By Mike Steffanos
In a post from Monday, I took exception to a ridiculous jibe at Jose Reyes on The Hardball Times web site. In what was supposed to be a weekly power ranking of major league teams, somehow David Gassko used that as license to take a cheap shot at Jose Reyes and compare him unfavorably to the admittedly very good Carl Crawford:
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.
Frankly, I still don't understand why this garbage was even in a power rankings type of article. To me, it demonstrates some sort of weird agenda on the part of the author against Jose Reyes. It's the same sort of thing that crops up constantly, because for some reason Reyes is the bane of the existence of a sub-class of society know as stat geeks. They're so confident in their formulas and statistical projections that when a player like Jose comes along that doesn't fit into their preconceived notions, they seem to have to go out of their way to put him down. I guess that's why I get so irritated from reading these things.
Unfazed by Jose's 3 home run game just days after taking one shot at him, Gassko is at it again today. In part 2 of an article where David proves to us statistically that big guys are better than small guys, Gassko leads off with this:
In the THT Dartboard last week, I criticized Jose Reyes. Well, I didn't so much criticize him as say that Reyes is getting a little over-hyped, but based on the angry responses I got from Mets fans, we might as well say that I criticized Reyes. My specific argument was that Reyes will not turn out to be as good a player as Carl Crawford, who gets nowhere close to as much hype.
The bold emphasis in the above excerpt is mine. I'd just like to point out that the truth is taking a beating right off the bat. There is a difference between saying Reyes is "a little over-hyped" and what you really did call him in the article, "ridiculously overrated." Perhaps that why some Mets fans took offense. If I had the chance to talk personally with Mr. Gassko, and told him that I felt his baseball knowledge was ridiculously overrated, I suspect that he would take offense at that remark.
Gassko goes on to use his formulas to "prove" that Crawford will hit many more home runs than Reyes. He does this by telling us the Reyes' home run numbers will actually go down after this season, and in 5 years he will only be hitting an average of 8 home runs a year. I think that projection speaks for itself to any Mets fan who has actually watched Jose over the past couple of years. The Mets organization expect Jose to be a 20 home run a year guy as he matures, but what do they know about ballplayers? Trying to refute Mr. Gassko's argument here would be like trying to win an argument with an 8-year-old using logic. (By the way -- any stat geeks who leave comments defending these projections, while certainly entitled to their opinions, will not be taken very seriously by this author.)
I again feel the need to point out that Jose Reyes is not a small man. He is listed at 6 foot, 175 pounds on his official MLB.com bio, and is still growing into his frame. Another 15 pounds is certainly a realistic possibility. But even at his current size, he generates tremendous power. The same genetic gifts that gave him fast feet have provided him with fast hands. Hand speed is more important than raw poundage for power. Just ask the 6 foot 1 inch, 180 pound Alfonso Soriano. Mets fans who go back far enough perhaps remember the 5'11", 180 pound Howard Johnson. I know Todd Worrell does.
Look, I like Carl Crawford -- I always have -- but I'll make a bold prediction right now. If both players stay healthy into their early 30s, Jose Reyes will be a much better and more valuable player. Crawford may hit a few more home runs, but unless he starts raking 30 or 40 a year, there won't be a substantial difference. Reyes' defense will continue to improve to at or near gold glove caliber, and his offensive approach will continue to be more refined.
I think it's likely that Reyes' future will be something other than leadoff hitter, provided the Mets can groom a real one. I wouldn't be surprised if in 5 years Jose is batting down in the batting order, hitting around 20 home runs a year and driving in runs. He will become more disciplined as he continues to improve his pitch recognition -- learning which pitches to drive, which to go opposite field with, and which to lay off. We've seem his progress in this area already.
Yet despite all the improvement we've seen in the past 2 years, Mr. Gassko is confident that Jose Reyes is as good as he's ever going to get right now. Again, he projects Jose's power to decline to less than half of his current numbers:
So while Crawford is just three home runs better than Reyes this season (per 150 games), we expect him to be 66 home runs better the next five years, or more than 13 home runs a year! What is now a small difference in power-equivalent to four or five runs in a season-becomes a huge difference, equivalent to almost 20 runs a year! You can see why I made the argument that I made.
No, I can't, David! I think your argument was spurious and silly. Although I have no idea why, I believe you have some sort of weird bias against Reyes. I also think that, given time, Jose Reyes is going to make you look very, very foolish.
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