Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The inflexibility of the Orioles

I was going to give this post a title of "The inflexibility of Buck," but I don't think all of these problems/issues are solely his fault. For example, it wasn't Buck Showalter's decision to sign Vladimir Guerrero (more on that below). Also, I like Showalter (who now has a 69-64 record in Baltimore) and think he's the best manager the O's have had in years. But as the Jim Riggleman-Nationals fiasco recently demonstrated, it's easy to overrate baseball managers and believe that most of them are difference makers. Some of them are, sure. But most of them? Probably not.

Basically, the O's are a below-average team. This is not news. The O's need to get better in several key areas, and even the players and front office personnel would admit that. But after signing a player to fill a specific role, a team sometimes needs to understand that it made a mistake. If no other options are available, then it's normally acceptable to keep using that player in that role. But when other, more intriguing options are available, it only hurts a team to compound that initial mistake by continuing to use said player in a role that just isn't working. Yes, that's a vague description, but here's how it relates to the O's:

Vladimir Guerrero

Guerrero is one of the most exciting baseball players I've ever watched. It would have been a real treat if he had played on the O's during the prime of his career. Sadly, that time has passed. When the O's signed Guerrero to a one-year, $8 million deal in the offseason, I was mostly against it. The issue wasn't just that the O's were overpaying Guerrero, but that as the team's designated hitter, he would clog the roster with a player who can't play in the field anymore. Essentially, he's done just that. With the exception of games in NL stadiums, Guerrero has been in the lineup in most O's games. The O's rarely decide to bench Guerrero and DH someone else, meaning that Luke Scott has to play in the field if the O's want his bat in the lineup.

If Guerrero were hitting, that wouldn't be very important. But he's not. Guerrero is currently batting .282/.313/.386 with six home runs, which is not the kind of production the O's want from their designated hitter. (Here's more on Guerrero's mediocre season from Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies.) So Guerrero is not hitting for much power or getting on base at a high rate, and yet he's in the lineup every day as the team's DH. Oh, and he continues to bat fourth -- another perplexing decision.

The initial decision to sign Guerrero is not looking good, and unfortunately there's no way to go back and un-sign him. But just because he's on the roster doesn't mean that Showalter has to keep putting Guerrero's name in the lineup every game -- especially in the fourth spot. Not only should Guerrero be moved down in the batting order, but he should sit more often as well. The argument that the O's are trying to pump up his trade value by putting his name in the lineup so often, at this point, is ridiculous. It's not impossible that some AL team in a few weeks makes some kind of offer for Guerrero, but the O's would get next to nothing in return. In fact, they should be happy if another team simply agrees to absorb the rest of Guerrero's salary ($3 million of which, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, is deferred without interest until the 2016-2017 season).

Guerrero's presence on the roster is not helping the team, and it's actually negatively affecting the O's in other ways (listed below).

Nolan Reimold

The O's treatment of Reimold is baffling. I won't make the argument that he's some kind of defensive wizard in left field. But as a 27-year-old who has demonstrated the ability to hit major league pitching, he deserves the chance to play regularly.

In 2009, Reimold hit .279/.365/.466 with 15 homers in 411 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he battled several injuries in 2010 and only batted .207/.282/.328 in 131 plate appearances that season. But the injuries obviously affected his play across the board; Showalter has admitted (a few times, actually) that Reimold wasn't the same player in 2010. Then, because he still had an option left, the O's decided to keep Reimold off the roster at the start of this season and have him report to Triple-A Norfolk. Because of a few injuries to other players, Reimold was recalled in May, and he's been on the roster since. He got off to a quick start, and in 56 plate appearances he's batting .261/.375/.478 with three home runs. Sure, that's not many trips to the plate, but that's the problem: Why is Reimold not playing more? He gets on base, draws walks, and hits for power. And yet he's been relegated to the bench and pigeonholed into being some kind of lefty-hitting specialist who only gets in the lineup when a southpaw is on the mound.

