If the Tigers Go After Jose Reyes, it Should be as a Second Baseman


One of the biggest names on baseball’s free agent market this offseason – and probably the single biggest name that could be a fit for the Tigers – is Jose Reyes. Of course, the Tigers already had an All-Star shortstop this year with Jhonny Peralta, but that doesn’t stop Tigers fans from dreaming about the possibilities of adding Reyes while trying Peralta out at second or third base.

Reyes comes with the perception of being fast and agile while Peralta’s reputation is slow and stiff. The automatic assumption (in the fantasy land where the Tigers end up with Reyes) is that Reyes would be the better shortstop, but is that really the case? Not according to what the advanced defensive metrics say about each player’s last 3,000 innings at the position.

Here’s a look at Peralta’s and Reyes’ defensive abilities as calculated by Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), and Total Zone* (TZL) from 2008-2011 (all values represent runs saved above average, data from FanGraphs.com).


*The Total Zone numbers do not yet include 2011.

And if you don’t like advanced metrics and prefer the old fashioned ones, then compare Jhonny’s .983 fielding percentage to Jose’s .971 (over the same time period).

The rebuttal to any defensive metrics is often “yeah, well Jose Reyes gets to more balls, so his numbers look worse because he’s making more difficult plays”.

Sure, perhaps that has an effect, but the advanced metrics are designed to take the difficulty of the play into account, so we should already see that reflected. The numbers also show that maybe Reyes isn’t making plays on all that many more balls out of his zone. Over our 2008-2011 time period, Jhonny has been credited with 130 plays made “out of zone” while Jose Reyes (in 740 more innings) has been credited with 132.

It isn’t clear to me that Jose Reyes is a better defender at the shortstop. I think we should revise the automatic assumption that Peralta would be displaced from shortstop should Reyes arrive. Perhaps it’s Reyes that should be looked at to fill the void the Tigers currently have at second base.

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