- So here's the problem: no one strikeout is all that bad, but a whole ton of strikeouts are bad, in that they cut into your ability to, you know, get hits. Adam again: "As long as Reynolds keeps producing the way he is, he can strikeout as much as he wants. At the end of the day, it's no big deal."
The thing is, it's really hard for a guy who strikes out 200+ times a season to keep producing the way Reynolds has. Sure, if he keeps hitting 30-40 homers and drawing 70-80 walks, he'll keep being a good player. But it all comes back to the natural law of BABIP: if you put the ball in play, you have about a 30% chance of getting a hit (it might be 32-33% in Reynolds' case, since he hits the ball so hard, but we don't have enough data to know that). If you don't put it in play, you have a 0% chance. If (not counting walks and other non-at-bats, now) you strike out 38% of the time, homer 8% of the time and put the ball in play the other 54% of the time, as Reynolds has in 2009, you can expect to hit (.56 * .3) + (.08 * 1) + (.38 * 0) = .248. A Reynolds who hits .250 can absolutely still be a productive player, but there's no point in pretending that all those strikeouts don't limit exactly how productive he can be.
Well, that's not completely accurate. We have plenty of data. The "natural law of BABiP" suggests that most pitchers will naturally give up a .300 batting average on balls in play. But, oddly enough, no such law exists for hitters.
Hitters have laws unto themselves. Tony Gwynn Sr. batted .341 on balls in play; Ozzie Guillen batted .280 on balls in play. Why? Without checking, I suspect it's got something to do with Gwynn hitting more line drives than Guillen, who hit more pop-ups than Gwynn.
Mark Reynolds, in 1,450 career at-bats, has batted .345 on balls in play. Which doesn't even include home runs. As it happens, he's also batted .345 on balls in play this season.
Can he continue to do that? My gut tells me that it's a difficult number to maintain. But Reynolds' performance doesn't hinge on strikeouts; it hinges on home runs. When Reynolds hits 25 or 30 homers, he's a pretty good player. When he hits 40 homers, he's better than pretty good.
Reynolds is striking out as often as usual, and he's hitting as many ground balls and line drives and fly balls as usual. What's different is that in 2007 and '8, roughly 17 percent of Reynolds' fly balls carried the fence for home runs. This season, that figure's jumped to 27 percent.
Is that jump a fluke? Perhaps. Probably, to some degree. But according to Hit Tracker, Reynolds' home runs this season have averaged roughly 10 feet longer than his home runs last season, with his bat speed also slightly higher.
Strikeouts are not a good thing, but in Mark Reynolds' case they might be a necessary thing.
Yes, his batting average is going to fluctuate because he puts so few balls into the playing field. But you just have to understand that, and accept it. When it comes to the strikeouts, my only worry would be that his teammates might think strikeouts are perfectly fine for them, too ... except not many hitters can do what Reynolds does.