Stats & Info: Jose Reyes

Top stats to know: Blue Jays at Red Sox

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesKnuckleballer R.A. Dickey looks to improve to 3-0 this year vs. the Red Sox.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox open a three-game series tonight at Fenway Park (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). The Blue Jays have won seven of the 10 matchups so far this season, including three of four last week in Toronto.

After beating the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, the Blue Jays led the AL East by six games over the second-place New York Yankees and by 6½ games over the third-place Baltimore Orioles.

However, since June 7, the Blue Jays are 18-26 -- the third-worst record in the American League in that span -- and are now three games behind the Orioles for first place in the division.

Toronto hasn’t been to the playoffs since it won the World Series in 1993. Only the Kansas City Royals have gone longer without a postseason appearance.

One player who can help the Blue Jays break their postseason drought is JosÚ Bautista. In 2010, Bautista had a breakout year, hitting a major league-best 54 home runs.

Since the start of that year, Bautista’s 172 home runs are tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most in baseball.

Another player who has been a key cog in the Blue Jays' success is JosÚ Reyes, who has been aggressive this season, swinging at 47 percent of the pitches he sees. That’s his highest swing rate in the past six seasons.

Reyes is a tough batter to put away, even in an 0-2 count. From the start of the 2012 season on his .302 batting average in such a count over that time span is the highest in MLB.

As for the defending world champion Red Sox, they are in last place in the AL East. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1998 Florida Marlins are the only team to finish last in the division or the league the year after winning the World Series.

Boston also finished last in the AL East in 2012. No team has ever finished in last place one year, won the World Series the next year, and then finished last the next year.

Dustin Pedroia has been struggling for the Red Sox; his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all at career-worst levels.

Meanwhile, teams have used an infield shift on more than 8,800 balls in play this season, already more than all of last season (8,134), and David Ortiz has seen his fair share of shifts. The shift has certainly had an effect on him this season.

•  He’s hitting .157 on ground balls and soft line drives against the shift this season.
•  He’s hitting .333 on similar batted balls when there is no shift.
•  Only three hitters (minimum 125 PAs against the shift) have a larger difference in batting average on grounders and soft liners without the shift vs. against the shift.
•  His BABIP is .241 this season (his BABIP was .318 overall the previous four seasons).

Pitching Notes
• R.A. Dickey went 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA against the Red Sox last season. This year, he’s 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA.

•  Dustin Pedroia is hitting .167 (3-for-18) in his career against Dickey, including 1-for-his-past-12.

•  Clay Buchholz has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his past 10 starts. Of course, in the middle of that, he threw a three-hit shutout against the Houston Astros with 12 strikeouts and no walks.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
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USA TODAY SportsThe Blue Jays have plenty of new faces-- among them Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle
With Baseball Tonight visiting Toronto Blue Jays spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about the team that was among baseball’s busiest this offseason.

Postseason Drought
The Blue Jays have not been to the postseason since 1993. The only AL team with a longer playoff drought is the Royals, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985. The Blue Jays also don’t have a 90-win season since that championship year. Every other team in the AL East has at least two since then.

New Starters Mean WAR
The Blue Jays starting rotation will likely feature three new pitchers-- R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle.

The three have combined for 47 Wins Above Replacement over the last four seasons. Each of the three ranks in the top 17 among pitchers. Johnson rates the highest-- seventh-best, with 19.1 Wins Above Replacement.

Reyes Kickstarts Lineup
Likely leadoff hitter Jose Reyes will look to fill a significant hole for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s leadoff hitters had a .294 on-base percentage and .650 OPS last season, each of which ranked fifth-worst in the majors.

Shifty Infield
The Blue Jays were among the most frequent users of defensive shifts in 2012. Baseball Info Solutions credited them with 12 Defensive Runs Saved due to shift usage last season, the highest such total in the majors.

One of the most integral players in their defense is third baseman Brett Lawrie, who led major league third basemen last season with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.

Edwin Loves the Outer-Half
Edwin Encarnacion had a breakout season with 42 home runs in 2012. Encarnacion had 27 home runs against pitches that were on the outer-half of the plate (or off the plate), a rate of one for every 55 pitches seen.

From 2009 to 2011, Encarnacion had 26 homers on outer-half pitches, a rate of one for every 108 pitches seen.

A Lethal Power/Speed Combo
The Blue Jays have a chance to finish in the top of the league in both power and speed. Toronto owns three prolific base stealers in Rajai Davis, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio who rank 3rd, 6th and 13th respectively in stolen bases the last 3 seasons.

The team also features two of the most prominent power hitters in baseball as measured by Isolated Power. Jose Bautista (.286) and Edwin Encarnacion (.277) ranked 4th and 5th in the MLB by that metric last season (min. 350 PA), the only pair of teammates in the top 10.

Morrow's Continued Progress
While his ‘breakout’ season was cut short due to injury, it looked like Brandon Morrow took a significant step forward in 2012. He also seemed to make a key adjustment – pitching down in the zone rather than up in the zone, decreasing his strikeouts but increasing his effectiveness.