Here are his (albeit brief) career splits:

vs. RH: 357 PA, .260/.342/.429, 13 HR
vs. LH: 241 PA, .264/.357/.447, 8 HR

So he has slightly better numbers against lefties, but in fewer plate appearances. Overall, those are pretty good numbers against both types of pitchers, and it's not any kind of outrageous split. That's not to say that Showalter (hopefully) believes Reimold hits much better against lefties. The reason he's only playing against lefties is that it pushes Scott to the bench, because Scott doesn't hit lefties quite as well (though that's overblown as well).

I'm not arguing that Reimold is a superstar and that it's a crime against humanity for him to sit on the bench so often. But it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to keep Reimold on the roster if he's going to sit out a week at a time. I'm not a big believer in Felix Pie, but I believe that Reimold has the talent to be an effective major league hitter. And hopefully the O's give him a chance to prove that he either is or isn't before the end of the season.


Here's another point: Before the season, the O's made it known that they wanted to win games now. They weren't going to mortgage the future to do so, but the Guerrero and Derrek Lee signings, along with the Mark Reynolds trade, were made to improve the on-field product for this season in an attempt to reach a .500 record (or close to it). But here's the odd part of that: If the O's are trying to win now so much, the decision to play Guerrero less should be made anyway. His plethora of singles would be nice for, say, someone like Robert Andino, but they're not what the O's want out of their cleanup-hitting designated hitter. Putting Scott at the DH more often gets Reimold's bat in the lineup, and it also saves Scott from having to make throws in the outfield that would put extra stress on his injured right shoulder.

Just like the decision to use Kevin Gregg in situations when either Koji Uehara or Jim Johnson (or both) are available, Showalter and the O's are being rather inflexible when it comes to dealing with Guerrero and the DH position.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Embeddable MLB videos? Nice

I'm sure this is old news, but has made it possible to embed some videos. From what I can tell, they only allow clips that are more than a few days old to be embedded, but that's still much better than no videos at all. So, with that in mind, it shouldn't be all that surprising that the first video from that I decided to embed was Adam Jones's amazing catch in Seattle at the beginning of June.

Check it out:

Much better, right? And I'm sure that won't be the last time I include that video in a post.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lots of people like the Wizards' draft

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards in the NBA Draft. Over the past few weeks, reports surfaced that the Wizards were enamored with Jan Vesely, the talented, 21-year-old forward from the Czech Republic. But the Wizards were also exploring trade options, including possibly moving up in the draft to select other skilled big men, such as Derrick Williams or Enes Kanter. But in the end, the Wizards held onto all three of their draft selections, and by many accounts, used them wisely.

With the Wizards' first choice at No. 6, Vesely was indeed the selection. So maybe the Wizards tipped their hand a little early, but Grunfeld seemed very happy to get a guy they've been targeting for a while.

At No. 18, the Wizards selected another versatile forward: Chris Singleton out of Florida State. Singleton, also 21 years old, is considered by manner to be the best defensive player in the draft. According to a few reports, the Wizards were apparently considering taking Singleton at the sixth spot, so Grunfeld had to be ecstatic when Singleton was still available 12 spots later.

With their last pick, the 34th overall selection in the second round, the Wizards selected 22-year-old Shelvin Mack, a guard out of Butler. At 6-3, he's listed as a point guard and will probably get a chance to be the primary backup to John Wall, but he's also considered to be a combo guard who can create his own shot and knock down threes. The Mack selection, like the other two, also fills a team need.

I'm not a talent evaluator or a scout, and I haven't seen more than a few YouTube clips of Vesely. But even though I was skeptical of the Wizards selecting him before the draft, I do like the pick a little more afterwards considering the next two picks the Wizards made. The rebuilding goal, according to Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis, is to build around John Wall and keep bringing in younger, more talented players. Hopefully some pieces from this draft end up being significant building blocks to accomplish that plan.

