Where to start with Mark Reynolds? First of all, the obvious: he is sporting an offensive triple slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .191/.298/.362. In the words of the famous loner Kevin Mcallister, “Woof.” Part of what makes Reynolds poor performance difficult to understand is that he is walking at a higher rate than his career average (12.4% vs. 11.4%) and striking out less than his career average (32.2% vs. 38.2%). These characteristics usually indicate that a player is locked in and swinging at “his pitches”. However, this isn’t the case with Reynolds. Pitchers in the AL are attacking him in a different manner than pitchers in the NL did and he has yet to adjust. He is receiving fewer fastballs (47.8% vs. 54.8%) and more change-ups (13.4% vs. 9.5%) than ever before in his career. Its safe to assume this trend will continue since Reynolds is swinging and missing at 32.7% of the change-ups that he sees.
Reynolds struggles are especially evident against lefties. Throughout his career he has maintained a (.242/.372/.503) triple slash against left-handed pitching. This year, he stands at (.108/.250/.162). It is really difficult to achieve numbers this low. In fact, its so difficult its worth taking a deeper look at how Reynolds is doing it. Below is his batted ball profile against righties and against lefties.
Against righties Reynolds is near his career norms in each batted ball category. Given this data it seems reasonable to expect Reynolds’ career triple slash (.237/.317/.465) against righties going forward. However, Reynolds profile against lefties elucidates his struggles. He is hitting ground balls (GB %) and infield fly balls (IFFB %), the two least desirable batted ball outcomes, at extremely high rates. He has yet to homer against a lefty this year and overall his fly ball rate (FB %) is down. There is nothing unlucky going on here, Reynolds skills against lefties in 2011 are terrible. In fact, his numbers are so bad that even the most pessimistic of us would concede that some improvement is on its way; its just too difficult for any MLB player with 4+ years of service to be this bad.
Based on casual monitoring of the games one might speculate that Reynolds defense appears to be his saving grace; its seems as if he is always on his knees making a difficult throw to first. Alas, this appears to be just be selective memory sampling bias. Reynolds has been pretty poor this year defensively. He has already made seven errors yielding a .928 fielding percentage. His UZR rating (an advance fielding metric) is negative, showing that he is not getting jobbed by official scorers.
Offensively and defensively this is probably close to the low point in Reynolds’ season. Its been ugly to watch, and while I see no reason for Buck to consider batting him ninth, it would not be a ridiculous decision against lefties based on his performance thus far.