Steve Melewski of MASN wrote a nice article on Mark Reynolds yesterday, noting that the powerful corner infielder is looking to cut down on his hefty strikeout rate—that if he could “strike out 25 or 30 less times a year and put more balls in play, I could have a chance at a better average, more RBIs and home runs.” That brings up an interesting question—if Reynolds were to make this adjustment and cut down on his strikeouts, let’s say about 30 times per year, what effect might that have on his batting line, and ultimately his value?
Reynolds’ Marcel has him hitting .238/.334/.475 in 622 plate appearances (playing time based on a weighted average) with 33 dingers, 74 walks and 200 strikeouts. This translates to a park-neutral wOBA of .353 (league set to .330); +12 runs above the average. Estimating Reynolds’ defense to be around -3 runs, he projects to be around a 3.3 fWAR player (which just so happens to match up almost perfectly with FanGraphs’ current fan projections for him). That’s pretty solid for a guy who’s forecast to reach the 200-strikeout mark again.
If we rewrite his forecast, substituting his real-life numbers with a lowered strikeout rate (30 per season) and holding his rate of home runs per balls in play and types of non-home run hits constant, we actually see a pretty dramatic increase in performance. Reynolds’ forecast batting line is raised to .256/.350/.513 with 35 homers and a .374 wOBA (+22 runs). This improves his forecast WAR to 4.4, a full win of improvement.
Just by decreasing his strikeouts a little less than five percent—his target rate—Reynolds could (hypothetically speaking) see a pretty big jump in performance. This works under the assumption that those extra balls in play land at the same rate they typically do, of course. Rather than being the league leader in strikeout rate, Reynolds would settle around the likes of Adam Dunn, Carlos Peña and Ryan Howard (~33%). Baltimore received Reynolds for a pretty good price—two pitchers who have shown little major league success (although they’re still just in their mid-20s)—and the deal could look even better if he can cut down on those strikeouts, just by a little bit.