For the last two years, a great number of people (including myself) have become fond of pointing out the idiocy of the Mets keeping Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot despite his chronically awful OBP. But recently, SI’s Tom Verducci has written  arguing that because of his high numbers of extra base hits and his high stolen base percentage, Reyes is actually the second best leadoff man in the NL.  When I first saw the article, I almost didn’t read it because I figured here was just another idiot sportswriter underestimating the importance of OBP. But when I read through it, I thougth that Verducci made some pretty interesting arguments and surprisingly found myself a little bit convinced.

What do you guys think? Is Jose Reyes actually a decent leadoff guy?

One Response to “Reyes actually a good leadoff man?”

  1. f you’re going to buy into the importance of OBP, I think that there should be other statistics that ought to be held in high regard. For one, stolen base percentage. After all, what good does getting on base do for you if you run yourself into an out? Reyes does pretty well for himself here because he steals successfully 80% of the time. If it drops below 70%, however, then you’ll probably be doing your team a disservice by trying. Teams like Oakland and Boston that are sabermetric friendly don’t run much at all for this reason (which makes the Dave Roberts steal in 2004 all the more ironic).

    Secondly, the ability to run first to third on a single. I haven’t seen official stats for this yet and I wonder why. There’s a big difference between no outs, runner on first and second and no outs, runner on first and third. Not only is the sac fly a factor, a ground ball to second or short will likely get the runner home. Moreover, the manager can elect to send the runner from first to second, counting on a no-throw with the runner on third. I’ve seen a study (it’s in “The Book: Playing Percentages in Baseball”) that shows that the difference between the two situations stated above (runners on 1st and 2nd or runners on 1st and 3rd, both with no outs) is about .33 runs. To illustrate the significance of this, the same study concluded that a team can expect to score .555 runs at the start of every inning. If the leadoff batter gets on first base, the team is now expected to score .953 runs. So, essentially, the value of the leadoff batter of an inning either getting a single or walking is worth .398 runs, which is only slightly more valuable than the difference (.33) between having 1st and 2nd or 1st and 3rd. If we value OBP, then we ought to value the ability to run first to third. Again, I haven’t seen official stats on this, but from what I can see, Reyes does a fine job here as well. But looks can always deceive. I demand a stat to let me know. Until that time, I can look at his runs scored (on pace to score 142 times at this moment) and guess that he’s doing just fine in that department. Granted, runs scored has a lot to do with the fact that he has Beltran, Delgado and Wright driving him in, but you have to credit the runner with some of that as well, I presume.

    Another major point is weighing the value of OBP against slugging percentage. The problem with OPS is that it values SLG more so than OBP, which is not necessarily true. I’ve heard that Billy Beane seems to think that OBP is worth twice as much as SLG. Tom Verducci seems to put a lot of stake in Reyes’ ability to hit for extra bases. I’m sure there’s some value in this. To what extent, well, that’s obviously up for debate. As a Met fan, I get mixed feelings when I see Reyes cranking home runs. He’s already hit a career high eight homers this year, but that’s not his game. It’s cynical to harp on this, I suppose, but it reminds me of Willie Mays Hayes in Major League 2. And we all know that this film was an accurate depiction of professional baseball.

    I was one of those people who criticized Reyes, knowing full well that plate discipline is one of the hardest things to teach a player in the bigs. If they hadn’t learned it by that point, it usually goes that they won’t ever learn. I will say this, however. If Reyes maintains a .350 OBP (he’s at .355 right now), then he ought to be considered one of the elite leadoff hitters in the game when you factor in stolen base percentage (and amount of SBs), ability to run first to third, and his penchant for getting the extra base out of nowhere. Either way, the guy’s a lot of fun to watch. You never know what you might see with him.

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