Here's what other scribes around the NBA blogosphere think about the Wizards' draft (many including draft grades):

- "Washington Wizards (23-59): Three quality picks, Jan Vesley will surprise, Chris Singleton will defend and Sheldon Mack will scrap. Grade: A-" [Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk]

- "[Listed under the Winners column:] Washington Wizards: The Wizards very quietly had a terrific draft. First Jan Vesely was available, who fits a need for them at slashing forward. With his athleticism and aggression, he makes a perfect partner to run the break with John Wall. Then, miraculously, Chris Singleton tumbled all the way down to No.18 where the Wizards jumped all over him. Singleton is a lottery talent that fell out of the top 14. He gives the Wizards the ability to move Andray Blatche if they can find a taker for his contract. He can rebound and defend exceptionally well. Singleton's length and athleticism, combined with a chip on his shoulder from dropping, makes him a great pick for the Wizards. Shelvin Mack in the second round was a great value pick for backup point guard." [Matt Moore, Eye on Basketball]

- "Grade: A+ Vesely fawning aside, this was a terrific draft. Vesely will be must-watch TV for those of us who dread pulling up Wizards games on a Tuesday at 7 at night, Singleton is a needed lockdown defender who might allow Flip Saunders to bust out his zone defense once again, and I don't understand why other teams underrated Shelvin Mack. This isn't an area where I want to be proven wrong. No boffo names, but Washington did well to surround John Wall with some eager types who couldn't be bothered with the team's recent history. Well done." [Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don't Lie]

- "Well, we know at least this much about Vesely — he has great taste in women! That stuff aside, Vesely will be a great finisher and running mate for John Wall. Singleton is considered the best defender in the draft and is a great piece for this young team. Mack could be a solid back-up and the team should be considered on the come up. Grade: A" [Dennis Velasco, The Basketball Jones]

- "Synopsis: The only two above-average players on the Wizards each got something to love on draft night. Point guard John Wall picked up a brilliant running mate in Vesely, a flyer who will no doubt find himself on the business end of a number of open court alley-oops. JaVale McGee, the team's quixotic center, found a partner in defensive crime in Singleton.

Of course, these two guys play the same position. But Washington can very easily push either one to power forward for stretches (and maybe over the long-term) given McGee's weakside defense. Individually, Vesely has to develop his jumper quite a bit to avoid becoming a problem in the halfcourt, and Singleton has to be a legit threat from the NBA arc.

Picking up Mack is a wash -- he won't likely be anything spectacular, but you could do worse. Grade: A." [Tom Ziller, SB Nation]

- "[Posted under the "Who won the draft?" column:] Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: The Wizards got Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, two guys who can contribute right away and help turn the franchise around. Vesely has some serious swag to go with his leaping ability. Singleton gives them toughness and could emerge as a quality pro defender. It's a great way to follow up taking John Wall at No. 1 in last year's draft." [ESPN 5-on-5]

- "[Grade: A+] As I mentioned earlier, John Wall can't do it alone. The Wizards won the same amount of games without him in the 2009-10 campaign as they did with him last season (23), but now comes the fun part. In grabbing the athletic, exciting small forward in Jan Vesely (No. 6), they now have a get-up-and-go talent to run the break with their franchise centerpiece. Vesely has been the apple of the Wizards' eye for quite some time and that's precisely why. In Singleton (No. 18), they get a lockdown defender player who claims he can guard all five positions. Shelvin Mack (No. 34) is a nice pickup at the point as well, as Washington's only backup for Wall before the draft was journeyman Mustafa Shakur." [Sam Amick,]

Sebastian Pruiti also wrote up a solid scouting report yesterday on Vesely -- it's definitely worth checking out.

For more draft coverage and Wizards coverage in general, check out Bullets Forever and Truth About It, as always.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guerrero and the outfield

Here's The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, wondering whether or not the Orioles should allow Vladimir Guerrero to play the outfield in their next few interleague play road games:
But for the next six games in Washington and Pittsburgh, there will be no DH. So what do you do with Guerrero?

