Ruben Tejada: Rey Ordonez or Something Even Better?
No matter how old some of the readers here are – young or old will surely remember the “Gloved One”, Rey Ordonez. Known for his defensive wizardy at shortstop, Rey-Rey debuted with the Mets in 1996 and was the Mets’ starting shortstop for the next seven seasons. He was a key component to what Sports Illustrated tabbed “The Best Infield Ever”.
The great Ozzie Smith once said of Ordonez after watching him throw out a runner at home from his knees, “I can definitely say he is the second-coming of me.” (Isn’t Wiki wonderful?)
Oodonez went on to win three consecutive Gold Glove Awards with the Mets and even set set a Major League record for shortstops by playing in 101 consecutive games without committing a fielding error.
As gifted as Ordonez was with his leather, the same could not be said of his exploits with the lumber. In nine big league seasons, Ordonez posted a .246/.289/.310/.599 slash. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
Now imagine having a shortstop who could be just as gifted on defense, but with a slash somewhere around .280/.370/.345/.715 to go with glove. You would have to admit, the thought is rather alluring, right?
Enter Mets incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada.
At just 22 years of age, the talented Mets youngster spent very little time if any on a Mets top prospect list during the 2009-2011 seasons, but here he is on the verge of replacing one of the best position players ever to come through the Mets farm system in Jose Reyes. As the world’s most famous dry cleaner; George Jefferson would say, “Now that’s moving on up. To the big-time.”
Now I’m not advocating that Tejada is as good with the glove as Ordonez was (not yet), but check out this piece by Mark Simon of ESPN who points out the following:
In 353 innings at shortstop, Tejada was credited with 24 Out of Zone plays. That’s a significant number.
Tejada’s rate of one Out of Zone play for every 14.7 innings played ranked best among all major league shortstops that played at least 350 innings at the position last season. Additionally, Tejada’s play at the position passes the eye test.
Simon explains Out of Zone plays like this: A fielder gets credit for an Out of Zone play when he gets an out on a ball fielded in a spot in which fewer than 50 percent of players at his position recorded an out within that 365-day period. In other words, a shortstop would get credit for an out of zone play on a ball fielded deep in the shortstop/third base hole, or on a ball that required ranging directly up the middle to make the play.
That sounds easy enough to understand, basically he’s saying that Tejada made more plays than the average shortstop, on the most occasions last season. Like this one for example:
Get the idea?
Nobody is expecting Tejada to replace Jose Reyes, but it’s not far-fetched to say he may already be a far better defender than the former Mets star.
Isn’t a run saved just as important as a run scored? I think it is, and with the way our rotation is shaping up for next season, I think they are going to need all the help they can get.
And if Ruben Tejada can make some incremental improvements to his offensive game along the way – something I fully expect him to do – then we could have something special at shortstop by the time we’re ready to make some noise again in the NL East.
Oh, oh, oh… Did I mention that he batted .419 in high-leverage situations last season and .309 with runners on base?
There’s a lot to like here, and with Jose Reyes now sleeping with the fishes, lets embrace Ruben Tejada and give this kid a chance. I truly believe that our patience with Tejada will be rewarded. LGM
About the Author: Joe DeCaro
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.
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