April 16, 2007

SKIP THE EASY STUFF:

Reyes's Plate Discipline Getting Better and Better (TIM MARCHMAN, April 16, 2007, NY Sun)

The great frustration of April baseball is that it's almost impossible to tell what's real. If the Atlanta Braves win seven of their first eight games, does it mean that we should reevaluate how good they are? If the Yankees see three-fifths of their rotation join the disabled list before the season's third week, should we quickly knock them back of the Red Sox? In both cases, probably not, but then it's not hard to imagine an October in which we see the Braves hoisting a trophy in their locker room or bitter Yankees talking about how the season started off wrong and never quite got right. It's not good to make too much of what happens during a short stretch of baseball, but neither is it good to treat the season's first few weeks as if they're entirely random and tell us nothing.

All of this brings us around to Jose Reyes. Watching him grow, watching baseball talent become baseball skill, has been the most delightful experience in New York baseball in the last two years. Take Friday's 3–2 win over Washington. Reyes led off with a single on a 2–2 count, advanced on a ground out, took a base on a wild pitch, and scored on a second ground out. There's nothing especially remarkable about this sequence, except the vast array of opportunities for out-making it would present most 23-year-old players. Waiting for the right pitch on the right count, twice taking bases on balls hit on the ground, and being able to tell the difference between the sort of wild pitch that will allow you to move to third and the sort that will get you pegged out there — a great deal of maturity went into that one, decisive run, and there's no doubt it's real.

Still, Reyes enters play today having already drawn eight walks on the year. For a player who drew 27 in 161 games just two years ago, it's a remarkable achievement. Reyes is on pace to draw 118 walks, and while he almost certainly won't reach that mark, you don't have to attribute more significance to two weeks' worth of baseball than they can bear to easily envision him drawing 75 free passes this year. That would be half again as many as he drew last year in a season in which he doubled the previous year's total and would basically make the difference between his being a star player and his being an MVP-class player.


But everyone knew the Braves were the best team in the East, the Yankees weren't a playoff team, and Jose would emerge as the best player in baseball. What'll be interesting are the surprises--can the Reds, Brewers, Pirates take a step up? The young Devil Rays and D'backs? and just how monstrous a year will A-rod put up before telling Yankee fans to kiss his Silver Bat goodbye?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 16, 2007 6:44 AM
Comments

Saw fans in April and May. It's the same every year.

By June you'll be admitting that you've over-rated the Sawx.

By August you'll be conceding the East title to the Yanks.

The great advantage the Yanks have is that they play in the AL East, and none of the other teams are that good. Just like last year. Who's going to beat them? Only the Jays have a chance, and that's if they get 30 starts from fragile arms like Halliday's.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 16, 2007 2:31 PM

The Yankees can win if they get Hughes and Clemens in the rotation quickly enough and trade Chamberlain, Betances, and Tabata for a 3rd starter and three bullpen arms. But that's only the Division. They'll still have too many of their elderly hurt by playoff time to do much but bow out meekly again, their annual tradition this century.

Posted by: oj at April 16, 2007 4:30 PM
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