Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jose Reyes Batting Third is a Gamble

For the last three or four years, at least twice a week we've heard the SNY broadcast team rattle off a stat of how Jose Reyes' success is an indicator of Mets wins. When Reyes gets on base and scores, the Mets usually win.

For the first time in a while, Reyes is being moved out of the leadoff spot and potentially to number three in the order. In my opinion, this is a big time gamble.

While Reyes is coming off an injury and may not be the same speedster he once was, I'm not totally sure if dropping down to third in the lineup is the right move for a couple of reasons.

First, when runners are on base, Reyes tends to change his swing and think more about hitting the long ball than just getting on base. He may have matured, but we all know that Reyes swing when he's trying to hit a home run. Reyes is a triples machine, but I'd venture a guess that the majority of his triples come when no one is on base and he's thinking more about getting on than driving runners in.

Secondly, Reyes has the ability to turn a walk into a run scored and that's not as likely to happen batting third. We've all seen those games where Reyes leads off with a walk, a bunt, or a single. Then he steals second. Castillo grounds out and Reyes moves to third. Then Wright flies out to right and Reyes tags and scores. Mets have that much coveted early run in the first inning. Those opportunities won't be as prevalent with Reyes batting third.

On the positive side, Reyes will likely see more fastballs with Wright and Jason Bay batting behind him. He's less likely to hit into double plays and also has the ability to try and bunt on a squeeze play. I do think your number three hitter needs to have patience at the plate which I'm not confident Reyes has developed yet.

Plus if this is a temporary move until Beltran comes back, what impact will this have on Reyes approach when he's moved back to the leadoff spot?

No one has answers to any of these questions yet and we will have to wait and see how things pan out. I will say this, if Reyes can turn into a solid, patient and reliable hitter in the number three spot, the Mets will greatly benefit.

But to me that's a big "if."

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