Not Much Hope Jose Reyes Will Improve
Through his first 14 games of the season, Jose Reyes is hitting an insanely putrid .100/.182/.140 with no stolen bases. Even if you track the three year plus decline Reyes is currently on in his career, this streak is completely and utterly unexpected. Over an offseason, Reyes has gone from being a decent stop gap for David Wright to a player hoping he could put up Eric Campbell type numbers.
Given his .267/.326/.443 batting line last year, you could reasonably expect for Reyes to eventually snap out of it and become at least a league average hitter. There are stats you could point to to provide hope for that conclusion. For example Reyes BABIP is only .139 which is well off of his career mark of .310. It’s also off the .306 mark he posted from 2014 – 2016. Couple that with Reyes’ speed, you would expect him to at least leg out a few hits.
However, there is an underlying reason why Reyes’ numbers and his BABIP are so low this season. Reyes has become a different hitter at the plate. Now, 14 games is a small sample size, but let’s compare some of Reyes’ numbers this year to previous seasons.
For his career, Reyes has generally been a player with low strikeout totals. In his career, Reyes has never struck out more than 82 times in a season, and he has only struck out in just 10.8% of his career plate appearances. This year, Reyes is striking out in 25.5% of his plate appearances. For those looking for some glimmer of hope, Reyes struck out in 17.6% of his plate appearances last year, which is a similarly unacceptable rate.
Unfortunately for Reyes, it is more than just his inability to make contact. According to Fangraphs, in his career, Reyes’ contact is as follows 21.6% soft, 54.0% medium, and 24.4% hard. This year Reyes is making weaker contact hitting 19.4% soft, 63.9% medium, and 16.7% hard. Ultimately, when you make softer contact, you give fielders the ability to make more plays on the ball, which they have this year.
Even more troubling than the severity of the contact is the direction. One of Reyes’ strengths was he was a hitter who used the whole field. According to Fangraphs, his career spray chart is 39.3% pull, 35.1% up the middle, and 25.7% opposite field. This year Reyes has been much more of a pull hitter with him pulling the ball 44.4% of the time, and him hitting it up the middle just 25% of the time. Essentially, Reyes has gone from a player who it was difficulty to shift against to a player susceptible to the shift.
That’s lethal to a player that has typically been a ground ball hitter. For his career, Reyes hits the ball on the ground 43.8% of the time. It’s more exacerbated now with Reyes hitting the ball on the ground 48.6% of the time.
Long story short is Reyes is making it easy on the defense. He’s making weaker contact on the ground, and he’s become more susceptible to the shift.
Yes, it is still early, and this is a small sample size. Certainly, you could argue Reyes hasn’t had much luck this season. However, until Reyes makes some type of adjustment, it’s hard to believe he’s going to become a much better hitter than he is now. It’s harder to imagine he’s capable of staying in the lineup much longer even with Terry Collins bending over backwards to keep him in the lineup.