August 13, 2022

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Struggling Reyes gets a breather: 'He'll get out of it'

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OAKLAND — Guardians manager Terry Francona felt like it was time to give Franmil Reyes a day off.

We’ve seen Reyes go through scorching hot and ice cold streaks in the past. He’s admitted to his streaky tendencies and talked about his drive to find an answer to become more consistent all last season. But this stretch may be the worst he’s gone through in his time with Cleveland.

Reyes has gone hitless in his last 25 at-bats, totaling 17 strikeouts in that span. His 35 strikeouts not only lead MLB, but are also tied for the second-most in any team’s first 20 games of season since 1900:

2018 Yoenis Céspedes: 37 
2022 Franmil Reyes: 35 
2021 Javier Báez: 35 
2018 Yoán Moncada: 35 
2018 Miguel Sanó: 35 
2016 Justin Upton: 35

Entering Saturday, he owned the second lowest wRC+ (11, ahead of Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield) and was tied for the lowest fWAR (with Minnesota’s Miguel Sano, -0.8) among 179 qualified hitters across the Majors. So, Francona determined Saturday’s game against Oakland was the best opportunity to give Reyes a day to reset.

“One thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to run from guys,” Francona said. “Then with a quick turnaround, just thought maybe it would be OK to let him gather himself a little bit. We’re having some optional [batting practice] on the field with the machine without the game hanging over his head. Might be good for him.”

The Guardians have tried a handful of different things with Reyes to try to help him through this skid without removing him from the lineup, including dropping him a few spots in the batting order and putting him in the outfield so that he had other things to worry about than just hitting.

Putting him in the outfield worked last week heading into the road trip, as Reyes hit his first homer of the season in the last game of the homestand against the White Sox and continued to roll in New York, mashing another long ball. But since then, his bat has gone quiet.

Reyes had a solid spring campaign, hitting .344 with one homer, one double, six RBIs, five walks and nine strikeouts in 32 at-bats. But since leaving the desert, he’s struggled to string hits together. Here’s a quick look at some of the concerning trends he’s seen throughout the early weeks of the regular season:

Barrel percentage: 12.8%, down 4.1% from last year’s average
Hard-hit rate: 41%, down 7.5% from last year’s average
Strikeout percentage: 45.5%, up 13.5% from last year’s average
Walk percentage: 3.9%, down 5.3% from last year’s average
Whiff percentage: 42.5%, up 8.8% from last year’s average

Maybe it’ll take more than one day off to get Reyes going in the right direction, but the decision to keep him out of the lineup for one game certainly can’t hurt.

“I think as hitters that struggle, you kind of get in between,” Francona said. “Sometimes they get the fastball by you and you’re a little ahead of the breaking ball. I’ve been there. It’s not a good feeling. He’ll get out of it. Sometimes it can be one swing, sometimes you have to work your way toward it. You never quite know.”

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