We have just one more week of Spring Training left and the good news out of Mets camp is that Jose Reyes may soon appear in a minor league game perhaps as soon as today. Also, Omar Minaya said this weekend that we should not rule Jose Reyes out for Opening Day. As soon as Reyes gets back into his regimen I have a feeling we’re going to revisit a hot topic that was introduced at the start of Spring Training when Jerry Manuel pondered the idea of having Reyes bat third in the lineup.
Manuel has gone on record that he would like to bat Jose Reyes third, at least until Carlos Beltran makes his return to the Mets following his knee surgery. I’ve been on the fence about this one and maybe it’s due to my vision that Jose Reyes could someday become our modern day Rickey Henderson; a prototypical leadoff hitter that was a force at the plate and on the bases, a nightmare for opposing managers and pitchers.
I remember the debates many years back when baseball fans would argue who was a better leadoff hitter, Pete Rose or Rickey Henderson. The Rose fans cited his ability to get on base by either hit or double and his low strikeout totals. The Henderson backers took the obvious tract, his speed. Some say it’s a toss up. I lean towards Henderson.
Pete Rose had 746 doubles along with 135 triples 160 homers, 1314 RBI and 198 steals in 347 attempts. Rickey had 510 doubles, 66 triples, 297 homers, 1115 RBI and 1406 steals in 1741 attempts. Rose had a steal success rate of 57% and Rickey had a whopping 81%.
Now lets compare Reyes stats to date. Reyes has 162 doubles along with 73 triples 63 homers, 325 RBI and 301 steals in 376 attempts. An amazing success rate of 80%. He has, as of now, the potential to be a “Rickey Henderson” like leadoff hitter. Power, average, steals. That is a rare commodity to have in this game… a true rarity in the game’s long history.
So Jerry Manuel wants to bat him third, why? Lets hope it’s only because Carlos Beltran is out. Personally, I feel Manuel is doing this to try and get Reyes to the next level. Part of me understands, but a greater part of me wants to say, “Jerry, would you have moved Rickey Henderson to the third hole after his 1980 season when he stole 100 bases?” He only hit 9 homers that year. Far from what is usually expected from your number three hitter. Why wasn’t he persuaded to move down the order? To me it’s borderline lazy of Manuel to try and prod Reyes to be a better hitter this way. Reyes should WANT to be a better hitter anywhere in the lineup not just batting third. It’s not something you can force out of a player by simply relocating him on your clubhouse lineup card.
Of course this shows Manuel is trying even if his logic is misplaced. What’s to come of it? I’m not too sure this experiment will provide much in the end. Batting Reyes third will no doubt cut his steals in half. Why would you want to be caught stealing second while David Wright is standing there holding his…bat, ending any chance at a big inning?
Even with a success rate of 80% , it’s going to be on his mind. Will batting him third also come with losing the green light?
Right off the bat you’re taking away a key ingredient to the Mets, speed. The same speed that Minaya and Manuel deemed essential to winning ballgames in their new tailored park.
Having Reyes lead off and toy with the pitchers on the bases is what makes those pitchers tend to screw up. The result sometimes being a fat pitch for the guy at the plate. Part of David Wright’s power outage last year can be attributed to having nobody batting behind him and no Jose Reyes in front driving the pitchers nuts. Consider that part of Reyes’ game diminished if he’s batting third. There are no Sabermetric stats for that are there?
So what are we left with? Jose is going to drive in runs? Maybe. Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo will be the table-setters batting one and two hitters respectively. Pagan has shown signs of promise, but he has his own issues, too many for me to get into here. Castillo can be either what he was last year which was pretty good or he could revert to pre-2009 which was very bad. Who knows?
Either way we can’t predict what Reyes is going to do batting third. In the end, I say keep Reyes igniting the team and batting leadoff. He’s too dynamic a leadoff hitter. If Jerry wants to flex his leadership muscles with Reyes and illicit a greater performance out of him, support him as the team’ leadoff hitter, a premier one at that, period. The same way Rose and Henderson were supported by their managers in their prime.