He won’t be in Friday’s starting lineup and I doubt he’ll start any – maybe one – in left field. It’s not just that he is considered a liability out there. The Orioles don’t want him to risk injury – and last year his offensive production dipped when he played the field. (By the way, he still shags fly balls in warm-ups and would like to play outfield if the alternative is getting to hit just once. But he says it is completely up to Buck Showalter.)

While in the outfield in 2010, Guerrero batted .234 with four homers in 64 at-bats. As a DH last year, he hit .306 with 25 homers in 523 at-bats. He also saw a serious drop in power between his first and second halves of 2010 – which we assume means he wore down. Even if he isn’t part of the Orioles’ future, you want him as a potential trade chip in July, so keeping him somewhat fresh could be important.

The flip side is, even though his power numbers are down, he still can be a presence in the middle of the lineup and taking him out weakens a group that isn’t exactly playing pinball with the scoreboard.

My suggestion is start him twice in left and use him as a pinch-hitter in the other four games. I don’t’ think that’s what’s going to happen – I see him pinch-hitting in all six – but if I were in charge for a week, I’d let him play the outfield twice.
So do you agree with Connolly? Should the O's allow Vlad to play left field for a couple of games?

Short answer: No way.

Long(er) answer: The 64 at-bats from 2010 that Connolly mentions isn't much of a sample size to go on, but it's not a stretch to suggest that at this point in his career, Guerrero is better when he focuses most of his energy on his offensive production. At 36, he also doesn't run that well anymore. If Nick Markakis occassionally has trouble reaching fly balls in the gap, how exactly is Guerrero going to run them down? The O's may as well just play Adam Jones in left-center if Vlad is out there.

In terms of offense, even though Vlad is having a down year, he's still one of the O's more productive hitters (again, that's not saying much). He's not having a great power year and obviously he doesn't walk much, but out of O's batters with more than 100 plate appearances, Vlad is sixth in wOBA (.317). But because he's not hitting all that well, he's only been worth 0.1 WAR at DH. That's not what the O's expected when they shelled out $8 million for his services.

So say, for some reason this season, Guerrero possibly hits a little better when he's playing in left field. Is it really worth it to deal with his defense just to keep his (still) average bat in the lineup? Remember earlier this season, when the Giants tried to fool everyone into thinking that Aubrey Huff could still play the outfield? Not only was Huff embarrassed early and often, but it (obviously) hurt the team. So yeah, if Guerrero had amazing offensive numbers, then it might be worth it to have this discussion. But even though he's been decent compared to what other O's hitters have done this year, it's not really worth it to roll the dice on his outfield defense.

If Guerrero could play first base, where less running is required, then the move would make a little more sense -- even more so because of how horrible Derrek Lee (.271 wOBA) has been at the plate. However, I seriously doubt that will happen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kevin Gregg is not better than Koji Uehara

With a 5-4 lead in the ninth tonight, Buck Showalter brought in Kevin Gregg for the save. Gregg retired the first batter, but he eventually blew the save, allowing a run on an RBI single by Casey Kotchman. (The O's eventually lost 7-5 in 11 innings.) Gregg has pitched moderately well this year, but there was a pitcher still in the bullpen who Showalter should have went to instead: Koji Uehara.

This situation isn't something new; Showalter seems to like having Gregg in the closer role, and Gregg has racked up 12 saves. But acquiring saves doesn't make a pitcher great. Consider the career numbers of both pitchers:

Gregg: 3.99 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 8.28 K/9, 3.88 BB/9, 134 saves
Uehara: 3.32 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 8.98 K/9, 1.43 BB/9, 13 saves

In parts of nine major league seasons, Gregg has accumulated 4.9 fWAR. In parts of only three seasons, Uehara has already been worth 3.6 fWAR.

