The Brewers recently signed former Diamondback, Yankee, Oriole, and Indian corner infielder Mark Reynolds. He is known for his prodigious power, and his obscene number of strikeouts. The Crew also has Juan Francisco, another player known for big power, and a plethora of strikeouts. It would appear that both players will get some time at first base this season. If you look at strikeouts the way the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt does, you’re really going to hate this combo, and may suffer from whiff rage.
Most people remember Mark Reynolds for his big 2009 season with the Diamondbacks. Playing within the very hitter friendly confines of Chase Field, Reynolds belted a career high 44 home runs. He followed that up with seasons of 32 and 37, the latter being with the Baltimore Orioles. His ISO ranks tied for 67th all-time, above names like Carlos Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Stan Musial, and Reggie Jackson. Clearly power isn’t and never has been the concern with Reynolds. Making contact with the baseball definitely has been.
Reynolds has posted some extremely high strikeout rates his entire career. His career strikeout percentage is 32.3%, which ranks as the fourth highest in the live-ball era for a player with at least 1500 career plate appearances. So yeah, he whiffs.
The story of Juan Francisco is much the same as Mark Reynolds. Though he does not have the big seasons to his name, his style is very similar to that of Reynolds. Francisco showed plus power throughout the minors, and we saw it on display last season. When Francisco gets into a ball, no ballpark can hold him, and few can hit it further.
Unfortunately, like Reynolds, Francisco struggles with contact. Francisco’s K% comes in at an unbelievable 33.6%, and was an astounding 35.8% last season. If Francisco were to continue striking out in nearly 36% of his plate appearances, he would post the highest strikeout percentage of any player in the live-ball era.
Clearly there are some historic issues with this tandem, but there is some upside. Reynolds has been good before, and while he likely won’t be that good ever again, there is a bit of upside here. Francisco has been working on a few mechanical changes to his swing (no doubt he needed them), so perhaps he’ll be able to cut his whiff rate, and allow the plus power to play more. If not, and Reynolds continues his decline and Francisco is still the old Francisco, then there are a few options for you. You could get angry at about a third of every one of their plate appearances, and make yourself miserable. On the other hand, you could laugh at the ridiculous swings they may take at some ridiculous pitches, and enjoy when they connect and hit a few moonshots.