Marlins give up on $100 million dream

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
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AP Photo/Kathy WilliamsJose Reyes could be bringing his bat to a new location in 2013.
It is awards week in baseball and the award for the biggest deal of the offseason may have come Tuesday.

Let's take a look at a couple key storylines related to the potential megatrade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins.

Marlins would be dumping money, Blue Jays spending it
It didn’t take long for the Marlins to give up on the idea of playing with a $100 million payroll.

In the previous four seasons, the Marlins ranked no higher than 24th in Opening Day payroll, but averaged 81 wins in that span.

They entered last season with a $118 million payroll, seventh-highest in the majors but finished with 69 wins. The six teams above them in payroll had much more success (with the exception of the Boston Red Sox), averaging 86 wins between them.

The Marlins win total tied for the fourth-fewest by a team with a team with a $100 million payroll (the Red Sox also had 69 wins last season).

The Blue Jays could enter new territory this season in terms of Opening Day payroll. They are one of 12 teams that has never opened the season with $100 million in commitments. Their largest payroll at the start of the season was $97.8 million in 2008, a season in which they won 86 games, but finished fourth in the mighty AL East.

What would the Blue Jays be getting for their money?
What are the Blue Jays getting for the more than $160 million they’re making in payroll commitments?

From a statistical perspective, they’re getting a group of players whose performance in 2012 was not up to their peak standards.

The biggest names in the reported deal: Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, combined to be worth 9.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2012.

Buehrle had a 3.2 WAR, his lowest since 2006. Johnson has been worth 5.9 WAR over the past two seasons. He was worth a combined 13.2 WAR in 2009 and 2010.

Reyes, who has a history of injuries, was worth 2.8 WAR, the third time in the past four seasons he’s been below three Wins Above Replacement.

Buehrle brings a lot of mileage on his arm. He’s pitched at least 200 innings in 12 straight seasons. Buehrle’s 2,627 2/3 innings pitched in that 12-year span are the most in the majors.

One bugaboo that comes with Buehrle -- he doesn’t have a great history against the New York Yankees and Red Sox. He’s 7-16 with a 5.27 ERA combined against those teams, including 1-8 with a 6.38 ERA against the Yankees.

Johnson has a good history against the AL East (he’s 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in nine starts against the Blue Jays division rivals).

His 8-14 record last season was primarily a product of a rough first month and a lack of run support. In his first six starts, he posted a 6.61 ERA, but in his last 25 starts, it was 3.26.

Johnson ranked 29th among the 46 NL ERA-title qualifiers with his 3.81 ERA, but his combined strikeout, walk, and home run totals produced a Fielding Independent Pitching (an ERA estimator known as FIP), of 3.40, 10th-best among that same group.

Reyes struggled early in 2012 both offensively and defensively, but closed the year strong.

The Blue Jays may look to move Reyes, who thrived in the No. 3 spot, back into the leadoff spot in the batting order. Their leadoff hitters had a .296 on-base percentage and .650 OPS last season, both fifth-worst in the majors.

The one area in which the Marlins may have won the trade would be in shortstop defense. They give up Reyes, who ranked next-to-last among shortstops with -17 Defensive Runs Saved (a stat that measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs and convert double plays).

The Marlins Yunel Escobar ranked fourth in the majors with 15 Defensive Runs Saved.

--Mark Simon, Katie Sharp and Will Cohen contributed to this post.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Manny Machado has been on fire since his rookie debut belting three homers in four games.



Baltimore Orioles rookie Manny Machado has made quite a splash since his debut last Thursday.

In four games Machado has gone 6-for-16 (.375 BA), with five extra-base hits, three home runs and seven RBI.

He is yet another rookie who has made a very quick impact after making their MLB debut this season.

Machado tripled in his first MLB game, then had two home runs in his second game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes he became the youngest player to hit two home runs in either his first or second MLB game.

Sunday, Machado hit his third home run in his 13th career at-bat. Surprisingly he's the fifth player to hit three homers in his first 13 at-bats over the last six seasons and the third to do so this year.

Here is a list of other notables:

Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics
Cespedes homered in his second, third and fourth MLB games, including one in the Oakland Athletics 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners in Japan.

Yu Darvish, Rangers
In just his fourth MLB start, Darvish pitched 8 ⅓ scoreless innings against the New York Yankees, striking out 10 in a 2-0 Texas Rangers win. He’s recorded 12 wins so far this season, tying the Rangers rookie record done also by Chris Young (2005), Kevin Brown (1989), and Edwin Correa (1986).

Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
Middlebrooks opened his career with an extra-base hit in each of his first five MLB games, the longest streak since Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter had a five-game streak to start his career in 1938.

Bryce Harper, Nationals
Harper made an instant splash as he became the fourth teenager since 1969 with an extra-base hit in his MLB debut (Jose Reyes 2003, Adrian Beltre 1998 & Ken Griffey Jr. 1989). Then just eight games into his MLB career Harper was credited with a steal of home in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, after being hit by a pitch from Cole Hamels.

