On Monday, the Orioles traded relief pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third baseman Mark Reynolds. Most baseball fans seem to view Reynolds as a bit of a problem child – a player who doesn’t mind leading the league in strikes outs if he hits 30+ home runs. These two consistent characteristics have lead to a wildly inconsistent player who was in the top 35 in wOBA (.385) in 2009 but posted a league average wOBA (.328) in 2010. wOBA is an advanced on-base percentage-esque statistic. So which player did the Orioles just trade for – a top 10 MLB third baseman or a declining player whose limited skill set most closely resembles Rob Deer?
It is safe to assume that 2010 was a worst-case season for Reynolds. Putting the ball in play will always be a problem for him, but when he did in 2010 he was extremely unlucky. Reynolds posted a .257 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) compared to a .323 career average BABIP and a .305 MLB average BABIP. Reynolds’ BABIP next year should be at least .305 which will increase his batting average and wOBA compared to his 2010 numbers.
Outside of elite power, Reynolds most attractive attribute may be his contract. Advanced baseball metrics like wOBA and WAR (a statistic that measures how much better a player is than a minimum wage replacement) show that even in 2010 Reynolds outperformed his contract. Furthermore, as long as Reynolds performance does not dip below his 2010 levels, he will perform at the level he is being paid in 2011 and 2012. This is significant. The Orioles are paying for Reynolds’ floor performance (2010) while obtaining his ceiling performance (2009) for no additional cost.
Reynolds’ is a nice fit for Camden Yards because the park boosts home runs totals from right-handed hitters more than Chase Field in Arizona. Still, O’s fans shouldn’t expect Reynolds’ to match his 2009 production. The American League East (AL East) offers more difficult pitching matchups than National League West (NL West). Furthermore, while Chase Field isn’t as homer friendly for Reynolds as Camden Yards is, it does offer high fences within a short distance. The awkward Chase Field fences boost extra base hit totals for flyball hitters like Reynolds. Before the move to Baltimore, Bill James projected a .233/.337/.490 (AVG/OBP/SLG) triple slash line for Reynolds’ in 2011. Even with the move to the AL East, this projection seems about right.
Reynolds will be a true test for those Orioles fans, like myself, who consider themselves SABRmetricians. Advanced statistics like wOBA and WAR indicate that even at his worst Reynolds is worth his current three year, $14.5 million contract. However, it is easy to compute WAR and wOBA in December and feel good about Reynolds’ numbers. It will be another matter to ride an emotional roller coaster filled with 200+ strikeouts and 30+ homeruns as Reynolds posts his wOBA and WAR numbers in 2011.