I’m marveled at the incredible season we are seeing from our starting shortstop Ruben Tejada. Who could have expected such poise and confidence in someone so young and in fact younger than most of our top prospects who are still toiling in the minors.
When the Mets let Jose Reyes go this Winter and announced that 22-year old Tejada would be the everyday shortstop and that they had no plans to bring in anyone else, I must admit that I was very skeptical. I thought for sure this was going to backfire in a big way. I’m so glad I was wrong.
I can’t recall a Mets player as young as Tejada with such an affinity for the game and all the savvy of a 10-year veteran.
While people argue about who they would or wouldn’t give up in a trade at the deadline you hear the names of Wheeler, Harvey and Flores ad nauseum. We can debate the merits of that in another post, but I would argue that Ruben Tejada should be just as untouchable as any prospect or player in the organization right now. There… I said it.
Over the course of the last two seasons, Tejada now has enough data to see what we have in him, and it’s nothing short of remarkable. In his 2011 and 2012 seasons he has played a total of 135 games and 483 at-bats. His .291 batting average and .371 on-base are indicative that his place at the top of the batting order is well deserved.
If you were expecting a sophomore slump from Tejada in his second go-around in the National League, forget it. Tejada has improved across every single offensive metric compared to his rookie season. He’s now batting .323 and has permanently taken hold of the Mets leadoff job.
Perhaps the best thing about Tejada is not his soft hands, great range and natural instincts at shortstop, but the intensity he brings to every at-bat including some epic ones in the past few weeks. He’s become our secret weapon and can work the count like no other. Last night he failed to get a hit, but once again drew two key walks forcing the opposing pitcher to expend 16 pitches in the process.
During the broadcast, Gary Cohen referred to a stat from ESPN that caught my attention. I dug up the article from Mark Simon who points out the following:
From the department of having fun with small sample sizes, we can create a stat that shows just how good Tejada is in these types of moments. First, let’s narrow the criteria down to the following:
– Mets tied, trailing by a run, or trailing by two runs
– Eighth inning or later
– Tejada at the plate, facing a count of 3-2
When we do that, Tejada’s performance is pretty amazing, albeit perhaps a bit fluky. He’s faced that scenario 13 times in his career and reached base in 11 of them — eight times on walks.
Simon adds that while such success may not be sustainable, it is impressive nonetheless.
Here are a couple of fascinating factoids about Tejada’s propensity to come through when he’s down to the last strike:
Tejada has taken 18 swings in those situations and fouled the ball off 13 times, gotten hits on three others, grounded out once, and missed once (for a strikeout).
Tejada’s on-base percentage in any two-strike situation in the last two seasons is .337. The only player in baseball higher is Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, at .340.
It’s pretty wild to see Tejada arrive without any of the usual Mets hype and fanfare, and to see him succeed and produce at such a high level. Who would have thought that Jose Reyes would become such an afterthought so quickly?
All these untouchables we keep talking about in the minors can only dream about doing what Tejada has accomplished so far in just two short seasons in the majors. And in doing so, Tejada has entrenched himself as a key core player for the future of this team.
We just signed three shortstops from the International free agency arena, and expended two high picks on another two shortstops in the 2012 Draft including first-rounder Gavin Cecchini. Apparently the thinking process was the murkiness of the shortstop position in the Mets pipeline. It was all much ado about nothing if you ask me, because if I’m right, Tejada will most likely be playing at an All Star level by 2014 at the ripe old age of 24 years old. Believe it.