You heard rumblings before Saturday’s game against the Marlins that Jerry Manuel was going to mix things up. Changes were going to be made to the lineup in an effort to spark some offense. Well, Jerry did mix things up but it was hardly the great makeover as it had initially sounded. The one and only expected change that did occur was that Jose Reyes was back in the familiar leadoff spot and Angel Pagan landed in the three hole.
Manuel could have done a little bit more to tinker with the lineup such as move Rod Barajas up a notch in the order since he ‘s been on a good roll showing consistent power. It would also allow Jeff Francoeur to drop down a spot in the order to take a little pressure off of him since he’s been struggling. Pagan in the 3rd spot on Saturday was an interesting choice, as he doesn’t fit the image of a typical 3-hole hitter, but Manual does get kudos for imagination. Manuel obviously wasn’t entirely sold on that decision since Pagan was moved down to the seventh spot in the lineup for Sunday’s game. And with nothing else really working with the offense, Jerry might as well throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.
But the good news is that Reyes seemed to respond to his familiar spot at the top of the order as he commented that it felt like he was “home”. He went 2-for-5 on Saturday and 1-for-5 on Sunday. After some initial success batting third, Reyes faltered producing a slash line of .207/.253/.280. Not noted as one of the most patient hitters in baseball, Reyes seemed to be forcing the issue trying to generate some offense. But in attempt to be aggressive, his walk rate suffered, walking just 5.7% of the time. More significantly, he appeared to be reaching for pitches out of the strike zone more often at a rate of 34.8% compared to his career average of 25.3%.
The “Reyes Experiment” seemed a risky proposition as best. After just 11 games in the leadoff spot at the beginning of the season, Manuel made the decision to move Reyes down to the 3rd position. To some degree this made sense, especially with Carlos Beltran still on the mend from knee surgery. Manuel was obviously looking for a more offensively balanced lineup and with Reyes batting third, Pagan could provide the speed at the top of the lineup.
But was this really the most prudent move at the time? After all Reyes had virtually missed the entire season in 2009 playing just 36 games last year, logging only 147 AB’s. This was the same guy, while apparently healthy from leg issue, missed all of spring training with a hyperactive thyroid issue that hampered his ability to prepare properly for the beginning of the season. He rushed to get back on the field and made it back by April 10th only missing a handful of games. But with an abbreviated spring training, a thyroid condition that needed to be watched and managed and missing most of the 2009 season, Manuel felt that Reyes would be prepared to take on the responsibility of batting third in the lineup. A role that he had never taken on before. Forget about getting comfortable with a game that he hadn’t played in almost a year. Forget about just getting acclimated with a role that he’s comfortable with. Manuel opted to to put him in unfamiliar territory. The end result was that Reyes changed his game and his approach at the plate and struggled.
It was a rash move by Manuel. A move that makes one wonder if the manager truly understands his players. Whether he knows how to get the most out of them and puts them in positions where they have the best opportunities for success. To his credit, at least of now, the “Reyes Experiment” has been put aside. With the Mets reeling of late, at least Manuel recognized that it was time to abandon this idea. You have to give credit to Manuel for thinking outside of the box. But the timing of it is where the fault lies.
Hopefully now that Reyes is “home” he will be able to excel, not just with his bat but with his legs. Hopefully the team will excel along with him.