Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining Why Bryan Reynolds is Struggling

Why is Bryan Reynolds In His Slump?
Jun 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) in
Jun 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) in / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds isn't hitting like his typical self, so what's going on and why is he in this slump?

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds entered the season with many fans having All-Star expectations for him. After all, Reynolds has been one of the Pirates’ most consistent hitters over the last few seasons. Outside of 2020, he’s been a force to be reckoned with when he steps to the plate, but Reynolds is having a down year, at least for his standards.

He’s only hitting .265/.335/.453 on the season. Those numbers aren’t terrible, and they’re still above the league-average triple-slash of .248/.320/.410. But for Reynolds, these numbers are a major step down. So what is the potential leading factor to these greatly underwhelming numbers for a guy who should be hitting like an all-star?

Reynolds’ plate discipline isn’t the problem. His 26% whiff rate is pretty much in line with his career norm. All his other plate discipline numbers are very close to his normal career averages. The only one that stands out as drastically different is his chase rate, at 23.3%. That’s a career best rate by a fair margin, but swinging at pitches outside the zone less often is a good thing.

If you were to just look at his other peripheral stats, he should be having a career year. He’s reaching career-best marks in multiple under-the-hood numbers, including barrel rate (13.2%), exit velocity (91.9 MPH), and hard-hit rate (50%) by a wide margin. If you look at his expected numbers, they’re not much different from his 2021 career year. 

Reynolds has a .289 xBA, .511 xSLG, and .378 xwOBA. All three are at least in the 88th percentile. Reynolds isn’t one to greatly overperform or underperform his expected numbers on a regular basis. His career xBA (.275), xSLG (.471), and xwOBA (.357), are almost identical to his career batting average (.277), slugging percentage (.477), and weighted on-base average (.356). What you see is what you get with Reynolds most of the time.

This year, it’s simply not been the same. Some of that is due to bad batted ball luck. Reynolds has a .301 batting average on balls in play. He is typically a player who runs a high BAbip. His career average is .330. Last season after his slow start in April-May, Reynolds ran a .337 BAbip from June onward, with typical Reynolds numbers. Some of that’s been a factor in his uninspiring numbers.

Right now, there are 21 qualified batters with a barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and exit velocity in the 85th+ percentile. Reynolds is one of those batters. He and Joey Gallo are the only two with an OPS below .800, and Gallo probably could have an OPS well over .800 if he wasn’t so strikeout prone. In terms of exit velocity and launch angle, the two components that factor into barrel rate and the expected numbers, Reynolds is almost completely identical to Houston outfielder Kyle Tucker and Atlanta catcher Sean Murphy.

Right now, Reynolds just can’t seem to get anything going for him. A lot of it just simply seems to be bad luck. Reynolds is hitting the ball harder than ever, making quality contact more often than he ever has, and is posting great plate discipline numbers. But things just aren’t clicking right now for the outfielder.

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