Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Jose Reyes: a statistical reflection

According to the Moneyball/Sabermetric school of thought, the single most important statistic for a leadoff hitter is their On Base Percentage, also known as “not making an out.” The “not-making-an-out” percentage is, in fact, considered the most significant aspect of any hitter, but it takes on an even more extreme importance for the leadoff man, for the simple reason that they come to bat most often, and are presented with the most outs that they can try and not make. The knock on Jose Reyes at the start of his career was that he didn’t get on base enough; stat-guys hated early Jose Reyes, because they knew his speed would continue to entice managers to leave him in the lead-off spot, while his low OBP would continue to hurt his team; the silencing of Reyes critics had almost entirely to do with his raising his On Base Percentage.

Fun fact: in 2006, in which Reyes was very good, and in 2007, which Reyes started very well and ended kind of horrifically, he put up exactly the same OBP of .354; the average OBP for NL shortstops in 2007 was .337, David Ortiz led the majors at .445 and David Wright came in eight in the major leagues at .416. In 2007, Reyes got three fewer hits in 34 more at-bats—his OBP stayed the same because he drew 24 more walks. In September, when he got about six to ten fewer hits than he had in any other month, he still managed to walk eleven times; it was his second lowest walk total (he walked only 9 times in July), but he never got higher then 14 walks in any given month. Thus, I think Mets fans have reason to be significantly encouraged by the fact that Reyes was able to keep his walks-totals relatively consistent, even in the depths of a bad hitting slump.

Perhaps even more encouraging than the walk totals were the developments in the penultimate game, which was marred by a near brawl that resulted from the Marlin’s player’s perception that Reyes was acting showing them up and acting like a jack-ass. Do you know what else increases a hitter’s OBP? Getting hit by a pitch. It is now becoming apparent that Reyes’ season long habit of celebrating with teammates on the dugout steps was, in fact, the result of a deep Sabermetric understanding of the game.

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