COMMENTARY | The Toronto Blue Jays turned heads in the offseason when they took advantage of a prospective down year for the American League East and traded for a plethora of All-Star talent. Among all the players acquired -- a group that includes R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson -- the biggest and most important one could be Jose Reyes.
People may quickly scoff at the idea of Reyes being a game-changer, but there is no denying what he has meant to a team when he's in the lineup and playing at a high level.
First, take a look at his overall games played. Reyes has played more than 125 games in seven of his 10 seasons. In those seven seasons, only once has his team lost more than 90 games, and that came last season in the train-wreck that was the Miami Marlins. In his other three seasons in the major leagues that Reyes played fewer than 125, his team lost 90-plus games.
That is not the be-all, end-all of Reyes' value to his teams. It's much more than that. Specifically, how his teams perform when he's batting well compared to how it does when he's not. Look at a player like Derek Jeter. Aside from 2011 when his batting average in wins was more than a point higher than in losses and 2004 when it was nearly two points higher, his average was relatively the same whether or not the Yankees lost.
In some cases, like 2008, Jeter's average was higher in losses than it was in wins. In the case of Reyes, when his team wins, his career batting average is .316 in those games but just .259 in losses. That is the second biggest discrepancy among current AL East shortstops, a .057 batting average difference. The only one higher was the aforementioned Jeter, who has a .077 difference largely due to the 2004 and 2011 seasons during the same 10-year span.
Other than that, every other shortstop that has started for AL East teams since 2003 has less than a .45 differential between wins and losses.
But what exactly does all that mean? Without divulging into far greater detail than needed, it simply means that when Reyes is on top of his game in terms of hitting, the team plays exponentially better than when he struggles. That's just in terms of general batting average, but what does he do in the moments when he is expected to perform at a clutch level?
The statistics looked at for this research are his batting with two outs and runners in scoring position; with the game differential being one run in the eighth or ninth inning; his average when the game is tied; when the game is a one-run contest; when his team is ahead; and when his team is behind.
Without factoring in games played and average plate appearances, the researched numbers are as follows:- .259 with two outs and runners in scoring position
- .306 with the game differential being one run in the eighth or ninth inning
- .302 in one-run contests
- .298 when the game is tied
- .299 when his team is leading
- .283 when his team is trailing
While the numbers aren't jaw-dropping by any stretch of the imagination, they are batting numbers that plenty of players strive to obtain. Compare it to a man who is relied on to shoulder a big load of his team's offense, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees.
Doing the same exact research, the numbers showed that Cano, who seemingly has a better reputation as a "clutch hitter" than Reyes, was around the same level as Reyes. Again, these numbers are just pure calculations. Plate appearances, games played, and years in the league were not taken in account.- .243 with two outs and RISP
- .300 with the game differential being one run in the eighth or ninth inning
- .308 in one-run contests
- .303 when game is tied
- .317 when his team is ahead
- .300 when his team is trailing
Cano may have slightly better numbers in a few of the categories, but they are much closer than most would have fans believe.
Whether people would like to admit it or not, the numbers clearly show that although he may not have the jaw-dropping, superstar-like production that an Albert Pujols has had over his career, Reyes is not a player to take lightly in Major League Baseball. He brings an aspect to a Blue Jays lineup that, aside from DH Edwin Encarnacion and 3B Brett Lawrie, has lacked consistent hitting for years.
If he can produce near or above the level that he has for his career, he could very well bring a brand new dynamic to the Toronto lineup. You have the power in Jose Bautista and Encarnacion; now you have the pure hitter in Reyes who can consistently drive in runs.
*Numbers from baseball-reference.com were used in the making of this piece
Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.
For Blue Jays and other sports news follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
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