Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's wrong with Reimold?

Last year, in his rookie season, Nolan Reimold was a pretty solid hitter. In 104 games, he hit .279/.365/.466 with 15 home runs. He also walked 47 times and stole eight bases in 10 chances. He was a less-than-stellar left fielder, but let's just focus on his offense.

In the first chunk of the 2010 season, though, Reimold has certainly struggled. In 24 games, Reimold is hitting .179/.282/.299 and has just one homer. Except for walks -- 11.5 BB% now compared with a 11.4 BB% last year -- his numbers are basically down across the board.

But Reimold is working hard to fix the problem; here's what he told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec:

"It hasn't been very fun, that's for sure. I have an idea of what I'm doing. I'm just trying to work it out. I'll be all right. It's mechanical more than anything. I'm just not hitting the ball. I'm pulling off it a little bit, and pitchers are staying away. It's not a good combo."

Reimold also didn't want to use his previous Achilles injury as an excuse: "I'm not going to blame that," he said. So putting aside some admitted mechanical problems with his swing and his Achilles issue, let's take a look at what's been ailing Reimold.

First things first: Reimold has only played in 24 games. Maybe he's just getting off to a slow start. He's certainly not the only major leaguer who is having his fair share of early season difficulties. Next, he's also been a little unlucky. Despite hitting only a slightly smaller percentage of line drives this season (13.7% to 14.4%), Reimold has a BABIP of only .220. Then again, he's not hitting as many ground balls as he did last year (43.1% to 48.2%), and he is striking out more (25.4% to 21.5%). But those aren't enormous changes and could start to even out over the next few weeks. And again, it's a good sign that he's walking at about the same rate as last year.

So what's the problem? Pitch recognition might have something to do with it. According to FanGraphs, used for all of the stats in this piece, Reimold is only swinging at 49.7% of pitches in the strike zone compared to 63.7% of them last season. He's also swinging at fewer pitches in general as well, down from 43.2% to 34.5%. So maybe Reimold is just being a little too selective at the plate. If he's going to be more patient, that means he'll have to fight off tough pitches out of the zone -- which is something he hasn't done very effectively so far. Despite making contact with 56.0% of pitches outside the zone in 2009, Reimold is currently only making contact 32.0% of those pitches. Swinging at fewer pitches in the zone and then not making contact as often with balls out of the zone isn't a very good combination.

It might take some time for Reimold to get his timing and mechanics all in order, but things should start to turn around for him soon. He's probably been taking too many pitches in the zone, but he's still been unlucky when he's actually put the ball in play. One of the few good things about Felix Pie being out is that Reimold should still receive plenty of regular at bats, meaning that he'll have lots of chances to try to regain his 2009 presence at the plate.

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