Zach Wilt: Reynolds finds new ways to contribute

I’ve never complained about Mark Reynolds’ crazy high strikeout totals, but it’s definitely the popular thing to do in Birdland. All the cool kids are doing it. Power hitters go down swinging a lot; it happens. They swing hard and miss often, but when they put the barrel on the ball, it typically travels hundreds of feet.

After hitting two bombs in the Bronx on Sunday, Reynolds struck out three times in Rogers Centre on Monday. Last season, Reynolds led the American League in strikeouts with 196, but he finished fourth in home runs with 37. I’ll take the strikeouts in exchange for the homers.

This season has been a bit different for Reynolds. At this time last year, he had played in 135 games and stepped up to the plate 537 times. This season he’s played in only 107 games and has recorded 418 plate appearances. This obviously brings his strikeout total (128) down from where it was in 2011 (167) at this point in the season. Either way, Reynolds is still striking out about 30 percent of the time he steps into the batter’s box.

What’s alarming, though, has been Reynolds’ low home run total this season. He had 31 at this point in 2011 (a home run every 14 plate appearances) and has just 16 this year (a homer every 26 plate appearances. Reynolds has shown the power surge at points this season, recording two home run games Friday and Sunday against the Yankees, and finishing August with a .275 average, six homers and 13 RBIs in 25 games played.

Reynolds has heard the boo-birds in Baltimore and expressed his own frustrations in his performance this season. After hitting two out of the ballpark against the Red Sox on Aug. 14, Reynolds told’s Roch Kubatko that “one good night doesn’t mean anything.”

Against American League East opponents this year, Reynolds is hitting .279 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs. And as of late, he’s found another way to contribute in the Orioles’ quest for the postseason, with his glove. His .993 fielding percentage at first base doesn’t do his picks and work justice.

“He’s been playing like a Gold Glove first baseman,” J.J. Hardy told reporters after the O’s 5-3 win over the White Sox on Aug. 30. “Is he going to win a Gold Glove? No. But would I choose him to be my first baseman over a lot of guys? Yeah, I would.”

Hardy’s comments came a day before Reynolds made a diving catch to rob Russell Martin of a single, blocked a hard-hit ball off the bat off Jayson Nix and then flipped to Darren O’Day from his knees to help the Birds win the opener in New York 6-1.

The Orioles rank 18th overall in runs scored (565), 23rd in batting average (.245), 25th in on-base percentage (.309), 14th in slugging percentage (.410) and of course have a minus-31 run differential. But on Sept. 4, they’re 75-59 and one game back in the AL East behind the Yankees.

You can’t explain this season, and attempting to use statistics to define Reynolds’ importance in this historical run for the Orioles would be just as baffling. But he’s a daily contributor and valuable asset for a pennant contending ball club.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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