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Of Stat Geeks and Train Wrecks

Mike SteffanosMonday, August 14, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I'm a regular reader of The Hardball Times web site, which I'd recommend as one of the top free baseball sites on the web. I've been busy with the real paying job lately, though, so I missed this item in the THT Dartboard last Friday. Thanks to Ryan from Always Amazin' for paying attention. Author David Gassko uses this weekly ranking of major league teams as a starting point to go off on a weird tangent regarding the Mets shortstop:

Anyone else feel that Jose Reyes is once again ridiculously overrated? Don't get me wrong, he's a very good player, but I challenge someone, anyone, to prove to me that Reyes is better than Carl Crawford. Reyes may be two years younger, but Crawford is a better hitter, better fielder (which negates the positional difference between the two), and has a much brighter future ahead of him. Crawford's big (6'2", 219 pound) frame suggests that he will continue to add power (as documented by yesterday's article on the relationship between size and performance), while Reyes' suggests that he will struggle to hit any substantial number of home runs. Reyes also has a nagging injury history, while Crawford has played three straight seasons of more than 150 games. This isn't to say that Reyes isn't good or won't be good, but it's more that I wish we would approach him with tempered enthusiasm.

Every time some stathead decides to take a shot at Reyes, they always feel the need to whine about Jose being "overrated." The problem is, they never tell us exactly who is overrating him. I think knowledgeable Mets fans are enthusiastic but realistic about Reyes, with a keen knowledge of Jose's strengths and weaknesses. The media that covers Jose on a regular basis is the same way. There are always elements that ridiculously overhype any flavor of the month, but does anyone really care what the FOX broadcast team thinks about anything?

I don't know what it would require to "prove to [Mr. Basso] that Reyes is better than Carl Crawford", but then again, I don't particularly care. I wouldn't make that trade one for one, and I wouldn't want anyone that would as GM of the ball club for which I root. For someone who worships numbers, however, it doesn't really seem that the numbers bear him out. Are Crawford's AVG, OBP and SLG of .302/.348/.495 substantially better than Reyes' .295/.350/.476? Mr. Glasso might gloss over the fact that Reyes is a shortstop while Crawford is an outfielder, but the relative value of production from those positions would make Reyes clearly more valuable. So much for better hitter.

Basso may also gloss over the fact that Reyes is 2 years younger, but that is a significant number when one player is 23 and the other 25. This is Reyes' second full season in the majors, this is Crawford's fourth. The "much brighter future ahead of him" comment was downright silly. The "nagging injury history" was a pretty cheap shot. Reyes has been remarkably healthy for 2 years now. It seems that Basso is almost desperate to make his point. The size difference thing was damn silly. Reyes is 6'0', 175, he's not small, and he's still filling out his frame. He may not hit as many home runs as Crawford, but he hits tape measure jobs already, and power isn't all about a couple of inches in height and a few extra pounds. Also, again I have to point out, Reyes is a shortstop, Crawford is an outfielder.

Again, Basso can gloss over Reyes' rapidly improving defense, and the fact that shortstop is a much more demanding position than outfielder -- and Crawford isn't even a center fielder, he's a corner outfielder -- but that's even more silly. The numbers wonks who incessantly find ways to denigrate Jose Reyes as a player are starting to sound sillier by the day.

I'm going to give Ryan McConnell the last word on the subject, since he stated it so eloquently:

He's clearly one of the top players in the league and one of the most essential cogs in this Mets team. In truth, I'm not sure how to 'ridiculously overrate' him. Saying he hits like Cal Ripken, Jr. and fields like Ozzie Smith?

Life is Messy

I thought I had said all I had to say about the disgraceful performances of the Post and the Daily News in exploiting Paul Lo Duca's personal problems to sell a few more copies of their papers. I started writing something yesterday about Lupica's annoyingly self-righteous column of that day, but then decided against it. But now today both tabloid rags felt the need to report today that Paul's horse finished fifth in a race yesterday. This was news?

On Sunday, Lupica told us that reports of Lo Duca's gambling problems "came from multiple and reliable sources." Somehow he manages to equate Lo Duca with Floyd Landis in that column. My question to Lupica and the rest of the guardians of righteousness at the News is quite simple -- how come this "important story" wasn't reported by the News until they were rushing to catch up to the mountain of sleaze leaking out of the Post? Lupica and the editorial staff of his paper are the worst kind of hypocrites.

