Time to appreciate who IS here, Ruben Tejada

Image by Michael G. Baron

After nine great years, Jose Reyes has finally moved on from the New York Mets.  While I, like most, was sad to see him go, I’m ready to stop focusing on who won’t be with the team in 2012 and appreciate who will be.  I don’t blame Reyes for leaving, there is a business side to professional baseball and from that standpoint the Mets made his decision easy.  As a fan of the New York Mets, much more so than Jose Reyes, I need a new outlet for my devotion.

Photo by Michael G. Baron

What better place to start than with a talented 22-year-old infielder that lit up the highlight reels day after day in the field while learning (on the job I might add) how to become a big league hitter.  That player is Ruben Tejada, the young man most seem confident will take over at short for New York this season.  He is not Jose Reyes, nobody will ever mistake the two, but he is our shortstop and in my mind, it’s time to appreciate the player he is.

In 2010, as a 20-year-old rookie, Ruben Tejada hit just .213 while striking out once in every 5.68 at-bats and had a .086 walk per plate appearance ratio (BB/PA).  In 2011, during Ruben’s sophomore campaign, he managed to put up an impressive .284 batting average and cut down on his strikeouts (1 per every 6.6 AB’s) while walking a little more (.093 BB/PA ratio).

I know I know, nothing to make you forget about Jose Reyes, but plate discipline is key in the development of a young player and 2011 was a small step in the right direction for Tejada.  Tejada saw more pitches per at-bat in 2011 than he did in 2010 and who can forget this kid turning an 0-2 count to a 16-pitch at-bat that ended up in a walk back in late May?

Nothing flashy there at all, but it’s easy to be optimistic about the kinda fight Tejada showed in certain situations last season.  The then 21-year-old did not flop in pressure situations, excelling to a .305 batting average with runners on base, maintaining a .282 avg (.390 OBP) with runners in scoring position, and hitting at a ridiculous .545 clip with the bases loaded.

Still not finding any hope in Ruben’s future?  Well, let’s flip the field and scroll through the dozens of highlights on MLB.com for a video collection of Ruben’s finer defensive moments in 2011.  As T.O. once said, “get your popcorn ready.”

Let’s start with the arm:

How about his range into foul territory:

His range into shallow center:

Need to see some ups?

How about a healthy demonstration of baseball IQ:

and again….

Ironically, this play may have helped Jose Reyes win the batting title:

But it’s all just another day in the field for Tejada:

You don’t need advanced statistics to see how special Tejada is in the field, but if you wanted them, Mark Simon of ESPN New York delivered:

Image by Michael G. Baron

Newest Mets everyday shortstop Ruben Tejada doesn’t hit or run like Reyes, but his defensive work rates higher statistically in one notable area.

Baseball Info Solutions and Fangraphs.com chart every play in every game, which allows the calculation of an advanced defensive metric, Out of Zone plays.

A fielder gets credit for an Out of Zone play when he gets an out on a ball fielded in a spot in which fewer than 50 percent of players at his position recorded an out within that 365-day period.

In 353 innings at shortstop, Tejada was credited with 24 Out of Zone plays. That’s a significant number.

Tejada’s rate of one Out of Zone play for every 14.7 innings played ranked best among all major league shortstops that played at least 350 innings at the position last season.

It’s a fancy way to explain what you see in the videos above, Ruben Tejada, as Simon says, is a defensive whiz.  He’s also likely to be the starting shortstop for my favorite baseball team next season, the New York Mets.  So while Jose has left, Ruben is just fully arriving on the scene and I, for one, intend to appreciate the player on the field wearing the blue and orange in 2012.

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  • Anonymous

    Except for the Media this week i do not see the anti feelings towards Reuben. We are lucky to have him and i believe he will be a good player . He is not Reyes and its not fair to expect him to be Reyes.  But the fans are not anti Reuben  they even made a sandwich after him.  But i wanted Reuben to play second base with Reyes as SS thats what been saying pre Reyes signing in Miami

  • Anonymous

    Wow!!! 11 AB’s with the bases loaded that produced 16 RBI!!!! Thats like half of Bays Season

  • http://twitter.com/Seatcrew Seatcrew

    Great post – lot of things to be excited about for Mets fans. We can’t wait to get back to Citi field and show the Mets, from Citi to Savannah that we’re excited about this team’s future.

  • Jayw49

    Have another one on me

  • http://twitter.com/ChristinaMon15 Christina M

    Would anyone venture to say that Tejada may be as big of a defensive wiz as Rey Ordonez?

  • http://twitter.com/ChristinaMon15 Christina M

    Would anyone venture to say that Tejada may be as big of a defensive wiz as Rey Ordonez?

  • http://twitter.com/ChristinaMon15 Christina M

    Would anyone venture to say that Tejada may be as big of a defensive wiz as Rey Ordonez?

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say this, but the truth is Tejada can’t hit. He along with Thole will make this a very long summer.

  • Fooshnik

    I love his smarts and his slick fielding. At times he reminds me of Fonzi – As long as he improves his bat discipline and bulks up as he gets older who knows. I do know that this guy needs a standing O on opening day. 

  • Anonymous

    Good article…thanks for posting.

  • Pingback: The Ruben Tejeda Appreciation thread - NY Sports Day Forums

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y5EF3RUHZ42ASYOUEYZUDYDZTQ brian

    I don’t agree with this thought at all.  The average NL SS in 2011 posted a .688 OPS while Tejada had a .696 OPS.  At C the 2011 NL average was .708 while Thole had a .690 mark.  These two are league-average players right now and are improving.  In the second half of last year, Tejada had a .745 OPS while Thole’s was .709

    If the Mets’ biggest problems in 2012 are Tejada and Thole, we’ll be in very good shape.

  • Anonymous

    Very good article! Some Mets fans needed and still need to read this article. This Ruben Tejada.