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Just The Sports: Tomfoolery

Just The Sports

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


If you don't know baseball from your asshole, then go ahead and apply to because you are the writer the site wants. At least, that is the impression I get after reading Tom Verducci's article on Jose Reyes.

Can a guy with a .338 on-base percentage be the best leadoff hitter in the National League?

No, of course not. The leadoff hitter's job, as it is for other baseball players, is to get on base. If your leadoff hitter has a .338 OBP, then that means he would rank 113th out of 179 major league baseball players in terms of doing his job. For any player, that would be bad, but for a leadoff hitter, a resume like that would be abysmal.

Last year, when I polled executives to pick the best 25-and-under shortstop (Bobby Crosby of Oakland won), one GM said of Reyes, "He runs fast and he plays in New York. That's why there's hype about him. That's it." I'm beginning to believe that Reyes is a much more useful and dimensional player than that, and his ability to hit for extra bases, steal bases and create havoc on the base paths more than compensates for his less-than-spectacular OBP.

Then, if you really think so, then you would agree with me that he should not be the leadoff hitter and would be better off lower in the order. Under no circumstances do you want someone with such a low on-base percentage to get the lion's share of your team's at-bats. No matter how fast he is or how exciting it is to watch Reyes leg out a triple, doing so obviously comes so infrequently that it does the Mets no good.

What I would really like to see is baseball managers having some creativity with their line-ups instead of putting players into roles they are not suited for based on one physical attribute that the player possesses. In this case, his speed. Your leadoff hitter does not need to be fast; he needs to get on base. Why is that so hard to understand?

If anyone asks me, Carlos Beltran should be hitting leadoff for the Mets.

"I'm not going to lie to you: Ideally, we'd love to see him improve his on-base percentage," said Mets GM Omar Minaya about Reyes. "In a perfect world, yes, you want your leadoff guy to have a high on-base percentage. But with Reyes you can't just look at on-base percentage. Look at his total bases. This guy hits doubles and triples. That's what I look at when I look at Jose Reyes.

Then, Omar Minaya, you are a fool. If Jose Reyes hit as many doubles and triples as you seem to think, then his isolated power would be above .173, but it's not.

If you want your leadoff guy to have a high on-base percentage, then make Beltran your leadoff hitter (.395 OBP). See how easy that is. Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, I went and found a round peg.

Well, you would be talking about the next Rickey Henderson. I covered Henderson with the 1985 Yankees when he scored 146 runs in 143 games. It seemed almost every night Henderson would walk, steal second, move to third on an out and score on some type of ball put in play by Don Mattingly, often another out. In other words, the Yankees often didn't need a hit to get Henderson home. Henderson's OBP that year was .422.

It seemed that way, but was it really? Probably not. And .422 is a lot better than a paltry .338.

Reyes is unlikely to ever come close to that kind of OBP. But his .338 mark this year is a nice leap from his .303 career mark entering this season.

Let's just induct him into the Hall of Fame then, shall we?

If you rated leadoff hitters simply by their ability to get on base, Reyes would rank seventh of the 12 NL leadoff qualifiers, with Alfonso Soriano, David Eckstein and Dave Roberts leading the way. But would you really rather have Eckstein or Roberts than Reyes?

I'd rather have Alfonso Soriano and Dave Roberts this year, yes. As for Eckstein, he's not that good a leadoff hitter, either.

Could they, for instance, have scored from second base on that dribbler to third?

The real question is does that ability override all the things that Reyes cannot give you as a player. I am going to say no.

There are more chances of Reyes coming to plate and making another out than there are of dribblers being hit to third while he is standing on second base.

To test Minaya's alternate perspective on leadoff hitters, I checked total bases from the leadoff spot. Here Reyes (129) jumps up to second, barely behind Soriano (131).

Duh. Reyes is third among all major league player with 300 ABs. Of course he is going to have an edge in a counting statistic.

Soriano is fourth with 293 at-bats.

If you take total bases and add stolen bases and subtract caught stealings, Reyes churns up the most bases by far. The base gobblers are, in order, Reyes (152), Soriano (138) and Jimmy Rollins (132). And what about Eckstein, the guy with the better OBP? He is credited with only 103 bases under such a formula.

I applaud you, Tom, for trying to come up with your very own statistic, but this formula is just ridiculous. You mean to tell me you are going to attach equal weight to a single and a stolen base? You cannot be serious.

If there is a man on third and a player gets a single, the man on third will more than likely score. If there is a man on third and a man on first steals second base, the man on third will more than likely still be at third while the man on second who was formerly on first is dusting himself off.

Why don't you use a real formula? Use Runs Created/27 outs.

And for heaven's sake, use better lead-off hitters (not talking about Soriano) to compare Reyes to. It's like you're trying to convince people that Castor Oil tastes better because it tastes better than urine.

Eckstein happens to have the most times on base as a leadoff hitter (114), followed by Reyes (108), Rollins and Rafael Furcal (99 each). But Reyes is far more likely to score than Eckstein. Why?

Ummmm...because Albert Pujols has been injured and David Wright hasn't?

To test that kind of thinking, check out this list of the highest likelihood a leadoff hitter will score a run when he gets on base: 1. Hanley Ramirez (54.4 percent), 2. Reyes (52.8), 3. Rollins (52.5), 4. Furcal (51.5). They are the only leadoff hitters who are more likely to score a run than not when they get on base.

Let's also look at their teams' slugging percentages before we start attributing any otherworldly abilities to them. Here are how they stack up against the rest of the NL.

Mets (Reyes): .447 SLG (3rd)
Phillies (Rollins): .435 SLG (4th)
Dodgers (Furcal): .434 SLG (5th)
Marlins (Ramirez): .423 SLG (9th)

Perhaps that has more to do with their ability to score runs.

By way of comparison, slow-footed Jason Giambi of the Yankees, an OBP machine, scores only 37.1 percent of the time he's on base.

But Giambi's 9.94 RC/27 is good for 3rd in the major leagues.

Reyes's 5.94 RC/27? Good for 85th.

Funny that Verducci only used NL leadoff hitters to try to make his case.


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