Tuesday, May 01, 2007

MLB: Best April Ever?

About a week ago, as Alex Rodriguez was smashing one home run after another, Tony Kornheiser offhandedly mentioned on PTI that A-Rod was probably headed toward the greatest April of all time. And it didn't seem at all crazy. Even after Rodriguez cooled off, that talk has lingered. And you know what? We may very well have seen the best April in major league history.

It just wasn't A-Rod that authored it.

Those that read my recent April Awards post already know the ending here (also the picture is a bit of a giveaway), but the Mets' Jose Reyes just completed an absolutely monster first month of the season. And the only thing crazier than his numbers is the fact that nobody is talking about it. This, despite the fact that he is charismatic, unbelievably exciting to watch (a Jose Reyes triple, for my money, is the best play in baseball right now), and playing for a top World Series contender in the biggest media market on the planet. It's more than a little puzzling that this guy is flying under the radar. I mean just check out these numbers (MLB rank in parenthesis):

.356 batting average (10th)
.442 OBP (11th)
1.038 OPS (13th ... as a leadoff hitter!)
37 hits (3rd)
26 runs (2nd)
16 extra base hits (7th)
63 total bases (5th)
5 triples (1st)
9 doubles (10th)
17 stolen bases (1st)
18 RBI (25th ... again, as a leadoff hitter)
16 walks (14th)
1.23 BB/K ratio (13th)
3 IBB (10th)

By comparison, A-Rod has the 14 home runs (to just 2 for Reyes) and leads the majors in runs (27), RBI (34), total bases (82), extra base hits (21), and slugging (.882). He also has a higher OPS than Reyes (1.297). But Reyes has a higher batting average, higher OBP, more hits, more triples, more doubles, more stolen bases (his version of the home run category), more walks, a better BB/K ratio (by far, A-Rod's is 0.39, 152nd in the majors), and even more intentional walks. It's a tough call, but I think on balance, Reyes has been even more impressive than A-Rod. And if A-Rod had arguably the best April ever ... doesn't that mean the Mets' shortstop is in that conversation?

Understanding that monthly statistics are hard to contextualize, I took the liberty of projecting Reyes' numbers for a full season. Obviously there is no way he will finish with these totals, just as A-Rod won't hit 98 home runs this year. I'm not predicting anything for Reyes, merely trying to put his already achieved stats in a more familiar context - that of a 162-game season. So here are those same stats, projected out, with some all-time ranks (modern era, from 1901-current) in parenthesis (obviously, the ratios remain the same):

250 hits (6th)
176 runs (2nd)
108 extra base hits (3rd)
425 total bases (7th)
34 triples (2nd)
61 doubles (6th)
115 stolen bases (3rd)
121 RBI
108 walks
20 IBB

Again, he probably won't achieve any of these totals, let alone all of them, but it certainly shows how good he was for one month. I mean, those are all-time ranks listed above. The craziest thing is that he's able to post such gaudy numbers in a variety of stats. His RBI and OPS totals simply don't belong next to a leadoff hitter's name. There is no way he should have 17 steals when he's ripping so many extra base hits. He's on pace to rack up 250 hits, yet his walk rates are exploding.

Throw in that he's doing all this while playing fantastic defense, as he's made just one error in 96 chances and leads major league shortstops with 24 double plays. Plus, he led the Mets to a 15-9 April, just one win off the major league lead.

I don't know, I think we just saw something special. Even if no one was watching.

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