Mark Reynolds has struggled, but he isn't historically awful yet

May 31, 2011|By Matt Vensel

As Kevin Cowherd pointed out over on the Toy Department blog, Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds is one of 18 major-leaguers who this season are hitting below .215 -- the career average of Mario Mendoza.

Mendoza, of course, is the standard bearer when comes to it ineptitude in the batter’s box. In five of his nine major-league seasons, Mendoza, now a bench coach for the Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League, batted below .200 -- a mark that is now referred to as the “Mendoza line” in his dishonor.

Reynolds was below the Mendoza line in 2010, hitting .198 while striking out more than 200 times for the Diamondbacks. His average with the Orioles this season is also .198, and he is in danger of becoming the first player in more than a century to hit below .200 in back-to-back years with at least 300 at-bats.

“I hope they don't start picking on [Reynolds] like they did me," Mendoza told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. "It's tough to deal with. It wasn't fair to me. There was a lot of guys struggling at the plate, not just me.”

Reynolds has been a disappointment this season for sure, but it’s unfair to start considering a name change when it comes to this infamous mark of futility. For one, Mendoza didn’t just have a low batting average; With four career home runs and 46 career extra-base hits, he makes Cesar Izturis look like Mark McGwire.

But more importantly to us, Reynolds hasn’t been that bad, statistically speaking. He is batting .282 with runners in scoring position. He leads the team with seven home runs and is third with 24 runs batted in. He has also drawn a team-high 27 walks, and his .310 on-base percentage buoys his abysmal batting average.

Don’t get me wrong, Reynolds must do much better to live up to the expectations that arrived with him on the plane from Arizona, and his power numbers have to be among the team’s best to justify keeping his low average and high strikeout totals in the lineup. But there is reason to believe the power is on its way.

Reynolds doesn’t look as overmatched by American League pitching as he did in April, and outside of a .225 average in May, he has had a pretty productive month. He has hit five home runs, his OPS was .244 points higher than it was in April and his .361 on-base percentage in May is third-best among Orioles regulars.

Sure, Reynolds has been near impossible to watch at times -- when he comes to the plate against left-handed pitchers, no one would blame you for changing the channel as if this McDonald’s commercial had just come on. But Reynolds has not yet been historically awful, and he has more than 100 games left in 2011 to get his batting average above .200 and end any conversation about renaming Mendoza’s mark after Reynolds. So as Cowherd wrote in his blog post, “no fair calling it the Reynolds line just yet.”

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