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Mark Reynolds Cuts Down On K’s, and Everything Else

During the Friday RotoGraphs chat, Mark Reynolds came up a lot, and let’s just say much of the sentiment could be described as vitriolic. There’s a lot of head scratching, hand wringing, and expletive-laden fire breathing going on right now as owners try and figure out just what in the world to do with a guy with such talent who currently looks like he’s trying to hit bb’s.

Adding to the misery is the news that Buck Showalter has hinted that Reynolds needs an extended period of time off in order to get his act together, which sounds a heck of a lot like a manager losing confidence in his slugging third baseman. Reynolds is currently owned in 71% of Yahoo leagues and 83% of CBS leagues, so Showalter isn’t the only person thinking of going to plan B. Whether he’s on your squad or on the wire, anyone who hit 100 home runs between 2008 and 2010 ought to be a person of interest, so let’s see if there are any tea leaves to be read.

First of all, the obvious: Reynolds is hitting .174/.287/.313. That’s just putrid.

I’ve read where folks point to his walk rate as a positive sign but the fact is, he’s walking just a little more than his career average (12.5% vs. 11.4%), and worse than 2010 (13.9%). Yes, his strikeouts are down to just one third of the time, which is about 5% less than his career rate. That these are supposed to be the two positives doesn’t bode well for Reynolds.

His BABIP is just .221 while his career rate is .316 but based on his current hit trajectory, his expected BABIP is .253. So perhaps he’s getting an unlucky bounce or two, but an expected BABIP of .253 doesn’t suggest that he’ll be charging above the proverbial Mendoza line terribly soon. He is hitting a rather silly number of balls as infield flies at nearly 19%. If that rate normalized down to his career 12.8 (which is still strangely high), his expected BABIP would be up to .272. So I’d see some room for improvement in here, but nothing to stand up on your desk and scream at your boss about.

I can’t tell you what the book is on Reynolds, but he’s seeing fewer fastballs this year but a marked increase in change-ups. Of the three most common pitches he sees, his whiff rate looks like this:

So he’s making better contact with the four seamer and slider thus far, but he’s flailing at a third of the change-ups he sees, and he’s seeing an increasing number of them. This may have something to do with the poor (by his standards) HR/FB rate as he’s just not squaring the ball up well at all.

Looking at his splits, something is going woefully wrong with his approach to left handers. On his career he has maintained a .373 OBP, .506 SLG, .262 ISO, and a .303 BABIP against southpaws, good for 124 wRC+. This year, he stands at .250 OBP, .133 SLG, .033 ISO, and a .150 BABIP. Harold Reynolds at 50 might be able to put up this line. How out of whack are things right now with Reynolds and left handers? Consider his hit trajectory:

So his ground balls are sky high, fly balls are way down, infield flies way up and yes, that’s a zero point zero on the HR/FB. I possess no crystal ball, not even a magic 8 ball, but this mess versus left handers seems really unlikely to continue.

This isn’t to say good times are here again with Reynolds because he’s struggling no matter what side of the rubber the ball comes from. But he really should start looking better versus lefties at a minimum. Objectively, I’d have to say that Reynolds is going to improve, and he should improve markedly, but whether or not he can provide anything better than the 2010 version, I don’t know. And when you’re hoping to get .198/.320/.433, you know you have problems. Unless you’re in an extremely deep league, an AL-only league, or you just love to gamble, I’d probably leave Mark Reynolds to be someone else’s problem.