2012 Miami Marlins What Went Wrong: Jose Reyes's Defense

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Fish Stripes discussed what went right this season with the excellent debut of Jose Reyes. But even Reyes suffered from a potential fatal flaw in 2012, and that was his potential sudden decline in defensive skill.

Earlier today, Fish Stripes continued the 2012 Miami Marlins Season Review and our first-week feature of What Went Right / What Went Wrong with a review of the excellent debut season of Jose Reyes. Reyes signed a six-year, $104 million contract with the Miami Marlins before 2012, so his arrival came with a lot of expectations. Despite a season full of failure to meet expectations, Reyes rose to the occasion and actually met the standards asked of him before the season and put a strong year.

But even Jose Reyes had his own 2012 problems. With Reyes, the issue was, surprisingly, with the glove.

Now, it is hard to believe as a Marlins fan that a shortstop other than Hanley Ramirez was having trouble with the glove at the position. Marlins fans have been accustomed to watching Ramirez botch and boot balls on a semi-regular basis and cost the team runs over the course of a season. During his career as a shortstop, Ramirez cost his team about nine runs a season compared to the average shortstop. While talented and gifted with quickness, Ramirez could never use it all effectively, and his arm was erratic at best.

For Fish fans, it must have been a relative godsend to watch Jose Reyes man shortstop in 2012. For one, the errant throws seemingly disappeared in 2012. In watching most of this season, it never seemed to me that Reyes made the bad throws that Ramirez commonly tossed over to first base. Yet in terms of throwing errors, Ramirez and Reyes actually seemed even in 2012. Ramirez averaged 8.8 throwing errors a year in his full seasons from 2006 to 2010, while Reyes committed eight throwing errors this season.

It did also feel as though Reyes had better range to the second base bag side than Ramirez did. In watching games, Reyes often ended up snagging balls up the middle from a standing position that required Ramirez to be on his knees and on the ground diving to gather. Of course, given that this is a mental account of what I have seen, this analysis falls prey to recall bias on my part.

Likewise, my recalling of the 2012 season defensively for Reyes also reminds me of numerous times when he was slow to get to balls heading towards the third base side of the Marlins' infield. With Ramirez and later Greg Dobbs covering much of third base, Reyes generally had more responsibility to that side as well, and I distinctly recalled thinking during games that Reyes was slow to that side and allowed more balls to sneak through for singles.

In total, however, I would not have rated Reyes as any more than a bit below league average at shortstop, especially given what I had seen as an excellent arm. But if you asked the defensive statistics in 2012, it seems they disagree.

Reyes, System Runs Above Average
UZR -3
DRS -17
TotalZone -7
FRAA -17

With the exception of the UZR numbers that initially agreed with my assessment of Reyes's defense, the numbers do not look good. If you take the average of these numbers, Reyes supposedly cost the Marlins 11 runs versus the average in 1410 innings this season, more than what UZR has Ramirez costing the Fish on average in his career.

Examining one season of Reyes's defense and making a judgment based on that is perhaps a bit brash. Looking at the results of the 2012 Fans Scouting Report, Reyes's numbers look better by comparison. Eleven Marlins fans thus far have voted on the Fans Scouting Report, and while that is not a large enough sample to make great judgments of Reyes's play, it is good enough to give us a different perspective on his defense. The voters on the FSR had Reyes as a better-than-average defender overall, but when compared to other shortstops, his name sits next to players like Rafael Furcal (-5 runs averaged among the four statistics in 1034 innings), Ian Desmond (-4 runs in 1139 innings) and Cliff Pennington (+4 runs in 805 innings).

So even in looking at comparable players via the naked eye, we still cannot be certain how good Reyes was in 2012 on the defensive side. My estimate is certainly closer to those of Furcal and Desmond listed than the average Reyes put up, but I cannot be certain at all about my estimate because of my lack of professional scouting experience. What did you Fish Stripes readers think of Jose Reyes's defense in 2012? Give us your thoughts on the comments!

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