Jose Quintana, White Sox
Quintana allowed one hit in 5 ⅔ IP of relief in his MLB debut. He then entered the Chicago White Sox rotation shortly thereafter, allowing two runs or fewer in each of his first six starts.

Derek Norris, Athletics
Elias says in his third MLB game, Norris became the third player in Athletics franchise history whose first career home run was a walk-off homer (the others were Dee Miles in 1939 and George Hendrick in 1972).

Yasmani Grandal, Padres
In his second MLB game, Grandal became the first player in history whose first two major-league hits were a pair of home runs, in the same game, from each side of the plate.

Matt Harvey, Mets
Harvey set a Mets record with 11 strikeouts in his debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Elias tells us he became the first pitcher since 1900 to have at least 10 strikeouts and record two hits in his MLB debut.

Starling Marte, Pirates
Batting leadoff, Marte homered on the first pitch he saw against the Houston Astros. He’s the first Pittsburgh Pirates player to hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat since Don Leppert vs the Cardinals on June 18, 1961.
ESPN Stats & InformationGiancarlo Stanton had only one home run in April, but since then he's been hitting with power over most of the strike zone.
One game after returning from the disabled list, Giancarlo Stanton recorded his first multi-home run game of the season as the Miami Marlins blanked the New York Mets 13-0 Wednesday night.

As he has done all season, Stanton punished fastballs in this game. Three of his four hits came against heat, and the other came on a slider that was only five miles per hour slower than the fastball on the previous pitch.

The key to getting the young slugger out this season has been to get him to chase pitches outside the strike zone. All four of his hits Wednesday came on pitches in the zone, and all 21 of his home runs this season have been on strikes.

That contrasts sharply to his numbers outside the zone, where he hits .154 and only has four extra-base hits in 91 at-bats this season. Over 40 percent of his plate appearances that end on pitches outside the zone have been strikeouts.

The Mets were unable to get Stanton to chase any of four pitches outside the zone. His first two hits against Chris Young came on the first pitch, a situation where he hits .477 and slugs .818 on the season.

Stanton’s second home run was on a line drive. He leads the majors with seven line-drive home runs this season and his 14 line drives to leave the park since his debut in 2010 trail only Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo.

Surprisingly, neither of Stanton’s home runs against the Mets topped 400 feet. Coming into the game, 11 of his 19 home runs had a true distance of at least 400 feet.

His two homers in the game give Stanton 21 for the season. The Elias Sports Bureau confirms that he joins Alex Rodriguez as the only active players with three 20-homer seasons before turning 23.

Gone Fishing
Jose Reyes extended his hitting streak to 26 games. That’s the longest hitting streak ever for a player after leaving the Mets, snapping a tie with Jeff Kent. It also ties Emilio Bonifacio for the second-longest hit streak in Marlins history.

The 13-run margin in a shutout ties the second-largest in franchise history; the Marlins beat the Colorado Rockies 17-0 in a game in September 1995.

Curve carries Beckett back to Miami

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
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Getty Images
Josh Beckett goes against Josh Johnson on Monday Night Baseball in Miami.
When the Boston Red Sox visit the Miami Marlins on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET), two of the Marlins’ best pitchers will square off. How is that possible?

Real Big Fish
Josh Johnson
Johnson
Josh Beckett
Beckett
Josh Beckett pitches for the Red Sox, and he’ll face his former team for the first time in his career. His 3.46 ERA is second (min. 400 IP), his 607 K are seventh and his 41 wins are eighth on the franchise’s all-time list.

The Marlins will counter with Josh Johnson, one of the few pitchers ahead of Beckett in the franchise record books -- he’s second in ERA, third in wins and fourth in strikeouts.

Both pitchers have had success in interleague play in their careers -- Beckett is 13-5 with a 3.01 ERA and Johnson is 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the second time this season opposing pitchers enter an interleague game with a .700 or better career win percentage (minimum seven wins) in interleague play. The other instance also involved Beckett, when he pitched against Cliff Lee.

In his sixth start of the season, a loss to the Indians, Beckett allowed seven hits, two walks and seven earned runs and couldn’t get out of the third inning. He had an ERA of nearly six and the team was a season-high seven games under .500.

After the game, Beckett’s press conference focused on the belief that he played golf two days earlier despite being skipped in the rotation with a sore lat muscle.

Since that day, Beckett has made five starts and allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of them, completing at least seven innings in each start. He’s increased the use of his curveball and thrown it in the strike zone more often.

Johnson has also turned his season around after a rough start -- he was 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA through six starts and opponents were hitting .359 against him. In his past six starts, he’s 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA and opposing batters are hitting more than 100 points lower.

He’s done it with his bread-and-butter pitch, the fastball. In his past six starts, opponents are hitting .229 against his heater (.391 in his first six starts) and just .114 in two-strike counts (.284 in his first six).

Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez
Jose Reyes
Reyes
Marlins Left Side
The Marlins have -16 Defensive Runs Saved this season, meaning their defense has cost them 16 runs, which ranks 20th in the majors. One of their weakest spots has been at SS, where they signed free agent Jose Reyes to replace Hanley Ramirez, in a supposed defensive upgrade.

The Marlins are tied for 28th in baseball with -9 Defensive Runs Saved at SS. Reyes is tied with Derek Jeter for the fewest DRS (-9) among qualified MLB SS.

Only three teams have fewer Defensive Runs Saved at 3B, but here’s a case where the traditional stats and the advanced metrics don’t match up. Miami has the fewest errors and the highest fielding percentage by third basemen this season.

One thing Reyes has done for Ramirez is put him in good spots offensively. Ramirez has 78 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season -- only five players have more. He had 103 such PA all last season, tied for 200th in the majors.

His 131 PA with runners on base is fifth in baseball -- he had 168 last season, 214th in the majors.

Marlins 'steal' of approval up from 2011

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
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Through the month of May, there have been 996 stolen bases, coming out to roughly 1.3 per game. More than 37 percent of those stolen bases have resulted in runs (when the base runner comes around to score after stealing a base). The Los Angeles Dodgers have scored after 17-of-28 (60.7 percent) steals, that’s the highest score percentage this season and they are 10-4 when scoring after a stolen base.

Base runners have been successful on 79.5 percent of stolen base attempts when the opposing pitcher does not throw over before their attempt, but that percentage drops to 62.2 if the pitcher throws over at least once.

Here are some other stolen base statistics entering the month of June.

Overall Steals Leader (Through May):
Emilio Bonifacio has been caught stealing once in 21 attempts. However, Bonifacio has yet to attempt stealing a base other than second.
Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio
The Marlins have stolen 60 bases, 15 more than any other team. They also have the third-highest stolen base percentage in the league (80 percent). At this time last season, the Marlins had only 24 stolen bases, and the third-worst stolen base percentage (58.5 percent).

Newcomer Jose Reyes has scored five go-ahead runs after stealing a base this season, most in the majors.

Late-Inning Culprit:
In one-run games this season, the Chicago Cubs' Tony Campana is 7-for-7 stealing in the seventh inning or later, and has scored after four of those swipes. No other player has more than four steals in such late-game situations. Campana also is 4-for-4 stealing on pitchouts this season. No other player has more than one steal on a pitchout.

Stealing Third:
Toronto's Rajai Davis is 5-for-5 stealing third base, and 22-of-23 over the last two seasons. That’s the most steals of third base over the last two seasons.

Catcher Oddity:
Baltimore's Matt Wieters has thrown out 11-of-30 base stealers this season, the sixth-highest percentage (minimum 15 attempts). Despite his success, Wieters has committed a throwing error on 4-of-30 (13.3 percent) attempts, that’s the highest percentage in the league (minimum 10 attempts). Last season, Wieters committed a throwing error on 2-of-91 attempts.

Slow to the Plate:
Base runners have stolen 11 bases, and been caught just once, against Mat Latos this season. Seven of those 11 have scored. Both totals are the highest among pitchers.

Rally Killer:
Will Venable has been caught four times this season to end an inning, the most in the majors. Venable was caught stealing three times on 29 attempts last season, and none ended an inning.

Throwing Over Matters:
David Wright has been successful on all five stolen base attempts when the pitcher does not attempt a pickoff throw before his stolen base attempt. However, Wright has been caught all five times when the pitcher throws over at least.

Reyes had impact during time with Mets

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
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AP Photo/Tom DiPace
Jose Reyes makes his return to New York for the first time since leaving the Mets as a free agent.
Jose Reyes returns to Flushing, NY to face his former team, the New York Mets, starting tonight at Citi Field as the Miami Marlins begin a three-game set against the Mets.

Reyes began his career in the Mets organization before signing a six-year, $106 million deal with the Marlins this past offseason.

Reyes ranks in the top three in several career categories in Mets history: first in runs (735), triples (99) and steals (370); second in hits (1,300) and third in doubles (222).

With a healthy Reyes in the lineup, the Mets were a much different team, winning over 53 percent of the time, compared to a .437 win percentage without him in the lineup.

Check out the article written by ESPN The Magazine’s Jorge Arangure Jr. about Reyes and his return to New York.

Early Morning Baseball in Japan
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers play the second game of their three-game set in Arlington tonight with Hiroki Kuroda facing off against Yu Darvish at 8:05 pm ET (9:05 am Wednesday in Japan).

This is just the seventh time that two Japanese pitchers have started against each other in MLB history and the first time since July 22, 2010 when Kuroda (the pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers) pitched against the Mets Hisanori Takahashi.

The two starting pitchers – who never faced each other in Japan – have had some struggles this season. Kuroda, who spent his first four years in the majors pitching for the Dodgers, is limiting right-handed batters to a .133 average (4-for-30). However, lefties are hitting .432 (19-for-44).

Darvish allowed four runs to the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of his first MLB start (April 9), but has allowed only four runs COMBINED in his 16⅔ innings pitched since (two starts).