The Orioles may not have the greatest bullpen in the league, but the team does have some decent relievers. Jim Johnson, who's also been solid this year, pitched two scoreless innings before Gregg entered the game.

I've argued before that using Gregg in a save situation when Uehara (or Johnson) is sitting in the bullpen is pretty silly, especially when both pitchers are well rested. In this case, Uehara pitched last night -- when the O's were already leading 5-0, which is another matter entirely. However, Uehara ended up pitching the 10th inning tonight after Gregg departed, meaning he was just fine to pitch the ninth. Does it really make a ton of sense to use one guy instead of another clearly better option just because the former has racked up more saves? That logic applies even more so since the O's were leading by only a single run.

Uehara is the better pitcher. He very well may have blown the save just as Gregg did. But a manager's job is to put his team in the best position to win, and it doesn't look like Showalter did that tonight.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Responding to a comment

Yesterday, a reader posted the following comment on my Nick Markakis post:
Anonymous said...
No mention to his consistently changing approach at the plate?

Markakis has always had pressure on him to be the face of the Orioles, but the real question is: is he good enough to be the face of a good team?

With the stats he is producing now, no. But when he was doing good things consistently, then yes, he was. How do you get him back to that sense of continuity?
I do realize that Markakis tinkers with his batting stance frequently -- moving his hands and feet around, changing how upright he stands, etc. Cal Ripken used to do similar things. I would assume that most of that is a comfort thing. Maybe he's just doing something different simply for the sake of doing something different. For the most part, Markakis's swing -- the end result -- still looks the same. Again, he's still hitting a lot of line drives, but he just isn't a power hitter. Maybe he wants to be one and is working hard to get there; if so, I commend him for putting in the work. But he's essentially a gap-to-gap hitter who's going to hit a lot of singles and doubles. The Markakis who walks a lot and hits a ton of doubles has value, but the current Markakis isn't getting the job done. And he knows that.

In his 2008 season, yes, Markakis was outstanding. But it's also possible that that's the best he'll ever play. He hasn't come close to replicating those numbers, and he may never get back to that level.

I don't know if he's good enough to be the face of the Orioles. Honestly, I'm not really sure exactly what that means. All I know is that the problem with the O's is that they lack overall talent, and I do believe they're in the process of rectifying that problem. The issue with Markakis right now is that he wasn't supposed to be something that the franchise had to worry about, at least for the duration of his current contract. Hopefully he gets things going.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nick Markakis: declining star?

First, let me get this out of the way: Players go through slumps. It happens. And some last longer than others. It's too early to completely give up on Nick Markakis, whose 0-4 game last night dropped his on-base percentage under .300 (to .298). But he's looked pretty bad for more than two months now, and there are some disturbing trends forming.

Markakis is 27 years old. He should be in the prime of his career and hitting the cover off the ball. But as my friend Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies pointed out the other day, "Some guys peak at 24." That's true, and it's yet another reason to be concerned about Markakis.

What are the things that (at least previously) Markakis does best?

- Gets on base a lot.
- Covers the plate and hits line drives to all fields.
- Is an OK outfielder with limited range, but has a great arm.

Those are the main three, right? He doesn't hit for much power, doesn't have blazing speed, and is probably an average to below-average right fielder at this point. (FanGraphs has him slightly above average so far this season, so that's something.) It's probably not entirely fair to judge Markakis on a broader scale solely because of his current numbers (he's slugging only .304 too), but if he's not excelling in those three areas above, then he's not giving the O's much value. And so far, he has a -0.1 fWAR (FanGraphs WAR).

