Just when you were getting used to the “new normal,” it normalizes on you.
A lot has been written about Mark Reynolds this year, and rightly so, as he’s had one of the more head-scratching performances of the season. Back in May, he looked like he was on a “designated for assignment” path as he was hitting 9th in the batting order and every single one of his offensive statistics were just laughable. Many people pointed to his increase in walks and decrease in strikeouts as improvement and yet the results only got worse.
In an earlier post, I observed that pitchers seemed to have changed their repertoire versus Reynolds, that he was having somewhat rotten luck on batted balls, and that he was struggling mightily versus left handed pitchers, and I’d like to revisit both charts, as well as delve into the remarkable turnaround he’s seen in the last two months.
First of all, let’s address his resurgence. From the beginning of the season to the end of May, Reynolds was hitting .193 with 7 HR’s in 52 games. Since the beginning of June, Reynolds has hit .282 with 13 home runs and 25 RBI. If I may, I’d like to graphically represent this change (you don’t have a choice). Here’s Reynolds’ wOBA, ISO, and BABIP by month for 2011:
The reason I include BABIP here is to note that as his BABIP trended towards what would be “normal” for Reynolds on his career, so went his overall production, with the exception of July, where his BABIP took a nose dive in large part because he has just eight hits overall and five of them have left the yard (and thus, not included in BABIP as you well know). I also include BABIP because I’ve been reading in places where folks are crying foul over his .349 BABIP in June and saying this is merely a blip on the Mark-Reynolds-Reclamation-Project-radar. However, based on his hit trajectory, his expected BABIP was actually .341, so he earned just about every last drop of that June surge.
Another area that was addressed earlier in the season was his HR/FB rate, which seriously lagged behind his career rate. Well, that all changed in a jiffy:
Can he sustain a 41% HR/FB rate? Probably not, but on the season, his HR/FB rate stands at 20.8% and his career rate is 20.6%, so this may simply be regression, just whip-lash style regression. But overall, his HR/FB rate is where we should expect it to be after uncharacteristically low rates of 7.1% and 16.1% over the first two months.
One of the things I noticed from the earlier post on Reynolds was he was seeing a large volume of change-ups compared to his career. After his early season struggles, the pitch selection being presented to him changed, and it changed significantly in a few ways. He started seeing more four seam fastballs and more sliders at the expense of the change (May 14th is used in the graph since that’s when I made the original graph):
This change might be explained simply by the repertoire of the pitchers he was facing after mid-May. However, I find this particularly interesting, because at the time he was seeing nearly 20% change-ups, his whiff rate was almost 34%. Since they have come down below 10%, his whiff rate on change-ups is 23% whereas it’s in the low teens on the other three pitches.
Now I can’t say with (channeling Representative Weiner) certitude that the change in pitch type has helped his power numbers, but it’s worth noting that his home run rate per at bat before May 14th was 2.8%. After May 14th it is almost 8%. It’s also worth noting that in 2009 when he hit 44 home runs, his HR rate per AB was 6.7%. So yeah, Reynolds has been on a tear resembling the Mark Reynolds that fantasy owners grew to love.
My last stop is what he’s been able to do versus left handed pitchers. I wrote previously that he was hitting an inordinate number of ground balls versus LHP, very few fly balls, and literally zero home runs in comparison to his career figures. The graph below shows his career hit trajectory versus LHP, what he was doing up to May 14th and where he is overall today:
If I had the raw data for May 14th to present, I wager that it would be remarkably similar to his career rates in all areas except with his HR/FB rates, which after hitting zero over the first month and a half of the season, now eclipses his career rate. Basically, Mark Reynolds is back to being his old self versus lefties, which is really good news for fantasy owners.
I’d like to quote a former Secretary of Defense to help sum up this post: “There are known knowns; there are things that we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” As Mike Podhorzer astutely pointed out in yesterday’s post, it’s tough to explain why all this happens sometimes, but what we know we know is that Mark Reynolds somehow got his groove back, and it has been a welcome sight.
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