Posted by John Autin on June 29, 2011
[Sure, Cliff Lee's shutout streak is *the* story tonight, and Andy's got that discussion going. And for real drama, the Mets broke their nearly two-year grand slam drought, and liked it so much that they did it again the next inning. But still -- this is my story, and I'm stickin' to it.]
Playing in his 1,000th career game Tuesday night, it took just 5 innings for Jose Reyes to go 4 for 4 with 3 runs, a double, and his 15th triple, in the Mets' 79th game. He remains on pace for several Mets season records as well as some numbers that haven't been seen in 80 years or more.
For starters, Reyes has hit more triples in the first 79 games than any other player since 1919 (which is the limit of B-R's game-search database). Here are the guys who had 14 triples in the first 79 games:
|Paul Waner||1927||Ind. Games||69||60||34||4||14||0||25||7||0||.567||.612||1.100||1.712|
|Lou Gehrig||1926||Ind. Games||68||55||29||2||14||2||22||10||7||.527||.600||1.182||1.782|
|Curtis Granderson||2007||Ind. Games||60||53||22||0||14||2||16||6||11||.415||.475||1.057||1.531|
|Kiki Cuyler||1925||Ind. Games||66||59||31||2||14||4||19||5||5||.525||.576||1.237||1.813|
|Goose Goslin||1925||Ind. Games||54||47||22||2||14||0||15||4||4||.468||.528||1.106||1.635|
|Rod Carew||1977||Ind. Games||55||53||28||3||14||1||16||2||3||.528||.545||1.170||1.715|
|Johnny Barrett||1944||Ind. Games||54||48||21||1||14||0||14||6||3||.438||.500||1.042||1.542|
Four of those seven players wound up with at least 20 triples, led by Cuyler's 26. Rod Carew finished with just 16, though he didn't really slump in the 2nd half, hitting .381 and slugging .549; only the triples dried up.
With 177 Total Bases, Reyes has passed Prince Fielder (21 HRs, with a .305 BA) for 2nd place in the NL, just a few bags behind Matt Kemp (22 HRs, .336 BA). No Met has ever led the league in Total Bases.
When I last ran his projections two weeks ago, Jose was on pace for 235 hits, 27 triples and 356 Total Bases, despite having just 3 HRs. He still has 3 HRs, but has picked up the pace elsewhere; here are his projected season totals, most of them Mets season records:
- 363 Total Bases (Mets record = 334)
- 240 Hits (Mets record = 227)
- 80 Extra-Base Hits (Mets record = 80)
- 131 Runs (Mets record = 127)
- 30 Triples (Mets record = 21)
- 43 doubles (Mets record = 44)
- 59 Stolen Bases (Mets record = 78)
OK, he's not going to set the Mets' SB record; but then, he already has that one.
A few of those marks would have historic significance beyond the Mets:
- 30 Triples would be the 2nd most in modern MLB history; Chief Wilson hit 36 in 1912. No one has had as many as 24 triples since 1925 (Kiki Cuyler had 26), and that's the only season of 24+ triples in the live-ball era.
- 240 Hits would be the highest NL figure since 1930, when Bill Terry set the NL record of 254 hits. No NL player has reached 230 hits since MVP Pete Rose nailed it on the nose in 1973. Since 1998, only one NL player has had even 220 hits (Juan Pierre, 2004, 221 hits).
- 363 Total Bases would be the 2nd highest total by a player with less than 10 HRs. In 1911, Ty Cobb had 367 Total Bases with 8 HRs, batting .420 with 248 hits, 47 doubles and 24 triples. Note that, while 1911 was the dead-ball era, the 1911 AL was actually a much higher scoring league than the 2011 NL: 1911 AL - .273 BA, 4.60 runs per game; 2011 NL - .251 BA, 4.10 R/G.
Here are the 8 players in MLB history with at least 330 Total Bases and less than 10 HRs:
|5||Shoeless Joe Jackson||337||7||1911||23||CLE||AL||147||641||571||126||233||45||19||83||56||0||0||8||6||41||0||.408||.468||.590||1.058||*98|
|8||Shoeless Joe Jackson||331||3||1912||24||CLE||AL||154||653||572||121||226||44||26||90||54||0||0||12||15||35||20||.395||.458||.579||1.036||*98|
Of the six 240-hit seasons in NL history, three came in 1930, when the league as a whole batted .303. The 2011 NL average was .251 through Monday.
For what it's worth, Jose's 117 hits through the first 79 games are 7 more than Ichiro Suzuki had at the same point in his record 262-hit season. But Ichiro got really hot after that, batting .423 the rest of the year.
Reyes walked in his 5th trip tonight and was relieved of further duty with the score 13-2, so no chance for the cycle or for his first 5-hit game of the year (and 2nd of his career). But he deserves a little rest; Jose has missed just 3 games this year (on bereavement leave) and had missed just one inning in the rest of the schedule. And he's hit for the cycle before.
Reyes also had 4 hits and 3 runs in the Mets' previous game, on Sunday. He's the first Met with back-to-back 4-hit games since he did it himself in 2006; the club record 4-hit streak is 3 by Brett Butler in 1995.
And in a sign of the lower-scoring times, Reyes is just the 4th player this year to score 3+ runs in back-to-back games.
So, what might Jose Reyes do in the 2nd half? Historically, he's had almost the same batting and slugging average before and after the All-Star break, though distributed differently. He has hit more triples in the first half, averaging 1 triple every 10 games before the break (not counting this year), and 1 every 13 games in the 2nd half. But his HR rate has been higher after the break, averaging a HR each 11 games in the 2nd half, as opposed to 1 HR per 14 games in the 1st half. Is it only natural that his triples would decline in the 2nd half a long season? Perhaps, but that theory is not confirmed by his rate of steal attempts, which is higher in the 2nd half.
The deeper question about Jose's 2nd half is, how much of it will he spend with the Mets? But the trade that seemed a foregone conclusion a month ago seems almost inconceivable now. Consider:
With Tuesday's win, the Mets moved over .500 for the first time since the opening week. And with the prospect of David Wright coming back in a month or so, and Johan Santana possibly returning in August -- and the outside chance that Jason Bay's grand slam tonight wakes him from his 15-month malaise -- the Mets have a good shot to remain competitive all season. I'm realistic enough to acknowledge that the club as currently constituted is playing over its head, and even the return of those two stars is not likely to drive them into playoff contention. But for a franchise with such a fragile relationship to its fan base, I think they need a full, competitive season even more than they need the rebuilding pieces that a Reyes trade would bring.
And who knows? The Mets are only 5 games back in the wild-card race (assuming Atlanta holds onto its late lead in Seattle). If the club is still that close to the playoff chase a month from now as the trade deadline approaches, Sandy Alderson would be nuts to trade Reyes, because there will be a fan exodus. Yes, the fans want to win, and perhaps trading Reyes would be the wisest way to pursue that long-term goal. But the fans also want to see an exciting team on the field right now. The Mets have been a second-half disappointment over the past 4 season. Last year, they were 44-34 through June, but finished 4 games under .500. In 2010, they were near .500 through June and 3 games out of 1st place, but wound up with 92 losses. And in 2008 and '07, they blew substantial division leads in September. It may be true that Jose's big year will price him right out of Flushing this fall. But the fans would better tolerate letting him get his insane contract somewhere else than they would exiling him away in the midst of such brilliance.
A general manager doesn't always have the luxury of taking the long view. Sandy Alderson is in a bind; whatever decision he makes is fraught with risk, and every Reyes triple, every Mets win turns the knot tighter. In the end, I think he'll find that the only thing he can do is lie back and enjoy it.