Any lineup that New York Mets manager Terry Collins sends out to the field without Jose Reyes included is a less-than-stellar version.Chicks dig the longball. You know it. I know it. Even your neighbor who’s procreated a ridiculous eight times and has no time to even sit down in peace for a singular minute … knows it.
We surely know Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine knew it during Major League Baseball’s most controversial era of all-time.
Another person who realizes “chicks dig the longball” is New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.
The man who constructed the late 1980s Oakland Athletics, the very same A’s who employed Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and won the 1989 World Series, has always fueled his front office career on the longball. He loves power at the plate that blends beautifully with on-base percentage.
“A base on balls and a blast” has always been one of Sandy’s mantras.
The problem with this belief comes when the man picking the players goes overboard with his philosophy. That’s exactly what happened with his Mets the last few seasons as his Amazins have ranked near the top of baseball as a club in home runs since they turned the corner in 2015:
- 2016: 218 HR, 5th in MLB
- 2015: 177 HR, 8th in MLB
Unfortunately, it hasn’t led to run-producing success.
A season ago the club finished 26th in the land with 671 runs scored. In 2015, they finished 18th with 683. Their power simply hasn’t produced a potent offensive team. Sure, injuries have been a major part of it. No club can fire on all cylinders when major pieces are missing.
At the same time, something was always missing.
That something was a presence of speed.
Enter Jose Reyes, a Met at heart who happened to turn into a Met again thanks to unique circumstances.
At first, much of the percentage was against the incredibly low-risk signing. They simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the act Reyes executed that warranted his 50-game MLB suspension. Soon enough, most of that was forgotten.
Reyes turned into the ultimate spark plug at the top of the lineup. He instantly allowed Curtis Granderson to vacate the leadoff spot and fit right into the middle of the lineup, allowing him to produce stellar end-of-season numbers (6 HR, 9 RBI in August and 8 HR, 21 RBI, .286 BA in September).
Just take a quick glance at New York’s runs over the six months in 2016:
- April of 2016: 107
- May of 2016: 87
- June of 2016: 86
- July of 2016: 101
- August of 2016: 142
- September of 2016: 141
Suddenly, instead of a slow, station-to-station lineup, New York was blessed with a speedy leadoff guy who could set the table. This led to the bloated offensive months of August and September.
Entering 2017, nothing has changed and Jose Reyes remains the team’s only speedy option of the kind.
When David Wright is healthy, Terry Collins and the organization pencils him in at third base while owning one of the middle-of-the-order spots in the lineup. With Neil Walker manning second and Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, Reyes would, in essence, technically hold the tag of super-utility man.
This is not right.
A lineup without Reyes would force an over-the-hill (in terms of speed) Granderson as the leadoff man. No lineup should be so slow to actually see that go down. Juan Lagares, for all of his defensive wizardry, isn’t a leadoff hitter. He can get it done in a pinch, but that’s it. Literally, there aren’t any other options for the No. 1 slot.
I mean, “What would TC do if Reyes was lost for a significant period of time?” He’d have to go to Grandy and all Mets fans would have to go nuts.
Take a look at the stolen base rankings for New York over the last two seasons:
- 2016: 42 SB, 28th in MLB
- 2015: 51 SB, 29th in MLB
This has always prompted fans to call for TC to send players more. It just doesn’t work, though. His lineup isn’t setup for speed.
With Reyes, at least, the lineup becomes halfway “balanced.” The reason this is important comes down the idea that successful postseason lineups deploy balance. Look at the last handful of champions … most can at least play a portion of the small-ball game when necessary.
- 2016 Cubs: 66 SB, 20th in MLB
- 2015 Royals: 104 SB, 5th in MLB
- 2014 Giants: 56 SB, 29th in MLB
- 2013 Red Sox: 123 SB, 4th in MLB
- 2012: Giants: 118 SB, 10 in MLB
Aside from the Cubs a season ago (who possessed the ultimate roster depth) and Giants of 2014 (who allowed Madison Bumgarner to win the title singlehandedly), many of the October success stories at the plate come via the stolen base. It comes, obviously, because we understand hitting cools down and every situation regarding every play becomes that much more important, magnified.
Does this mean the Mets can’t with the World Series if they finish last in stolen bases? Of course, not. In 2015 they reached the World Series. (Most of the reason comes in the form of Daniel Murphy heroics, but I digress …)
The actual number isn’t the important thing here. What matters is the lineup possessing at least one guy who brings that element of speed. Other than Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto (to a degree), the other power-hitters in the lineup fall in the slow category.
Ultimately, as painful as it may be (witnessing Wright already down and out), it turns out to be the best thing for the everyday ball club.
Jose Reyes brings an incredible degree of value to the lineup that cannot be analyzed with pure numbers. Since he’s here, he must start and be used.
Any lineup without him penciled in as the leadoff guy isn’t an authentic 2017 New York Mets lineup whatsoever.