Markakis has cut down on his strikeouts (12.2 K%), but he's also walking much less (6.9 BB%). He's always been willing to work the count and take a walk, but that hasn't been the case this season. He's been unlucky on balls in play (.251 BABIP), and he's hitting a lot of line drives as well (22.3 LD%). But he's doing some weird things too, like owning a 17.3 percent infield fly ball percentage, swinging at more pitches out of the zone (27.3%) and overall (46.0%), and making less contact when swinging at all pitches (85.7%). So sure, he's due for a few more hits to drop in here and there, which should raise his numbers a bit. But that won't necessarily result in a huge jump in extra-base hits for Markakis, who has only hit four doubles and four home runs. Now that's shocking.

Markakis's current deal runs for at least three more seasons. He's making $10.25 million this year, and he'll make at least $42 million over the next three. (He also has a $17.5 million club option in 2015, with a $2 million buyout.) Markakis's deal, signed in early 2009, seemed pretty good at the time, but it's not looking that great now. So for those people out there, not that there's many of them, suggesting that the Orioles simply trade Markakis away, that may not be such an easy task.

Maybe the most frustrating thing about Markakis is that he's supposed to be the one constant in the O's lineup. I've been saying for a while now that the O's have struggled to produce young talent at the major league level, but guys like Adam Jones and Matt Wieters appear to be taking at least small steps forward (not to mention the strides by a few young pitchers). Unfortunately, if Markakis really has regressed this much, that's yet another position the O's need to be worried about.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What to know about Dylan Bundy

Drafting fourth, the Orioles weren't supposed to have to choose between Dylan Bundy and Anthony Rendon, who dropped a few spots after the Mariners passed on him at No. 2. But those types of things happen, and the O's decided to stick to their guns -- they've apparently been high on Bundy all along -- and selected Bundy. Injuries seem to be the main reason for Rendon's drop. Regardless, the O's have to be pretty excited to get their guy in Bundy.

You may have heard by now -- several times, possibly -- that Bundy's brother, Bobby, was drafted by the O's in 2008 and is currently pitching at Single-A Frederick. Expect to keep hearing it. (I actually think it's pretty cool that they're both in the O's system, but it shouldn't be one of the chief motivations for drafting the guy. Not that it was.)

Here are some things to know about Bundy:

- "Bundy is an 18-year-old right-hander out of Owasso (Okla.) High near Tulsa. This year, he went 11-0 with an 0.20 ERA. In 71 innings, he walked just five and fanned 158. He pitched one no-hitter and six one-hitters." [Steve Melewski]

- "Baseball America's Jim Callis raved about Dylan Bundy. 'Some scouting directors think he's the best pitcher in the draft, even better than all these college guys - and it's an exceptionally deep college draft,' Callis said. 'We have him No. 2 on our prospect list, ahead of all the college pitchers and you could argue he's No. 1. If you are worried about a high school pitcher as a top pick, I would tell people this guy is so exceptional it's almost like he's a college pitcher. He's not just some guy that is raw and throws hard and you wonder about his other pitches. Dylan Bundy can do it all; his resume is ridiculous.'" [Steve Melewski]

- "[Orioles scouting director Joe] Jordan said Bundy had 'one of the best deliveries of any pitcher in the draft.

'It took a little while today to get information from other clubs. He was being talked about in two of the rooms in front of us. We just put him up there and he was the best guy on our board when it was our turn.'

Anthony Rendon of Rice was still available with the fourth pick and Jordan was asked if the O's thought about taking him.

'We spent a lot of time today trying to get through that situation. Really, we got where we wanted to be on it. We just went with the player that we wanted,' he said." [Steve Melewski]

- "[Bundy] On his draft slot: 'Really I just thought I was going 4 or 5, Orioles or Kansas City, but there were rumors that Baltimore wasn’t going to take me because of signability and all this stuff. I was just hoping that they might change their mind and let me play with my brother this year.'" [Dan Connolly]

- "Rated as the best available prep pitcher in the 2011 class, Bundy impresses with a 95-100 MPH fastball. He isn't just a thrower, showing outstanding command of a plus curveball, plus slider, and solid changeup. He is a complete package and won't need as much development time as most high-school arms, possibly reaching the majors within two years. Bundy has robust bonus demands, but his brother Bobby pitches in the Orioles' system and perhaps that will help with his signability.

