Reynolds Rap

Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants was a hallmark game for Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds. Looking at the box score you may not fully understand the significance of the season Reynolds has had. That night he went 1-5 with a double against Giants starter Matt Cain. That double in the bottom of the second inning allowed Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero to score.

As Montero crossed the plate it marked the 100th run batted in for Reynolds, a career high for him. That run coupled with the 43 home runs and 93 runs he has scored are all team and career highs for the young third baseman. Add to that total a team leading 24 stolen bases and Reynolds has clearly become an important part of the Arizona Diamondbacks offense.

Through last night’s game Reynolds is now hitting ,266 with a .560 slugging percentage which shows how valuable he has become in the middle of the Diamondbacks offense. All of these positives are being overshadowed by another statistic that Mark Reynolds has been synonymous with, the strike out.

Although Reynolds went 1-5 on Tuesday, he also struck out three times breaking the season mark for strikeouts, a record he set just last year. Reynolds followed that up by striking out an additional two times in last night’s game to bring his total to 208 for the season.

Considering Reynolds has had 545 at bats this season, his strikeout ratio is roughly one strikeout for every three at-bats. That is one of those statistics that sort of just baffle the mind when you think about it.

For all the positive statistics that Reynolds provides to the Diamondbacks, they are negated by this massive strikeout total. Perhaps it is that baseball fans have become jaded by all the negativity that is pervasive in the game today. From the constant steroid allegations to the accusations of collusion by owners, we are constantly bombarded by negative story lines in the game.

Why then wouldn’t we tend to focus on the negative part of Reynolds game? How many of those strikeouts occurred with men on base or worse with a runner on third? How many ended the inning thereby denying the Diamondbacks an opportunity to extend a rally and ultimately losing the game?

Reynolds has shown that the 2008 strikeout total was not just a fluke but rather it is a part of his game, a part that the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be comfortable to accept. During Spring Training there were a lot of questions to Reynolds and to the Diamondbacks coaching staff whether there was a concerted effort to help Reynolds cut down his strike out total.

Early in the spring we heard about adjusting his approach at the plate and becoming more disciplined. Towards the end of spring and into the season, Reynolds who was undoubtedly tired of answering these questions finally just said, “that’s just a part of my game.”

It’s a little troubling that Reynolds and the Diamondbacks are content with just accepting the strikeout total. Having watched nearly all of his at-bats I am not sure I am willing to just accept the fact that he strikes out.

To be fair it is not just Mark Reynolds who has a propensity to strike out. The Diamondbacks as a whole suffer from high strikeout totals. No one is approaching the upper atmosphere of Reynolds 208 total but the Diamondbacks have three players with totals over 100 and considering as a team they had 16 strikeouts last night, there are two others who may end the season with over 100 strikeouts.

Looking to next year if Brandon Allen wins the job of first base he too could battle for the team lead in strikeouts. His ratio is very similar to that of Reynolds. I think manager AJ Hinch summed it up very well after last night’s loss to the Giants, “There are times in our offense when strikeouts mount, pretty heavily and pretty high… We got a little wild for our strike zone. We started swinging at the ball up a lot. It’s a streaky bunch. We didn’t have a ton of discipline.”

That to me says a lot, we have a group of players with a profound lack of plate discipline. Some of that can be attributed to age but this core of players has now had three years of major league experience. The age argument soon becomes a crutch.

So I am not really calling out Mark Reynolds for his new strikeout record. Instead I am pointing towards it as potentially troubling given that he is emerging as a team leader. A team soon takes on the persona of their leader and I am concerned that the Diamondbacks will become a line-up of free swingers content with the fact that strikeouts are just part of the game rather than being more disciplined and better two-strike hitters who shorten their swings and just make contact putting the ball in play.

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