Mark Reynolds has been horrible, and I would bet that there are 12 team leagues in which he is on the waiver-wire. I'm here to tell you I think that might be a mistake.
History says that Reynolds should be owned. Not ancient history mind you, but recent history. Over the past three years, 2009-11, Reynolds is in the top-5 at the third base position in homers, RBIs and runs scored. In those three years his “average” season has resulted in 38 homers, 91 RBIs and 87 runs scored. Edwin Encarnacion and Pablo Sandoval have never reached any of those totals – not one time.
Now just because Reynolds did something in the past doesn't mean that he will do it in the future. Moreover, it would take a Pujolsian second half for Reynolds to get anywhere near those numbers given that he hit the All-Star break with just seven homers, 23 RBIs and 28 runs scored. Reynolds did hit 24 homers with 62 RBIs and 55 runs scored in the first half of the 2009 season, so you'd have to think that he might still have a shot at 30 homers and 80 RBIs, but it would obviously be foolish to expect that to occur at this point. The real question is whether Reynolds will be a usable part in the second half of the season. I'm going to posit yes, even though on the surface that seems like a foolish position to take. Here are my reasons for showing faith in Reynolds.
Though he's hitting .207 with only seven home runs and 23 RBIs, there are seeds of success here.
(1) One of the worst batters in baseball history in terms of putting the bat on the ball, Reynolds has a K-rate of 30.9 percent this year. That's the second worst mark in baseball (only Adam Dunn is “better” at 36.8 percent). So how is this a good thing you're asking yourself? Did Ray stay out too late last night drinking too many Vodka and Red Bull's that he thinks that being second and not first is a good thing? Well, I may have stayed out too late, and there may – OK there were – too many drinks, but I'm still not going bonkers today. That preamble leads to this – the 30.9 percent K-rate that Reynolds has is awful no doubt, but it's also the best mark of his career (for his career his average is 33 percent). I know, shocking.
(2) A career 11.7 percent BB-rate belongs to Reynolds. Guess what? Just like with his K mark, we're looking at him posting another career best in his walk rate at 14.2 percent (career 11.7 percent). Should a guy who has lowered his K rate to a career best level while at the same time upping his walk rate to a career best mark be overlooked? I say no as it would appear that Reynolds has done, for him at least, a good job at controlling the strike zone.
(3) Never a big BABIP guy, Reynolds current mark of .284 would be a three year best after back to back seasons under .267. In addition, Reynolds is also sporting a career best line drive rate. Never known as a guy who hits a lot of line drives since he's constantly trying to reach the seats, it's pretty exciting to see his LD-rate at 21.3 percent. There is little reason to think that he will maintain that mark given that he owns a 16.8 percent career rate and has been under 14 percent the past two years, but given his LD-rate and his BABIP mark it's pretty shocking to see him hitting a mere .207. Why is he hitting just .207 you ask?
(4) Reynolds isn't hitting home runs. If he hit the break with 18 homers, about the pace that he's been rocking the last three years, he'd have 11 more hits (since he has seven homers). Given Reynolds eleven more hits and his batting average would go from .207 to .264. You'd be pretty excited, would you not, if that was the case? Why isn't he going deep more often? Total mystery. His Isolated Power, over .230 in each of the past three years, has caved all the way down to .176. A career .476 SLG fella, that mark is down nearly a hundred points at .383. A career HR/F mark of 20.5 percent, including at least 19.9 percent each of the past three years, has somehow led to a mark of just 13.5 percent this year. Of course if he were to pop five homers in the next two weeks that number would look fine, but it's pretty odd to see such a dip after a three year run of excellence. I tend to think that such a situation will rectify itself as the at-bats pile up since I don't think Reynolds lost his ability to hit homers overnight. Still, even if it does balance out, Reynolds may not be a massive home run hitter in the second half unless he starts lifting the ball a bit more. The 21.3 percent line drive rate is fantastic, but the extra four percent he has added to that mark has come directly from his fly ball rate. The past three years his fly ball rate has never dipped below 47.3 percent. Currently it's just 42.6 percent.
Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit are around, and the addition of Jim Thome could eat into a few at-bats with Reynolds as well in the second half. It also remains to be seen if the people making the decisions in Baltimore are looking at the same things as we are. If they are, then you would have to figure they would continue to give Mark playing time. However, if they get to the point that they cannot stomach it any longer, there's always a chance that Reynolds could see his playing time drastically reduced. Still, I think there is enough positive going on here that I'm willing to take a chance on Reynolds given that the cost at this point will be minimal.
BY THE NUMBERS.
.365: The difference between the home OPS (.526) and the road OPS (.891) of the Mariners Kyle Seager. In 39 games at home he has hit two homers, knocked in 15 runners, scored nine times and hit .157. In 41 games away from Safeco he has hit .313 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Pretty simple – you only play him when the Mariners are on the road.
2: The number of Twins working on 10-game hitting streaks right now. Justin Morneau is hitting .333 in his 42 at-bats while Trevor Plouffe is hitting .325 in his 40 at-bats. Despite the impressive work of late both fellas are still struggling in the batting average category with Morneau hitting .246 and Plouffe hitting .253 on the season.
2.33: The ERA of Chris Young over his last 14 appearances (21 earned runs in 81 innings). He's allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of those 14 starts while he held the opposition to a .205 batting average. Young's team has gone 9-5 in those games.
2.81: The career ERA of Ian Kennedy in the second half of the season leading to an 18-5 record. Can't explain why he is better in the second half, but he clearly is—given his first half marks of 19-20 with a 4.25 ERA.
15: The current hitting streak of Austin Jackson who has racked up 26 hits leading to a .400 batting average in that time. As a result of the streak Jackson has pushed his average into rarefied air at .332. He's unlikely to sustain that pace. Why? The biggest reason is that his BABIP is .417—an out of this world number that isn't at all supported by his line drive rate of 19.6 percent which is actually a percentage point below his career mark of 20.5 percent.
19: The major league leading homer total of Jose Bautista since May 15th. The NL leader in that time is actually a tie between Andrew McCutchen and Alfonso Soriano. Each has gone deep 15 times.
21: The number of doubles hit by Zack Cozart prior to the All-Star games, the most ever by a rookie shortstop heading into the break. Unfortunately Cozart is batting a mere .252 with a sickly .298 OBP this year making his total of 46 runs scored pretty darn impressive.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.