2 innings
Justin Turner 45 innings
Omar Quintanilla 111 innings
Ronny Cedeno 138 innings
Ruben Tejada 230 innings
Pop Corn Vendor (just kidding)
Meanwhile, in disappointing Miami, Jose Reyes has accounted for 545 total innings of shortstop baseball, which matches up just three innings short of the 548 innings I have accounted for in innings played by Mets shortstops—likely the result of games in which the bottom of the ninth was not played.
Next, I sought to figure out the stats that the aforementioned Mets provided offensively while manning short, some of the numbers for which—since Turner and Valdespin are utility players—are largely accurate but may have excluded appearances as pinch hitters for the starting shortstop or at-bats taken after shifting to shortstop late in a game.
And the findings emphasize, fairly conclusively, that the Mets are no worse off without Jose Reyes, statistically speaking. Of the roughly 240 at bats Mets shortstops have taken, they have scored 37 runs, hit 69 times, doubled 19 times, homered three times and batted in 19 runs. They have walked 25 times while striking out 48 times, and have stolen no bases, while batting .294 with a .376 OBP and and .370 slugging percentage. Aside from the glaring lack of steals and 2:1 k/bb ratio, not bad at all for a series of fill-in players totally lacking in any sort of continuity. Additionally, Ruben Tejada, the starter at the position, should he ever return from the DL, has performed admirably, batting over .300 and accounting for nearly half of the production in most of the aforementioned categories.
On the flip side, Reyes’ numbers, in virtually every category, were consistently worse. His 28 runs scored is about 1/4 of the 37 the Mets shortstops have, Reyes has one less hit in ten more at bats, six fewer doubles, 2 fewer home runs, six fewer RBI (albeit batting from the leadoff spot), and is batting 20 points lower and getting on base at a lower rate of .354. His saving grace, to the extent that there has been one, is that he has five triples, strikes out far fewer than Mets short stops (about half as many times) and has stolen 16 bases to the Mets one. Steals, however, are not a major part of the Mets gameplan—they are last in the majors in stolen bases—and it can be argued that Turner aside, none of the Mets SS are lacking in speed, rather the management is lacking in desire to utilize it.
Even with the difference in steals, the offensive numbers indicate a virtual push—the Mets shortstops homers and doubles actually result in a higher slugging percentage than does Reyes' combo of doubles and triples, and the Mets reach base more frequently and hit for a better average. While the strikeout statistic is troubling, it is also likely inflated by the fact that pinch hitters are far more likely to strikeout, and a decent number of the Mets at-bats from shortstops have been the result of pinch hit attempts after defensive replacements or late game roster adjustment.
Even if the numbers are at worst a push offensively, surely the undoing of the Mets shorststops, comparatively speaking, would be their fielding? After all, nearly a million Met fans suffered bruised knuckles and deep bone bruises after Jorany Valdespin booted two sure fire double-plays against the Nationals last week. But the numbers once again indicate that, even in spite of Valdespin’s buckner-esque defense—and yes it is that bad—on the whole, the Mets shortstop platoon has performed at nearly the same level as Reyes.
Reyes has had 264 chances in the field, resulting in 88 putouts, 170 assists, 42 double plays and six errors, good for a .977 fielding percentage.
Alternatively, Mets shortstops have taken 248 chances, made 66 putouts, 173 assists, 39 double plays, committed 9 errors and fielded at a percent of .938. Not dissimilar, especially considering the fewer chances. Additionally, the Mets double play numbers would be even higher if you take into account that David Murphy has a propensity for only turning the really really difficult ones and opting instead to boot nearly all routine efforts. Even more interestingly, if Valdepsin is removed from the equation (which he will be when either Cedeno or Tejada returns, since he's not a true SS), the Mets have the same number of errors as Reyes with only 25 fewer putouts and 5 fewer double plays, all while fielding at a percent of .980, even higher than races .977.
Reyes is a great player having a fairly average year. And the Mets certainly are wanting for continuity at the shortstop position. But, in spite of all the ups and downs that this team has already weathered in its middle infield, when all is said and done, while Mets fans may miss Jose Reyes, there is not nearly as compelling of an argument to be made that the Mets organization is missing Jose Reyes. The team absolutely would benefit from the presence of an everyday shortstop, but for the $10 million Jose is getting paid this year, the Mets would be better off going out and buying a (better) bullpen. Because, as it stands, the scrubs and fill ins and kitchen sink are all doing a Jose Reyes quality job at manning the Mets middle.