The Indians’ Lineup is Suffering From a Franmil Reyes Power Outage
Franmil Reyes is back.
Well, he was. I found myself implying as much last month, when the Cleveland Indians’ power hitter loudly shook off a lukewarm start to the 2020 campaign.
While he was tormenting opposing pitching, the team around him was holding its own offensively, averaging 4.4 runs per game in August. Of the 118 runs Cleveland scored that month, 18.6% were driven in by Reyes.
Things have cooled off a bit since then, as the team is collectively slashing .240/.307/.392 for the month of September. One reason for this is a sudden drop in Reyes’ signature slugging.
While the Indians have more than a few offensive issues to fix as the postseason nears, finding Reyes’ missing power is certainly one of the top priorities.
As mentioned, it seemed as though this problem was already addressed. After looking sluggish early in the season, Reyes’ bat came alive in August.
He slashed .313/.378/.576 for the month, slugging seven home runs and generating a wRC+ 53% above league average. Reyes barreled 20.9% of his batted balls, boasting an absurd 52.2% hard hit rate and an average exit velocity of 94.8 mph. As of September 2, he was leading the American League in batting average.
All in all, though Cleveland’s overall offense remained inconsistent, the team could at least rest assured knowing it was getting frequent production from its most powerful bat.
This is a luxury the Indians no longer enjoy.
After tearing the cover off baseballs at a torrid pace throughout August, Reyes has spent September significantly cooling down.
His batting average (.282) is still fine, while his OBP (.357) remains strong.
However, Reyes’ main claim to fame -- his power -- has all but vanished.
Month-over-month, Reyes has seen a 211 point drop in slugging percentage. His isolated power has fallen from .263 (123 points above average) to .111 (29 points below average).
It gets worse.
Reyes’ exit velocity (89.5), barrel rate (7.1%) and hard hit rate (42.9%) are all down from August. He has just five extra base hits in September, with his lone home run occurring on the first day of the month.
It isn’t as though Reyes is striking out at a higher frequency. In fact, this month’s strikeout rate (29.3%) is a few ticks lower than the number he put up in August (29.7%).
Overall, Reyes just isn’t making as much quality contact as he did the previous month. Even worse, whatever progress he was making against fastballs has significantly dropped off.
As noted last month, Reyes had been making major strides in catching up with a pitch type he sees more frequently than any other. Cleveland’s slugger finished August with a 55% hard hit rate against fastballs, with 10 barrels, six home runs and an average exit velocity of 95.9 mph.
In a sense, it seems as though his ability to effectively hit this pitch type has reverted in September.
To date, he’s only barreled two fastballs this month. Of his eight -- yes, just eight -- hits off this pitch type in September, only three went for extra bases, none leaving the ballpark. Reyes’ average exit velocity against fastballs is down by 4.5 mph, while his hard hit rate is 14% lower.
Is Reyes solely to blame for Cleveland’s team-wide 85 wRC+ being the fifth lowest in the majors? Of course not. Likewise, with a 14.7% walk rate for the month, he’s still finding his way to the base paths.
Still, his trademark is launching baseballs into different area codes. Yet, this is something Reyes hasn’t done since September 1.
If the Indians want to make any significant noise come playoff time, they’ll need him to figure out where he left his missing power.
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