A Look Back at Last Night
• During the Yankees 7-4 win over the Rangers, Derek Jeter went 4-for-5 with a double and RBI.

That was Jeter’s 42nd career four-hit game and the first time he’s had two four-hit games in April in his career (went 4-for-4 against the Baltimore Orioles on April 9).

On July 9, 2011, Jeter went 5-for-5 against the Tampa Bay Rays and in the process registered his 3,000th hit. Including that game, Jeter has hit .354 in his last 81 games. Among players with at 100 plate appearances since July 9, 2011, only three other players have a higher batting average.

In his previous 81 games (Sept. 17, 2010 to July 8, 2011), Jeter had batted just .274

• The Kansas City Royals lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1, the Royals 11th straight home loss dating back to last season (the longest home losing streak in franchise history).

Kansas City finished its homestand 0-10. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other teams in major-league history went 0-10 or worse on a homestand: the Seattle Pilots (a first-year expansion team that became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970) lost all 10 games of a homestand in August 1969; and the Arizona Diamondbacks went 0-11 on a homestand in July of 2004.

• The Chicago Cubs scored its first walk-off win of the season by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Joe Mather's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth, his second career walk-off hit.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us over the last 20 years the Cubs had only one other home win against St. Louis after trailing in the ninth inning or later. That occurred on May 29, 1999, with a ninth-inning rally that featured a game-tying home run by Glenallen Hill and a walkoff double by Mark Grace. Mather became the first former Cardinals player to have a walk-off RBI for the Cubs against St. Louis since Jerry Morales on September 22, 1981.

Nate Jones contributed to this post

Nationals lock up hot corner-stone

February, 26, 2012
2/26/12
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Earlier today, the Washington Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension. The contract reportedly includes an option for a seventh year that would keep Zimmerman in Washington through 2020, if exercised. There are several angles for potential analysis, centering around both the historical place of the contract as well as Zimmerman’s own performance.
Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman

Angle No. 1: The Contract

Zimmerman’s agreement with the Nationals immediately became the second-largest contract issued in franchise history, falling short only of the free-agent commitment the team made to outfielder Jayson Werth last offseason. When one considers the two years and $26 million that is remaining on his current contract, the Nationals owe Zimmerman $126 million through 2019. With the agreement, Zimmerman becomes one of just six players to be locked up through at least 2019, joining Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp.

The average annual value of the contract works out to $16.7 million, the second-most of any third baseman, behind only Alex Rodriguez, inching past the $16 million average of Adrian Beltre’s recent deal with the Texas Rangers. It is also the third-most lucrative extension signed by a player from the 2005 MLB draft class, behind only Tulowitzki and Braun.

All told, the Nationals have now committed $126 million to Zimmerman starting in 2012. That is the 10th-most money owed to any player in baseball by any team starting this upcoming season.

Angle No. 2: The Performance

Six full seasons into his MLB career, Zimmerman has produced several elite seasons, while also having several seasons marred by injury. There is little question that when he is healthy, he is capable of producing borderline MVP-caliber seasons.

Since the start of the 2006 season -- Zimmerman’s first full year in the majors -- he ranks 11th among all position players in Wins Above Replacement, ahead of such notable large-contract recipients as Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes. He ranks third among third basemen in WAR, behind Rodriguez and David Wright. Much of that value is derived from his defense – according to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved, Zimmerman ranks third among all position players since 2007 with 73 runs saved and has finished in the top three among third basemen in the category in four of the last five seasons.

He has also produced some of the greatest seasons in Nationals/Expos franchise history. His 2009 and 2010 seasons rank second and fifth, respectively, in franchise history, with his 2009 mark of 7.3 WAR ranking behind only Vladimir Guerrero's 2002 season (7.6) and tied with Tim Raines in 1985 and Gary Carter in 1984.

But while Zimmerman has displayed the ability to be an impact player at times, he’s struggled to do so consistently. 2011 was the second season in the last four that was noticeably impacted by injuries, as Zimmerman played in only 101 games. The injury issues may have had an impact on his performance; between 2009-10, he produced an average line of .299 BA, .893 OPS, 29 home runs and 96 RBI. In 2011, his OPS dropped nearly 100 points to .798, while he hit just 12 home runs. Specifically, Zimmerman has experienced a decline in his power output since 2009, with a corresponding increase in the rate at which he’s hitting balls on the ground.

Presumably, Zimmerman has provided the Nationals with everything they expected when they made him the fourth overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, as he ranks first in the entire draft class in Wins Above Replacement to this point, ahead of the likes of Tulowitzki, Braun and Justin Upton. But the value of the extension will be based on Zimmerman’s ability to stay on the field and reverse the downward trend in his power output.

It also raises the question of what the Nationals plan to do with third basemen Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall pick from the 2011 draft, to whom Washington gave the ninth-highest major league contract in draft history. But that is an issue for another day. For now, the Nationals locked up the franchise’s best player through 2019 and did so at a total cost of less than they paid Jayson Werth last offseason.

