Last season I wrote a piece called “What’s Wrong with Bryan Reynolds?”.
I’m not here to apologize for it or anything, he struggled mightily in 2020, and while I sympathize with what everyone went through last year who played, it’s my literal job to analyze, diagnose, and describe things I see.
I also closed that piece with my belief that 2020 was not much more than an anomaly, but let’s face it, those were just words. Oh, they were based in a very real belief that a guy who never in his life hit below .300 would figure it out, but even so, I don’t think anyone honest saw his current pace coming.
Bryan didn’t just rebound this year, I think that was the easiest Pirates bet you could make, he’s on another level and I think we need to spend the same energy I did figuring out what was wrong to evaluate what he’s done to become one of the league’s best hitters in 2021.
We should also note, he’s doing this in an absolute abyss for protection in the lineup sans a month long stretch of Colin Moran, and believe it or not he’s in the process of making 2019 look like a stepping stone, rather than a goal to return to.
Let’s start with 2019 shall we? I always like to dig into how a player is being attacked, sometimes that shows more than you’d think. Scouting in the modern game is such that in the course of tracking something like this we can paint a picture of what the league thinks a player struggles with.
So we can see here from 2019 that pitchers liked to keep the ball down primarily or up and in when he hit lefty. Entirely unremarkable, when a guy is spraying the ball all over the ballpark of course this is going to be how you approach him. Now let’s look at 2021.
What I take from this is that pitchers have chosen to largely get away from up in the zone being effective against Reynolds. Now why would that be? I mean if it was working, why would they go away from it?
Well, Bryan adapted.
Here is 2019. Look at his batting averages per zone back then and again remember this was an incredibly good rookie campaign.
I mean, he wasn’t a sure out no matter where you pitched him but up and in had at least a modicum of success.
As before we of course need to see how that’s playing in 2021. Can you already guess from the earlier chart I showed you highlighting the pitchers preferences?
Haha, yeah. Ya boy crushed them up in the zone. He sacrificed a bit of protection down and in, so he could handle a bit higher.
Why would he do this? Why would pitchers continue to pitch him like that then right?
I mean, here’s the thing, they probably won’t all season. That’s the game within the game. The good hitters probably struggle for a month when the changes start taking place, the great hitters, as I believe Reynolds is, adjust to what’s happening quickly and get back on the train.
Last season in an effort to combat the bad actors in baseball a temporary rule was instituted that eliminated certain electronics from the dugout, like iPads. Watch Bryan in the dugout after every at bat, good or bad, he almost always reviews what happens in each at bat on the iPad, and last year minus that tool, adjustments took off the field diagnostics rather than in game amendments.
The iPad isn’t the solution for everyone, but when you know yourself, and know what your strengths and weaknesses are, it can really help.
Bryan is on pace for 30 homeruns and 90 RBI.
We’re no longer in hope he gets back to 2019 results mode, instead we’re watching a player go from very good to top tier talent in the game.
This brings two realities to my mind. One, it’s unfathomable he didn’t make the All Star Game, and I’m actively waiting for someone to bail on the game so he is named an alternate.
And much more importantly for the Pirates, if they’re going to extend him, they better get on their horse the way he has playing Center this year.
As we speak, Bryan Reynolds is the very best player on a very bad team, but he has potential to become the very best player on a very good team one day. I’d like that to be here in Pittsburgh.
Don’t play chicken on this one Mr. Cherington, he deserves the full Cutch treatment, and since that’s who he was traded for, perhaps it’s fitting that he take the mantle.
The fans deserve this, and so does the player.