When the Orioles traded for Mark Reynolds this off-season, fans speculated that he could hit upwards of 40 home runs in Baltimore. I had him at 34. At this point, he’s not looking too likely to break the 30 barrier, with only 2 longballs in his first 76 plate appearances. What’s going on?
Reynolds is hitting the ball in the air quite a bit (as usual), but it’s not leaving the yard. His home run per flyball rate is 8.7%, compared to his career 20.1%. And it’s not quite a matter of a ton of warning-track balls getting caught; check out his spray chart:
He’s pulled exactly one ball with some distance (you can see it at the 364 marker). And that’s not a good way to hit a lot of home runs. Where’s the authority?
One theory, which does make some sense, is that in an effort to cut down his strike-outs (something the announcers have praised him for repeatedly), Reynolds has cut down on his swing. Now that doesn’t mean he’s turned into Nick Markakis, but a 31.3% strike-out rate is way lower than I expected (~40%) and would easily be a career “best”. His contact rate – both on pitches in and out of the zone – are career highs. The results have been less than encouraging though.
Combined with the lack of homers, Reynolds’ .222 BABIP is keeping his average down to .179 even with the “reduced” strike-out rate. Home runs don’t have a chance to be caught, remember (more or less), so they’re an instant batting average boost. Beyond that, his walk rate is down to .9.2% – the lowest mark since his rookie season. If Reynolds hits 25 home runs and walks 10% of the time, there’s a good chance he’ll be a below average hitter even if he keeps his K’s down where they are. Sometimes the whiffs are worthwhile, if they come with other good outcomes. I’m not sure if this is just a weird stretch for him, or he or the team are actually trying to do this, but I’d recommend they stop (or figure out a way to get the good part of his game back).
Also – tiny sample size – but Reynolds has -7 DRS and a -4 UZR at third-base already. That doesn’t mean anything, but it certainly doesn’t lend credibility to all the people who said he was a good defender based on… something (what they heard some other people saying, maybe?). He makes some good plays. And doesn’t make a lot of others.
I thought the trade with Arizona was OK, but that was based on Reynolds being an average-ish player. He still has plenty of time to get back there; he’s welcome to start any time.
Stats: K% & BB%, BABIP, HR/FB%, Contact Rate, DRS, UZR