Marlins should be wary of 10-year deal

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
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Just days after reeling in noted free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, the Miami Marlins may not be done fishing. Reports have surfaced that the team has offered three-time MVP Albert Pujols a 10-year contract. While the specific figures are not clear, there is no question that a 10-year contract represents a massive risk.

If the 10-year contract offer is legitimate, then the parallels between Pujols and Alex Rodriguez are eerie. Pujols will be in his age-32 season in 2012, presumably the start of the contract. Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275M deal with the New York Yankees began in his age-32 season. Rodriguez has steadily declined since signing that contract despite being one of the great players in the game.

In his final year prior to signing the contract, Rodriguez posted 9.8 Wins Above Replacement, the third-highest mark by an AL position player in the Wild Card Era. On the flip side, Pujols’ last season prior to free agency (2011) saw him produce only 5.1 WAR, the lowest mark of his career.

Despite the lofty perch, Rodriguez’s decline has been swift. Rodriguez has finished with a WAR below five in each of the past three seasons. He is still owed over $140 million through the end of the contract, which runs through the 2017 season.

Putting aside the Rodriguez comparison, it’s distinctly possible that Pujols’ own decline has already started. Using the Wins Above Replacement metric, Pujols’ marks have declined each season since 2008. In fact this past season marked the first in his career in which he posted a WAR below six.

Fangraphs.com has a tool that assesses the monetary value of a season based on Wins Above Replacement and the cost of a marginal win on the free agent market. Based on that, Pujols’ 2011 season was worth $22.8M. In other words, contracts worth in excess of $22 million are being bandied about for Pujols – and yet he was barely worth that as a 31-year-old. How will he fare as a 32, 37 or 40-year-old?

The only team Pujols has known in his career, the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly offered Pujols a contract for nine years and $198 million entering this past season. That works out to an annual average value of $22 million, a sum that would give him the fourth-highest average annual salary among first basemen.

Pujols certainly has reason to expect more than that from the franchise he led to two World Series championships. Consider the Philadelphia Phillies signed Ryan Howard to an extension that will begin starting this upcoming season and will pay the slugger an average annual salary of $25M.

Since 2006 – Howard’s first full season – Pujols has been worth twice as much as Howard by Wins Above Replacement. In fact, there has never been a season in which Howard has outperformed Pujols, including Howard’s MVP season in 2006.

Jose Reyes' replacement is defensive whiz

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
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Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJose Reyes is passing the torch to a new shortstop with impressive defensive skills, Ruben Tejada.

Jose Reyes’ departure from the New York Mets clears the way for a potential defensive standout in 2012.

Newest Mets everyday shortstop Ruben Tejada doesn’t hit or run like Reyes, but his defensive work rates higher statistically in one notable area.

Baseball Info Solutions and Fangraphs.com chart every play in every game, which allows the calculation of an advanced defensive metric, Out of Zone plays.

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.

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.

In addition to plotting the location of every batted ball, Baseball Info Solutions tags plays into 80 different subcategories of Good Fielding Plays (GFPs) and Defensive Misplays & Errors (DM&E).

Think of Good Fielding Plays as the sorts of plays you would see on Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems segment. Most are awarded for “the recording of an unlikely out” based on the judgment of the company’s video scout (a group of ex-amateur players) watching the game.

Tejada has 30 Good Fielding Plays in his 353 innings at shortstop last season (they came on 28 different plays—two plays resulted in his being awarded two Good Fielding Plays).

Examples of Tejada's best work included his diving catch against Clay Hensley in shallow centerfield on July 18, his ranging up the middle to snag a grounder and throw out Corey Hart on August 19, and his running catch of Chase Utley’s popup that ended with Tejada crashing into the Citizens Bank Park tarpaulin.

That’s a rate of one GFP credited for about every dozen innings played. That would put him on pace for more than 100 over a full season, a number that easily would have led major league shortstops last season.

Tejada had 12 Good Fielding Plays on ground ball outs (the kind most likely to earn Web Gem billing). Pro-rate that to 1,300 innings (approximately 144 games) and Tejada would be on pace to record 44 such plays in a season.

Last year’s leaders among shortstops in Good Fielding Plays on ground ball outs were Alex Gonzalez (Braves) and Brendan Ryan (Mariners). Each finished the season with 34 such plays.

Tejada had three Web Gems at shortstop last season. He’ll be looking to unseat Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who led the majors with 13, as Web Gem champ.


Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Jose Reyes will bring his high-energy style of play to the Miami Marlins in 2012

Free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes and the Miami Marlins agreed to terms on a 6-year, $106 million contract Sunday. It’s the second-largest contract in total value ever given to a shortstop behind the $252 million deal signed in 2000 by Alex Rodriguez, and it also more than doubles the largest contract ever given out by the Marlins.

It’s been a busy last few months for the Marlins, beginning with the hiring of manager Ozzie Guillen in September. Since then, the team has unveiled new uniforms, a new ballpark and a name change, as well as signing free-agent closer Heath Bell.