Does anyone believe that if Paul Lo Duca is involved with any type of gambling that could compromise his integrity as a ballplayer that MLB will just sit back and do nothing? Be serious. I'm sure that he has problems, but they qualify as personal until determined by those in authority to be otherwise.

We need to face the fact that our heroes are mere mortals, and are the same combination of flaws and strengths, virtue and vice, character and weakness as the rest of us. I remember when I was turning 30, my marriage irrevocably falling apart and my personal life was a god-awful train wreck. I'm glad I wasn't important enough to follow around and air to the rest of the word all of the embarrassing details of my existence. It took me 5 years to pull things back together, and to everyone, especially women, that was involved with me in the meantime, I can only say, "I'm sorry." The point is, though, that there are many of us who are intimately aware that people's lives can become a sorry mess, and we should be beyond the need to voyeuristically gloat or priggishly cluck our tongues over the train wrecks that other people's lives can become.

Does Paul Lo Duca cheat on his wife? Does he chase after younger girls? Does he gamble too much? Unless he is breaking laws or the rules of baseball, that's none of my business, and none of yours, either. As for Mr. Lupica and his comrades at both tabloids, I'm wondering if everything about your lives would stand up to the light of day. You work and exist in the public domain, does that mean your life is fair game? Save your moral preaching, because there is nothing about what the tabloids have done this week that has anything to do with morality.

NY Baseball Central: Taking the Sports Media to task
Mike McGann uses his background in journalism to call Lupica and the rest of the boys on their hypocrisy.

MetsBlog: Cerrone on Daily News Live
Matthew Cerrone will be appearing on SNY's program tomorrow night.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (9)

That Reyes article is bizarre. Nagging injury history? Sure, two years ago, but he played how many games the past two years?

No bias at work here, right?

You know how you get an impression in your head, and you don't revisit the impression until much later, only to find that your earlier thoughts were not so precise? Yes? No?

I have long figured that Jose Reyes' destiny, assuming he got healthy and stayed that way, was to have Lance Johnson's career. And that suited me; Johnson wasn't a perfect leadoff man, but he was good, and near-unique in his approach, swinging the heavy bat and collecting all those triples.

But hey: Jose is about at good right now as One Dog ever was. Reyes currently has 49 extra base hits; Johnson topped that total in exactly one season, that terrific year he had in 1996 for the Mets. Johnson hit triples, but not (quite)as frequently as Jose; and Johnson's triples came at the expense of his doubles, if that makes any sense; he hit more than 20 doubles in a season only one time. And Lance was 30 before he learned to reach the fences; Jose is years ahead of him in the power department, likely to surpass Lance's career totals next season. And I believe Jose will surpass Lance in On Base Percentage within a year or two as well.

It's exciting, the Mets having this player who might be great, who lights up the playing field with his smile. But now that he's passing One Dog, who can I compare him with? Herman Long from the ninteenth century?

Guess I'll have to wait until season's end and see who Baseball-Reference has for his comp's.

DD -- I honestly think Jose is that rare talent who defies comparison to others.


Drum roll please. Ok I'm excited by this news. Add to that a Sept call up to Rick's all-star fix it shop and I think Ollie may be a not so poor man's Barry Zito under control for some time. I really like the SO, walked one and threw 111 pitches...showing he has somew arm strength there.

On Reyes:

He is highly regarded as one of the future stars and games most exciting player. But the pundits are just opinioners, some laud Rickey Henderson....some Dave Winfield/Reggie Jackson.

Reyes ala Rickey can put you in a 1-0 hole early. couple reyes with Beltran and Wright ...This team can put up a 3-spot in the first regularly.

Ed -- Heard about the game. It's good news about Perez. Pundits having their opinions are one thing. Calling Reyes "ridiculously overrated" is another.

David Gassko is smoking crack.

Crawford OPS: .843
Reyes OPS: .840

And that's before Jose's 3 homer show tonight.

For the same OPS you get a slick fielding shortstop who's the best baserunner in the game and is 2 years younger... but he's not as good? What in what universe does that logic apply?

Like I said, his numbers don't even bear him out. I just chalk silly stuff like this up to anti-New York Sentiment.

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