Is Jose Reyes 100%?

Tom Szczerbowski

Jose Reyes is having an excellent season with the bat, but has he completely recovered from his ankle injury?

Of all the players who came to the Blue Jays in "The Trade" during the off-season Jose Reyes has been the only one to meet expectations. The massive caveat with that statement is he has missed more than half the season with injury. However, when Jose Reyes has played he has been excellent. His slash line currently sits at .329/.390/.497 (compared to .292/.343/.442 for his career) and his wRC+ of 145 would be a career high if it held up. Reyes has 11 steals in 38 games, which is a 47 steal pace over a full season. Reyes hasn’t had that many steals since 2008. Surprisingly he has 6 home runs, which is a 25 home run pace over a full season, a number that would be a career high for Reyes. This isn’t to say that those are the numbers that Jose Reyes would put up over a full season, but it should give some indication of how much of an offensive force he has been when he has played this year. His BABIP (.344 compared to career average of .313) and HR/FB (15.1% compared to a career average of 6.1%) are likely to come down but it’s not likely to cripple his offensive output. His home run spike is unlikely to be for real as players rarely discover at power stroke at age 30, but this is the most hitter friendly ball park Reyes has player in so far in his career so some of it might stick. Also when it comes to helping Dominican players in their late 20’s, early 30’s magically discover their power the Toronto Blue Jays have the best track record in the league by far.

All of that said, the purpose of this article is not to simply heap praise on Jose Reyes. In a season where a lot of things have gone wrong we should take the time to appreciate things like the excellent performance of Reyes but alas that is not what I have in mind for today. Today, I mean to express some concern regard Jose’s ankle. Despite his excellent work stealing bases so far this year Reyes has looked hesitant to me on the base paths and in the field at times since his return. In order to see if this was actually the case or whether I was just imagining things I looked into Reyes’s numbers in other aspects of the game involving his wheels, triples, infield hits, bunt hits, and defensive numbers, in order to see if there was evidence that he has been slowed this year, despite his fairly gaudy stolen base totals. The first thing I looked into was defensive numbers because to the untrained eye his range has not looked good this year, which is something that might be affected by his ankle.

Jose Reyes’s Defense

Before we delve into the inevitable chart here it is important to go with the standard reminder that defensive stats take a long time to stabilize and 38 games constitutes a very small sample. Even so, there is enough here that I think it might be meaningful. The table below shows Reyes’s fielding numbers over the last four years as well as his career numbers. Keep in mind that his more recent numbers are much more reflective of his defensive ability than his career numbers as his defense has declined significantly into his late 20’s, as it does with many players. Due to the fact this post relates to how Reyes’s ankle may be affecting his play these numbers focus more on his range because to be honest his arm has looked solid so far. Just FYI, the distinction between "Range Rating" and "Range Factor" is that "Range Rating" is a more advanced statistic which is a component of Ultimate Zone Rating that examines how many runs the player is costing or saving his team in terms of making plays on balls in his area, where as "Range Factor" is a much more simple metric that states the amount of plays a player makes per game defensively (put outs + assists). Finally, let’s take a look at the data.

Year

Range Rating

Range Factor/Game

Ultimate Zone Rating

Ultimate Zone Rating/150 gms

2010

-6.3

4.07

-4.6

-5.2

2011

-2.4

4.32

-3.3

-3.8

2012

-3.0

4.03

-3.1

-3.3

2013

-6.8

3.29

-5.0

-18.4

Career Total

1.9

4.07

6.5

0.6


These numbers really stand out when you look at the ones that are done on rate basis rather than as a total. The Range Rating and UZR look sort of in line with a steady decline into his age 30 season until you stop to consider how few games Reyes has played in. Defensive numbers of this nature are far from gospel, although Range Factor is pretty impossible to dispute, but there is definitely something here. It’s fair to say that the numbers bear out the observation that Jose Reyes is not getting to as many balls defensively as he has in the past and he is falling short of his previous norms by a fairly significant margin. It’s unfair to attribute that exclusively to his ankle but at the same time that is an explanation that could definitely account for the difference. Although Reyes is on the downside of his defensive aging curve that is not enough to explain the drastic fall off in his performance.

If we accept the premise that Jose’s ankle isn’t completely healthy and that this is affecting his play then it stands to reason that there will be quantifiable changes to his offensive production in areas requiring speed.

Jose Reyes’s Offense

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph Jose Reyes has been contributing a ton with the bat in 2013, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some evidence to be found here that he hasn’t been running at tradition Jose Reyes levels. The following chart includes a collection of offensive statistics, other than stolen bases, that I thought were demonstrative of player’s ability to run well:

Year

Bunt Hits

Bunt Hit%

Infield Hits

Infield Hit%

Triples

2010

9

52.9%

11

5.3%

10

2011

6

60.0%

18

8.7%

16

2012

8

36.4%

20

7.5%

12

2013

0

0%

1

1.6%

0

Career Rate

9.2 (per 162 games)

39.9%

20 (per 162)

7.6%

14 (per 162)


Reyes has been unable to get on base on infield hit or bunt attempts this year and has yet to record a triple which is fairly peculiar given that the triple is arguably his trademark as a player given that he has led the league in triples four times in his career. Some of what we see here is probably mental. Reyes has only attempted to bunt for a base hit once so far in 2013. He probably isn’t aggressively pushing doubles into triples the way he has done the majority of his career, even if he could. Part of what this shows us is that Reyes is managing to excel without cheap hits and without the triples that he’s known for. That should be reason for optimism. The other side of the coin here is that this data suggests to me that Reyes isn’t 100% just yet when it comes to his wheels.

It is hard to tell if Reyes is smartly being a little less aggressive using his legs or if he just isn’t able to run the way he’s done in the past right now. The stolen base numbers seem to suggest to me that Reyes is still interested in being an aggressive runner but there have been some times where he has appeared tentative out there since his return from injury. Keep in mind that one quarter of his totals come from before the injury so he might in even a little bit worse shape than these numbers suggest he is.

None of this is cause for panic. Reyes has been a very valuable player for this team in 2013. He is hitting the ball with authority, sitting second on the squad in slugging percentage, and getting on base in front of Bautista and Encarnacion which is what he is paid handsomely to do. When he’s been in the lineup he’s been the leadoff hitter Blue Jays fans have been wanting for years. Given the way Toronto’s season is going maybe he just isn’t taking the any chances. In all honesty that would be the wise course. Whatever the cause, Jose Reyes isn’t playing quite like Jose Reyes right now. That’s ok because in most of the ways that matter he’s playing better than Jose Reyes.

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