Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 12 September 2007
Jose Reyes isn’t going to set the NL record for stolen bases - at least not this year. But he is on a pace to steal upwards of 85 bases and with his newfound aggressiveness on the base path 90 stolen bags isn’t out of the question. And that aggressiveness is good. The biggest criticism of Reyes this season has been that at times he seems lackadaisical about certain aspects of the game.
So, the Mets did what any team with a top young speedster and a big budget would do. The hired the guy, with the biggest mouth and biggest ego, (and the skills to back them up) to help teach Reyes so he will grow into his potential. And if Rickey Henderson can teach Reyes anything, it's about the art of base running and how to drive opposing pitchers crazy.
Over the past months Henderson has been working with Reyes to increase his presence on the base path. He has been distracting pitchers, he has been stealing bases, and he has been the most exciting base runner in the game - and not because of his success rate.
Reyes is running on teams that are anticipating him. And while that doesn’t mean that he won’t make to second base, it has meant that the percentage of caught stealing and pickoffs involving Reyes has gone up dramatically while the number of attempts has gone down.
Part of that certainly has to do with the fact that Reyes has been struggling to get on base since the All Star Break. His On Base Percentage since then is approximately 60 points lower than it was in the first half and his average is a pedestrian .262 since then. And when Reyes isn’t on base, the opposing pitchers don’t worry half as much.
Considering that the Mets have plenty of fleet footed players including Wright, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Gomez the team has a strong running game. But no other player in the National League changes the way an opposing pitcher plays the game in the same way that Reyes does.
With Jose on base the game slows down. He distracts both the fans and the opposing team. Pitchers truncate their delivery and throw to whichever base time and time again. Catchers call more pitchouts, the opposing manager spends more time trying to guess WHEN Reyes is going to stop dancing off the base and start running.
And the batter is the beneficiary. While the opposing team is engaged in the mental and physical aspect of keeping Reyes from indulging in base larceny - a lot less thought goes into the pitches that Paul LoDuca, Carlos Beltran and David Wright are seeing. At least until they hit the ball and Reyes streaks home.
And Reyes does that a lot and will for many years to come.