The addition of Reyes means one of the year’s top free agents is now claimed. Among free-agent position players, Reyes had the best 2011 season based on Wins Above Replacement, but injuries have been a concern lately. After playing in an average of 158 games a season from 2005 to 2008, Reyes has dealt with injury issues in each of the past three seasons, playing 36, 133, and 126 games from 2009 to 2011.

When he has played, he’s been more productive at the plate in the last three years, however. From 2005 until 2008, Reyes batted .287 with an OPS of .783. In the last three seasons, those numbers have risen to .306 and .804 respectively.

In 2011, Reyes won the NL batting title with a .337 average, and his .379 average against fastballs, cutters and sinkers was the best in the National League.

His value on the bases is also a big upside; since 2005, Reyes ranks second among active players in stolen bases (338) and first in triples with 93. He ranks fourth among shortstops in that span with 30.5 Wins Above Replacement, trailing Jimmy Rollins (31.1), Hanley Ramirez (31.1) and Derek Jeter (30.8).

The addition of Reyes likely means that Hanley Ramirez will be moving to third base. Both have missed significant time due to injury in the last two years, but when they were on the field last season, Reyes was a more productive player. He posted a career-high BABIP of .353, well above his .314 career BABIP. Ramirez, however, saw a career-low BABIP of .275.

Ramirez, Madson primed to be overpaid

November, 10, 2011
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While this offseason’s free agency class is headlined by the likes of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, there are a number of secondary options who stand to receive lucrative contracts in their own right. Two of them – third baseman Aramis Ramirez and reliever Ryan Madson – are likely to be a bit overvalued by suitors, but for entirely different reasons.

Aramis Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez
While Ramirez rebounded from a replacement level 2010 campaign to post a .306/.361/.510 line with 26 home runs and 93 RBI, there were indicators across-the-board that point towards a potentially quick decline for Ramirez, a concern relevant to any team interested in signing him.

Ramirez is becoming increasingly less patient as the years go by, both in the form of chasing pitches outside of the strike zone and in generating walks. In 2010 and 2011, Ramirez has posted walk rates of 6.7 and 6.9 percent, respectively, representing a clear decline from his 11.2 percent mark in 2008 and 8.2 in 2009. Perhaps more telling, the rate at which Ramirez is swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone is rapidly increasing since 2008.

In addition to the steady increase, Ramirez’s 2011 mark was the 5th-worst in the NL in 2011, behind only Alfonso Soriano, Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Michael Morse. Coupled with the decline in his plate discipline is the idea that he is not long for third base defensively. After posting a +11 mark at the hot corner according to Defensive Runs Saved in 2008, Ramirez has been below-average in each season since – and there’s a pattern; Ramirez graded out at -4 in 2009, -10 in 2010 and -12 in 2011. The 2011 mark ranked 2nd-to-last among NL third basemen.

Ryan Madson
Madson
Madson
This offseason, Madson is one of the most coveted free agent relievers in baseball. That was to be expected, fresh off his first full season as the Philadelphia Phillies closer, complete with 32 saves and a 2.37 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. Whether or not the reported lucrative deal with the Phillies materializes, someone will pay Madson. The reason he stands to make $40 million or more this offseason has little to do with a significant jump in his skills, however, and more to do with the fact he now has the official ‘closer’ label.

In 2010, Madson posted five saves. In 2011, he registered 32. That would seem to indicate a noticeable jump in value or performance from Madson. In reality, he was nearly identical, with some actual decline in key spots.

The difference was largely in an unsustainable home run rate – Madson allowed home runs on 0.9 percent of plate appearances, which was the 16th-best mark out of the 339 pitchers who registered at least 200 plate appearances this season. Had Madson entered the market after 2010 – when he demonstrated much the same skill set he did in 2011 – he would likely not have been offered anything approaching $40 million.

Whether or not offering a reliever that sort of money is a wise proposition is a different question entirely. In the history of the game, six relievers have received contracts of three or more years at an average annual value of at least $9 million – B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner, Francisco Cordero, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. It would be fair to say that only Rivera returned the sort of performance expected.

Rafael Soriano: signed after 2010 season; posted highest ERA (min 30 IP) since 2002 and missed much of the season due to injury.

Francisco Rodriguez: signed after 2008; 62 saves in final year with Los Angeles Angels, never saved more than 35 with New York Mets. Suspended in 2010, traded in 2011 to avoid vesting option.

Mariano Rivera: signed after 2007; posted ERA below 2.00 in each season of contract.

Francisco Cordero: signed after 2007; strikeout rate dropped from 10.0 to 7.8 to 7.3 to 5.4 over life of deal. Posted an Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) below 4.00 once during contract (2008).

Billy Wagner: signed after 2005; innings pitched and saves both declined each season he was with Mets.

B.J. Ryan: signed after 2005; Just 155 1/3 innings pitched in 5 seasons; missed majority of three different seasons (2007, 2009, 2010).

Clearly, the Phillies, or any other team, may give pause to signing Madson, or any other reliever, to such a lucrative contract given the history of performance for those who have received such a contract in the past.

