Going into this season there seemed to be more questions about Reynolds defense rather than his offense. Fans kind of knew what to expect from Reynolds at the plate. A .200 average, a lot of strike outs, but home runs and RBI’s. So far, Reynolds hasn’t disappointed. Reynolds is hitting .206 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI’s. He is on pace to hit 29 home runs and drive in 85 runs. Reynolds averages 34 home runs and 98 RBI’s in his career over 162 games. I think Orioles fans will take these offensive numbers. He is giving the Orioles what they expected at the plate, a home run hitter with a horrible average who strikes out a lot. Reynold’s defense; however, was not expected to be this bad.
It would depend on which scout you were talking to on whether Reynolds was a solid defensive third baseman or below average. Well I think the Orioles may have found their answer. Reynolds just committed his 15th error last night against the Nationals that led to 3 unearned runs against Zach Britton (who was previously pitching another great game). It wasn’t long ago I was calling for the Orioles to trade Reynolds anyway they could. Now, I don’t think they should necessarily just trade him for anything, but they do have to trade someone so Reynolds could move over to the DH spot, unless he gets his defense under control soon. Reynolds leads the team in home runs and is second in RBI’s, so his bat is needed in the lineup. However, he is also costing the team runs with his miserable defense. Buck Showalter is a big advocate of a strong defensive team that can prevent runs from happening. This is not the case right now with Reynolds at third base. I didn’t see or hear the game last night but when I saw the box score and saw the Orioles had one error I knew it was Reynolds. He may just be in a fielding slump, but either way, it is hurting the team. This became clear last night as his error really hurt Britton and the team as a whole. What is the solution? I don’t know. With Guerrero at DH, I’m not sure where the Orioles could put Reynolds, but that is why MacPhail and Showalter are paid the big bucks. Figure out a solution that will help this team start winning games again.
Taking a closer look at Reynolds defense at third…and yes I know there is more to defense than just statistics. You have to factor in other intangibles, but in this case, as a third baseman with as many miscues as Reynolds has, I am leaving out the intangibles. In 2008, in 150 games at third base, Reynolds had 34 errors to go with a .904 fielding percentage. In 2009, he had 19 errors in a 130 games at third base for a .945 fielding percentage. Then in 2010, in 142 games at third base he committed 18 errors for a .951 fielding percentage. It would seem that he was getting more comfortable each year at the hot corner and becoming a solid defensive third baseman. Well maybe some of those scouts saying he was below average were right.
In 65 games for the Orioles this year he has 14 errors (this is before last nights game where he had his 15th error) with a .903 fielding percentage. I’m starting to think Jim Abbott would make a better defensive third baseman than Reynolds….get it? Abbott only has one hand. Ok, back to stats….Even more disturbing statistics…Reynolds was first in 2008 with the most errors at third base, second in 2009 and 2010, and this year he is again first in errors for third baseman. It gets worse…the next highest error total for a third baseman is McGehee (Brewers) with 12 errors. It’s not like Reynolds is covering a lot of ground and just getting to more balls either. Despite playing the fourth most games of any third baseman in baseball, Reynolds is not in the top 5 for assists or putouts at third base. This of course translates to his poor .903 fielding percentage. Keep in mind the top defensive third baseman in baseball have fielding percentages in the .980′s or .970′s.
As good as the other Orioles infield pickups (Lee and Hardy) have been defensively, Reynolds has been terrible. I was willing to just mark it down as a fielding slump, but after looking at the numbers it is clear the Orioles need to get Reynolds out of the hot corner. After last night’s loss it is also clear his defense will start costing the Orioles games and Showalter shouldn’t be standing for that. By the way, everyone knew Lee was a good defensive first baseman, but Hardy has quietly been excellent on defense. Hardy has yet to make an error at short and is ranked third in baseball for shortstops and their range factor a game.
I know it sounds like I’m being hard on Reynolds, especially with the Abbott remark, but that would be a great PR move for the Orioles. Anyways, Reynolds has a place on the Orioles, but it has to be at either DH or some other position where he isn’t hurting the team like he is right now. Next season, when Guerrero leaves through free agency, I could see Reynolds becoming the teams DH, while Josh Bell takes over at third. In the meantime, Showalter and MacPhail need to come up with a solution to this Mark Reynolds fielding problem.