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Indians Slugger Franmil Reyes is Finally Catching Up with the Fastball

Franmil Reyes is heating up.

If you’ve been following the Cleveland Indians over the past couple weeks, you’ll find such a statement obvious. After all, it’s hard to ignore the .316/.366/.553 slash line Cleveland’s slugger carried into Tuesday.

Or the .388 wOBA.

Or the wRC+ which is 45% above league average (145).

While it’s easy to revel in the numbers Reyes is currently putting up for the Tribe, it’s also easy to forget how much quieter he was at the plate to start the year. To be blunt, he looked alarmingly unsure of himself early on.

However, said slump appears to be behind him. Reyes is back to his hard-hitting ways, bringing life to an Indians lineup which has often lacked a pulse.

So what happened? What changed with Reyes? What occurred over the past two weeks that suddenly helped him shake off his cold start to the season?

Looking at the numbers, it seems as though Reyes was finally able to catch up with the fastball.

Before getting into that, let’s take a look at how he was performing before he suddenly started launching baseballs into neighboring counties.

From August 6th through this past Sunday, Reyes had at least one hit in eight of Cleveland’s nine games. Before said hot streak, he made notably less impact. Reyes’ numbers from July 24th through August 5th were, to put it politely, poor.

He had seven hits in 44 plate appearances, only two of which weren’t singles. During this time, Reyes batted .163, with a walk rate of 2% and a 34% strikeout rate. His average launch angle was low (nine degrees), his hard hit rate was below what we’re used to seeing (36%) and his average exit velocity was, for him, alarmingly slow (91.7 mph).

It was jarring, to say the least. Reyes, who’s made a name for himself by tearing the cover off the ball, just wasn’t making quality contact.

As mentioned, this soon changed.

When going through Reyes’ game logs since August 6, you’ll notice significant upticks with every stat mentioned above. In 38 plate appearances, he struck out less (16% K-rate), walked more (11% walk rate) and posted a torrid .515 batting average.

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Most importantly, Reyes got back to doing what he does best -- bruising baseballs.

During this time frame, he made hard contact on 56% of his batted balls, with six barrels and four home runs. Reyes’ average launch angle increased by four degrees (13), while his average exit velocity ramped up to 96.1 mph.

To hammer it home further, the hardest hit ball he registered during his funk left the bat at 101.4 mph.

Over the past two weeks, his max exit velocity is 114.7.

Since we’ve now confirmed that baseballs are indeed no longer safe when coming within 60 feet of Reyes’ bat, we can take a deeper dive into what’s changed with his approach. As mentioned, it seems to be as simple as his getting a better read on a pitch type he sees more frequently than any other.

Whether it’s a four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter or sinker, 54.7% of the pitches Reyes has seen this season have been of the fastball variety. It’s certainly par for the course with him, as fastballs represented 56% of the pitches he faced last year.

What’s most notable, though, is how much he struggled to hit them hard during his slow start to the year.

While enduring his aforementioned funk, he registered 18 batted balls off a fastball, ten of which resulted in field outs and one which resulted in a double play. 

Only 39% of his batted balls qualified as hard contact, while his average exit velocity was 93.2 mph. Reyes hit a fastball harder than 100 mph just once within this time frame.

Now, whatever was plaguing him with this pitch type before appears to have been addressed.

Since August 6th, Reyes has a hard hit rate of 57% off fastballs. Of his 21 batted balls off this pitch, eleven have been hit 100 mph or harder. His average exit velocity is up to 96.3 mph, with five barrels.

When he was slumping, Reyes’ wOBA against fastballs was 67 points below average (.253).

From August 6th through August 16th, his wOBA vs. fastballs is up to .747.

Whether Reyes can continue this ridiculous pace remains to be seen. Cleveland is certainly hoping he’s up for the task, especially considering how inconsistent the team’s offense has been thus far.

Regardless, if opposing pitchers thought they were suddenly safe to just keep dishing fastballs Reyes’ way, he’s loudly letting them know that’s no longer the case.