Digging to find MLB free agent bargains

November, 8, 2011
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Much of the focus on the free agent frenzy this winter will be on the top tier of available players, such as Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes. However, there are several under-the-radar free agents that could provide significant value. Let’s take a look at a two players who had disappointing seasons on the surface, but who may be better than people think from a statistical perspective.

David DeJesus
One is former Kansas City Royals outfielder David DeJesus. Last year, DeJesus had his worst offensive season for the Oakland Athletics, setting career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

David DeJesus
DeJesus
However, some of his .240 batting average is likely a result of a .274 batting average on balls in play, well below his career mark of .316 and the lowest in a season for him.

Inside Edge does video tracking of every batted ball and discovered an interesting development for DeJesus; on balls categorized as “soft,” he hit .281 in 2010 (26-for-117), but just .136 (18-for-132) in 2011. That difference cost him more than 30 points on his overall batting average.


There were several positives for DeJesus last year, however. He showed good plate discipline, as his walk rate of 8.9 percent was just shy of his career-best, 9.1 percent in 2007.

Despite the low batting average, he still provided his usual power, with an isolated power (which measures extra-bases per at-bat) of .136 that was in line with his career mark of .137. And he was one of the best defensive outfielders, with 13 Defensive Runs Saved that was third among all right-fielders.

Chris Capuano
Chris Capuano won’t be stealing any headlines this winter, but he could be a steal for a team needing a starting pitcher to fill out the rotation. Capuano’s 4.55 ERA for the Mets was partly inflated by a .311 batting average on balls in play (career average of .300) that rose to .338 with men on base.

He also allowed a career-high 1.31 homers per nine innings, but that was affected by a career-high home run-to-flyball rate, as one out of every eight flyballs he allowed became a home run.

On a positive note, he struck out a career-best 8.1 batters per nine innings and walked only 2.5 batters per nine innings, the second-best rate of his career.

Looking just at the elements of his pitching that he can control – strikeouts, walks, home runs – and accounting for some bad luck on the flyballs he allowed, we see that Capuano pitched much better than his ERA may indicate.

His xFIP - Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, an ERA estimator that looks at strikeouts and walks, and presumes the pitcher will be league-average on his rate of fly balls per home run - was a career-best 3.66, just a few points higher than Jon Lester’s 3.62 last year.

Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez share flaws

November, 7, 2011
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US Presswire/Mark Baer, Scott Rovak
Jose Reyes (left) and Aramis Ramirez (right) both rate poorly by advanced defensive metrics.

One of the interesting trends in this year’s free agent market is that other than first baseman Albert Pujols, the players who are among the top performers offensively have defensive flaws statistically.

Case in point are the top-rated free agents on the left side of the infield, shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Jose Reyes
Though Reyes is coming off the best offensive season of his career and one in which he became the first New York Mets player to lead the league in batting average, he had some defensive shortcomings in 2011.

Baseball Info Solutions uses a metric, Defensive Runs Saved to evaluate performance in the field, factoring in a players ability to turn batted balls into outs and other skills related to his position (in Reyes’ case, turning double plays).

Reyes had -11 Defensive Runs Saved last year, the fifth-worst mark among all MLB shortstops and third-worst in NL. In the previous three years combined, he cost the Mets just three runs with his glove over nearly 3,000 innings.

There was a time when Reyes was a statistical standout defensively, but he hasn’t had a positive Runs Saved rating since 2007.

Last year, what hurt Reyes was that he struggled on balls hit to the shortstop-third base hole. He made 18 fewer plays than the average shortstop on balls hit in that area. On all other balls hit to him, Reyes rated well above average in getting outs.

Reyes had eight throwing errors, surpassed only by Yuniesky Betancourt (16) and Starlin Castro (11) among NL shortstops. He also had four bad throws which were charted as Defensive Misplays by Baseball Info Solutions, which tied for third-most among NL shortstops.
-- Katie Sharp

Aramis Ramirez
While Ramirez is comparable to Adrian Beltre offensively, there is no comparison on the defensive end.
Beltre, who turned 32 in April, got a five-year $80 million contract from the Rangers last offseason.

Will Ramirez, who turns 34 in June and opted out from big money in his final season with the Cubs, get anything close to that the same neighborhood?

If so, it will be from a team willing to overlook his statistics-based defensive issues.

In each of the last four seasons, Ramirez has posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved, with that metric showing that he has cost his team 35 runs in that span. That’s third-worst among major league third basemen. Ramirez’s plus-minus rating on ground balls showed him to be 54 bases below the average third baseman since 2008.

In addition to calculating Baseball Info Solutions does video review of every play, categorizing misplays by type. Ramirez doesn’t fare well by that measurement either.

Ramirez had 48 Defensive Misplays and Errors, second in the majors among third basemen to Mark Reynolds.

That included nine throwing errors (tied for third-most among third basemen) and 18 balls that went through him or off his body, on which he was not charged an error, but a hitter reached base (most among third basemen).
--Mark Simon

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