It is always interesting to hear what players think they are doing or not doing that leads to success or failure, and then measure that up against what the data says. Mark Reynolds opened that door of opportunity after Saturday’s win against the White Sox, in which he hit a grand slam and an RBI single to lead the Indians to a win.
Reynolds has five home runs on the season after going homerless over his first 20 games a season ago. So, what has been the key to his success so far? One explanation is that he is no longer blind.
If you didn't click that last link, you should. Funny stuff. Anyway, since that was more for humor than the truth we are seeking, let’s hear it from the man himself. According to Reynolds:
"I'm swinging at a lot more strikes," said Reynolds in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm not chasing a bunch, but I'm sure that will come. Right now I'm going to enjoy it while I'm able to square some balls up."
Is he right? Is Mark Reynolds "not chasing a bunch"? According to the data, Reynolds is wrong:
While it is still early in the season, Reynolds is chasing 28.1 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone according to Pitch F/X, higher than his career average of 26 percent. Last year, he only chased 24 percent of the time, and he hasn’t swung at pitches out of the zone at a rate of higher than 25.1 percent since 2009. When Reynolds chases, he is making contact at a rate of 47.8 percent, which is higher than his career average of 45.6 percent.
Of course, swinging at balls isn't always a bad thing:
What about the part about "swinging at a lot more strikes"? Well, he might have something there: Reynolds is swinging at 68.7 percent of pitches in the zone, above his career rate of 66.9 percent. Reynolds is especially right when you compare this season to his 2012 campaign, when he swung at a career-low 62.8 percent of strikes. However, his contact rate when swinging at strikes is 68.4 percent, which would be the lowest of his career if it holds up. Reynolds’ career average for contact on strikes is 71.6 percent and last season he connected on career-best 76.8 percent of swings on pitches in the zone.
Let's take a look at the pitches that Reynolds has been swinging at, compared to this time last season. As you can see, it looks like most of his chases have been on low pitches:
The second graph is his chart from his first 10 games in 2012. Looks pretty similar, no? So far he has avoided chasing outside pitches this season.
The overall contact rate on swings for Reynolds is 62.5 percent, slightly below his career average of 64 percent, while his swing rate at all pitches is 48.5 percent, above his career average of about 46 percent. The swinging strike percentage for Reynolds would be a career high; it is currently 18.3 percent, compared to a career average of 16.6 percent. In 2012 that number was a career-low 13.5 percent.
The disclaimer, as always, is sample size. However, I wanted to test Mark Reynolds' words at this point in the season, and I got the answers that I was looking for.
It doesn’t matter that Reynolds was wrong about what kind of pitches he is swinging at. What matters is that five of his 10 hits have left the yard. There will no doubt be slumps and a lot of strikeouts. But Tribe fans will take the good with the bad for a hitter who has already hit two decisive home runs in the team’s five victories.