2011 Orioles Retrospective: Mark Reynolds

When the Orioles traded for Mark Reynolds, I thought it was an OK move. Reynolds is better than his batting average might suggest, but worse than his home run totals would. Dealing a reliever (even a cheap one like David Hernandez) for a starting position player is usually solid though.

In several aspects, the projections for Reynolds were pretty close. Not towards the bottom of the table though.

Projected Actual
PA 600 620
BA .229 .221
OBP .328 .323
SLG .468 .483
wOBA .345 .348
BB% 12% 12%
K% 35% 32%
HR 34 37
BABIP .311 .266
Defense -5 -28
WAR 2.3 0.3

After several years of better than average BABIPs, Reynolds has been below .270 the past couple seasons (.257 then .266). That corresponds to the drop in his line-drive rate, from around 18% of balls in play to just 13% – that’s not a great sign, and makes it hard to hit for a non-abysmal average when coupled with all the balls not being put into play (due to the K’s).

In the strike-out department, Reynolds actually had his best year since his rookie season and managed to avoid the 200 K mark. His contact rate was up to 65%, which was still the worst in baseball (but not by as much as usual). Early in the season Reynolds strike-outs were way down – to like the 26-27% range – and he wasn’t hitting with as much power (only 7 homers in April and May combined). In the season’s last three months, he K’ed almost 37% of the time but had a home run per flyball rate of like 28% and went deep 22 times.

Seeing those mammoth home runs (he was 4th in the AL in “no doubt” homers, via HitTracker) was one of the more entertaining parts of the 2011 season, at least. And often it didn’t even look like Reynolds was swinging all that hard. His average home run distance fell from ~420 feet to ~400 though, with more of a cluster down the left-field line and less opposite-field power – maybe just random fluctuations, but possibly slightly worrying.

The power and the plate discipline were impressive (Reynolds actually does a good job at swinging at strikes and not at balls – he just whiffs a lot), but the atrocious* defense cut his value severely. -28 UZR, -29 DRS, -25 TZ; that’s 2 to 3 wins given away with the glove, which is the difference between a replacement level players and one who’s average to a bit above. The significance of errors is sometimes overrated, but 26 of them (with a .897 fielding percentage) is certainly awful. That Reynolds made so many errors is even more amazing when you consider his lack of range (so, so many balls got by him at third – and at first too). It’s almost unthinkable that he’s really a -25 fielder, but if he is then a move to DH actually increases his value (since the difference in positional adjustment going from third to DH is like 20 runs over a full season). Moving Reynolds to first doesn’t really help though, since he’s still probably a poor fielder there but his bat doesn’t play as well. Where he plays in 2012 may be determined by the other personnel on the team.

* This was somewhat amusing, given that when the O’s picked Reynolds up, the announcers and others talked quite a bit about how much he had improved his defense recently. Woops.

There’s still one guaranteed year at $7.5 M left on Reynolds’ contract, and he could be worth that assuming he isn’t the worst defensive player in baseball again. The $11 M option for 2013 doesn’t seem likely to be great value to pick up but, on the other hand, it probably won’t matter*.

* Bringing Dan Duquette in as the GM seems… fine. He’s done some OK things in the past, but that was a long time ago. Could be worse, I guess (Dave Littlefield, for example). The bottom line is that the organization is in awful shape, and it’s not terribly likely that there will be a significant difference between Duquette and someone else (who would take the job) over the next three years (as the O’s look set to continue being a 5th place team given the relative lack of major league talent – especially pitching – and the weak farm system). It’s kind of depressing.