Bundy is 6-1, 205 and doesn't have the classic projectability of a high-school arm, but already has outstanding stuff, is a good athlete and very polished for his age. His draft slot is appropriate, and while pitching always represents an injury risk, Bundy is about as safe as it comes for a high-school pick. It seems unlikely that he will make it to college." [John Sickels]


In terms of Bundy vs. Rendon, I'm torn. Most draft boards rated Rendon (mainly at either No. 1 or No. 2) higher than Bundy, including Baseball America, which had Rendon at the top. Still, there's something to be said for the O's staying composed and going with their guy. Rendon would have been a great pick, and the O's certainly could use more young position player talent. Then again, they need more talent in general, and if Bundy impresses the way the O's scouts think he will, the O's will have another young arm to go with their improving pitching corps.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

O's need Reynolds to turn it around

The move to trade for Mark Reynolds was supposed to do two things: 1) provide the Orioles with a legitimate power threat and 2) give Reynolds a fresh start with a new team. But so far, Reynolds has not played as well as Andy MacPhail and Co. would have hoped.

In 2009, Mark Reynolds had a career year with the Diamondbacks. He hit .260/.349/.543 with 44 home runs. During that season, he struck out 38.6 percent of the time -- his highest mark in three seasons -- but he got on base at a pretty decent clip and hit with a ton of power. Those two abilities made up for his lack of defensive prowess at third base.

However, Reynolds took a step back in 2010, batting .198/.320/.433 with 32 homers. According to UZR, his defense at third was actually better than average that season, though that hasn't continued in his first couple of months with the Orioles. Reynolds's walk rate jumped from 11.5 percent to 13.9 percent, but his already-high strikeout rate rose as well (38.6 percent to 43.3 percent). His line drive percentage also took a hit, which was partly to blame for his career low BABIP of .257 (his previous low had been .323 in 2008). Except for his first season in 2007 when he hit .279, which was fueled by a .378 BABIP, Reynolds has not been a high-average type of hitter, but hitting under .200 in a full season had to be extremely disappointing, not to mention embarrassing.

Unfortunately for both Reynolds and the O's, Reynolds has not been able to rekindle his 2009 numbers in Baltimore. He's currently hitting .189/.306/.378 with eight home runs and an abysmal .312 wOBA. Those eight homers actually leads the O's right now, but that's not saying a whole lot for a team as offensively challenged as the O's have been.

The odd thing, though, is not that Reynolds has struggled (though not many people thought he'd be quite this bad), but that he's doing so in a slightly different way. His walk percentage (13.7 percent) is almost identical to last season's, but his strikeout percentage, which has risen in each of his first four professional seasons, has been cut to 31.4 percent. Was that a conscious change? Possibly. Is it making him less effective at the plate? Probably.

His BABIP is again very low (.223), but he's also hitting even fewer line drives than he did last season. It's also not a positive trend that his line drive percentage has dropped every season. In terms of plate discipline, Reynolds is attacking fewer pitches overall (both inside and outside of the zone), and he's also making more contact in general (again, both inside and outside the zone). Because of that, it makes sense that his walk rate is about the same and that he's cutting down on his strikeouts. But he's also not getting on base nearly enough or doing the type of damage the O's envisioned when they traded for him. He's likely due for a few more hits to drop in now and then, but if he's not hitting the ball hard, that hardly matters as much. The contact hitter version of Reynolds certainly isn't as scary as the power hitter version.

Reynolds has time to turn things around. After a sluggish April, he has improved his on-base and slugging percentages by more than 50 points each. That's still not good enough, really, but it is a start. And since Reynolds is essentially guaranteed to be in an Orioles uniform next season as well -- he's due to make $7.5 million -- he may as well get familiar with Camden Yards for a little while.