When the Colorado Rockies signed Mark Reynolds last offseason, nearly everyone assumed they’d get the usual Mark Reynolds experience … some long home runs with an abundance of whiffs in between. But now more than halfway through the season, Reynolds hasn’t lived up to either of those expectations. Is he a better player for it? That’s debatable.
In order to fully understand how strange Reynolds 2016 season has been, you have to have an understanding of his past. Between 2008 and 2011, Reynolds smashed 141 home runs, good for an average of 35 a season. He also happened to strike out 834 times over those four years. For context, that’s 31 more Ks than Tony Gwynn and Joe DiMaggio had combined in 33 MLB seasons.
This season, Reynolds is still striking out with regularity, but he’s put the ball in play at a higher rate than ever before. Reynolds has struck out in 25.8 percent of his at-bats this season, compared to a career rate of 31.2 percent. Over 500 at-bats, that’s roughly 30 fewer strikeouts, and 30 more chances to do some damage.
Reynolds increased contact rate has led to some improved numbers in other areas. He’s currently hitting .275, which would be his best since his rookie year in 2007 if the season ended today. Reynolds on-base percentage is .343, also well above his career average.
The problem with Reynolds increase in contact is that it’s been accompanied by a decrease in power. For his career, Reynolds has averaged 18.2 at-bats per home run. In 2016, he’s averaged 32.8 at-bats per home run.
The batted ball data on Reynolds’ FanGraphs page gives us a clue as to why that’s happening. Reynolds isn’t hitting the ball as hard, he’s hitting fewer fly balls and he’s pulling the ball less often than ever before. That’s a terrible combination for a guy trying to hit the long ball.
This is a player who has to hit homers to be successful; .275 would be great if it came with 20 home runs, but .275 with nine home runs makes Reynolds solidly below-average for a first baseman in 2016. With his power numbers at career lows even while playing half his games at Coors Field, it’s fair to question if Reynolds’ career is nearing its end.
The Rockies don’t have to pay to find out because Reynolds is playing this season on a one-year deal. To be fair, Mark Reynolds is not the main reason the Rockies are eight games under .500. But if he’s still the starting first baseman in Colorado next season, then something has gone horribly wrong.