Just about every topic born from 2020’s abbreviated baseball season has been sufficiently qualified with the ever present short sample size lens. Someone who has seemingly not been afforded that graciousness is Bryan Reynolds. I suggest we’re ignoring the forest despite the trees and look for the man in black to make a big statement in 2021.
When the Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen for Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds back in 2018 the reactions fans had were to be expected. Andrew delivered something the city had been waiting over two decades to see and even if it wasn’t single handedly he was the face of that team.
Kyle Crick jumped right in and looked like a real get from the jump and has since run into struggles that should he not be able to address will render him jobless but at the time he was a pitcher with a plus fastball, crazy slider and plagued by bouts of control issues.
Bryan was a single A bat, considered to be the 4th best outfield prospect in a stacked San Francisco system. In fact the trade was made just days after Gerrit Cole was moved to Houston and Jason Martin who came back in that trade was actually considered by many to be the better of the two.
Fast forward just a couple short years and Jason Martin was allowed to walk away for nothing and Bryan officially is enduring the first off season of his entire professional life following a sub par performance.
The season came as a stark shock to everyone, Reynolds had literally never hit below .300 in a season of pro ball and in 2020 he posted a paltry .189. Panic time Right?
Probably not. This is a guy who just hits, and while baseball is notorious for discovering a guy’s weaknesses and exploiting them, Reynolds struggles came from just about every strategy and angle you could fire at him last year.
I’m not in the business of making excuses for players, first, I don’t know the guy and second I get the impression he’d never do it himself, but it’s really hard to take that season too seriously for myriad reasons.
I do believe the league pushed back a bit, they found some things Bryan struggles with like breaking pitches off the plate and in or fastballs at the letters outside. Pitches that he typically would spit on became pitches he took a hack at because when the league knows you aren’t hitting something, expect to see it 70% of the time. That leads some players to go after that low fastball in the zone because it might be the best pitch you see in an at bat.
The longer it goes on without an adjustment the worse it becomes. For some players this is something that can destroy a career. For Bryan I have to believe another 200 at bats would have made him look a whole lot more like himself.
What I really wonder though, why have so many of us allowed that 185 at bats to speak so much louder than the 1,500 plus that say the opposite?
Well, part of the reason is just how lost he looked. Late on the fastball, early on the off speed, rolling over on balls he used to drive to the opposite field, there just wasn’t anything to hang your hat on and I have to imagine he felt the same. Hard to get your approach honed in when you can’t find a baseline.
I felt like the entire team struggled at the plate together with the exception of Hayes and if there were adjustments from the coaching staff nothing visible comes to mind.
My optimism that Bryan will figure it out this season is only tamped down by the realization that the exact same coaches are returning.
When we talk about all the things this team doesn’t have, let’s not forget what we do have, a young star outfielder who very well could be built around here in Pittsburgh. Want a face of the franchise? Well mine has a mustache and a new baby at home.