Pick ’em: Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins

This is the first post in a series called “Pick ’em” that I decided to run to compare somewhat similar players at a position. The premise is that you get to pick one of the two players to fill the position on your team. Of course, I’ll give my thoughts and then let you have your say in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

I decided to start this series with Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. It’s a timely comparison with the Mets on the verge of sweeping the Phillies tonight on national TV. I think it would be universally recognized that these are two of the premier shortstops in the National League if not all of baseball. For the purpose of this comparison we’ll ignore any current injuries. Specifically, Jimmy Rollins has a sprained ankle that we’ll disregard.

There are, of course, other tremendous shortstops out there that may be compared to Reyes in the future such as Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Stephen Drew, and even Alex Rodriguz (the best shortstop in the world that doesn’t play shortstop), among others.

As with all things baseball, money is a big factor in deciding on a players value to a team. Does the players current contract match their actual value to a team? It’s subjective but important to understand the players compensation. Here’s a summary of Reyes and Rollins’ current contracts:

  • Jose Reyes– This is the second season of a 4-year/$23.25 million contract. He’s still owed $18.75 million including the 2008 season and has a $50,000 bonus for All-Star game appearances. The team holds a $11 million option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout on the option.
  • Jimmy Rollins– This is the third season of 5-year/$40 million contract. He’s still owed $22 million including the 2008 season. The team has an option for 2011 at $8.5 million with a $2 million buyout.

The contracts are pretty comparable. There isn’t a huge difference that would lean me toward one player or the other based on their current contract situation.

Phillies NLDS game 2 - Jimmy Rollins lead-off HR

Creative Commons License photo credit: guano

Jimmy Rollins will be 30 years old in November, while Jose Reyes will be 25 in June. There’s one edge to Reyes. Players most productive seasons are often in their late 20’s and early 30’s. This concept will probably become more pronounced now that baseball is actually testing for steroids but that’s a post for another day.

I think the best way to look at their offense is to compare their 162 game career averages. That will remove time lost to injuries from the equation. Here are the numbers:

Reyes– .284/.330/.427 114 Runs 195 Hits 32 Doubles 14 Triples 12 Home Runs 67 RBI’s 63 Stolen Bases 16 Caught stealing 47 Walks 82 Strike outs

Rollins– .278/.331/.442 112 Runs 190 Hits 39 Doubles 12 Triples 17 Home Runs 71 RBI’s 36 Stolen bases 8 Caught stealing 53 Walks 93 Strikeouts

I’m amazed at how similar their numbers are. The only really glaring difference is the stolen bases that Reyes has. I’ll give a slight edge to Reyes based on the stolen bases but again, that’s only slight because Rollins has a slightly higher slugging percentage and more average home runs.

To compare their defense I decided to defer to the 2008 Bill James Handbook for the evaluation. Rollins is considered to be one of the top fielding shortstops in the Major League Baseball last season. He’s ranked as the fourth best shortstop over the last three seasons. The 2007 fielding statistics are:

Reyes– 160 games 1431.1 innings 203 Put outs 445 Assists 12 Errors 88 Double plays .982 Fielding percentage 4.07 Range factor

Rollins– 162 games 1441.1 innings 227 Put outs 479 Assists 11 Errors 110 Double plays .985 Fielding percentage 4.41 Range factor

Clearly, Rollins is a better fielding shortstop than Reyes. The edge to Rollins here. He’s got more range and had one less error in ten more innings than Reyes played.

The next thing I wanted to look at was awards and Hall of Fame potential. Again, Rollins has a big edge even if solely based on the fact that he was the 2007 National League MVP. Reyes has never finished higher than seventh (in 2006). Although to be fair Reyes only had 4.111 seasons of major league service as of the 2007 season, and Rollins had 7.015 seasons. Rollins has a greater body of work available.

I looked at Baseball Reference to evaluate Hall of Fame potential for each. Currently, neither player is a likely Hall of Famer but Rollins is approximately twice as likely to make it in.

Before I summarize what we’ve learned, I should disclose that I’m a HUGE Jose Reyes fan. No surprise there since you’re reading a Mets blog. Reyes is a guy that I’ll pay to watch play, he’s that much fun to watch. His enthusiasm is contagious and comes through loud and clear to anyone watching him. That’s my full disclosure.

The conclusion of this Pick ’em is that it’s incredibly close between these two players. Reyes has much more speed but the value of speed is somewhat debatable if you’re a Moneyball disciple. Rollins is a much better fielder than Reyes at what may be the most important defensive position on the field.

Reyes is much younger, especially in “baseball years”. He’s about five years younger which is about the average career in the major leagues (5.6 years). The importance of age shouldn’t be underestimated in professional sports.

Based on the statistics it would be a rational decision to take Jimmy Rollins in the Pick ’em. He’s had a better career than Reyes. I never said that I was rational though. I’m a Mets fan. I’ve got to go with Reyes and believe that over the next five years he’ll mature and improve and produce more than Rollins. Let me know if you agree.

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About Dave Doyle

Although I don’t have a degree in journalism, I love writing about the New York Mets. I’m the typical writer without access. My only accessibility to the Mets is sitting in the stands (often the upper tank) and watching on TV like most fans. I’m not a member of the media, just a fan expressing opinions.