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Why Mark Reynolds is not the next Mike Schmidt

Posted by Andy on August 21, 2010

Through 500 career games, Mark Reynolds and Mike Schmidt have remarkably similar career numbers.

Reynolds had a line of .250/.336/.495 with 108 HR, 316 RBI, 220 BB, and 675 K.

Schmidt had a line of .252/.372/.507 with 108 HR, 301 RBI, 302 BB, and 503 K.

So is Reynolds going to be a Hall of Fame third baseman just like Michael Jack?

I highly doubt it. Click through for more.

There are several reasons why the numbers of Reynolds and Schmidt are not actually as similar as they appear:

  • Reynolds' numbers came from 2007-2010, when teams averaged exactly 1 HR per game. Schmidt's came in 1972-1975, when the average was about 0.72 HR per game. So Reynolds has hit in an environment with almost 40% more homers but hit the same number as Schmidt. (Those of you old enough to remember the beginning of Schmidt's career, just think about reputation. Schmidt, despite his initial struggles, was considered a massive power hitter, while Reynolds has had just one season-2009-as a top HR hitter.) The same argument holds for RBI. Reynolds holds only a slight edge despite playing in an environment with about half a run (roughly 12%) more runs scored by a single team in an average game.
  • Notice, too, that Schmidt had a much higher OBP despite the fact that MLB OBP was about 10 points higher during Reynolds' period than Schmidt's. The difference between the two players is due largely to a significant bump in walks for Schmidt.
  • Reynolds is putting up a stinker season this year (at least compared to expectations) in his 4th full season. It's not terrible, with a 105 OPS+, but for a guy once again leading the league in strikeouts, he projects to 36 HR and 95 RBI this season--not great. Schmidt also led the league in strikeouts for the third year running in his 4th full season (1976) but he also led in HR for the third straight time, put up an OPS+ of 150, finished 3rd in the NL MVP, and put up a WAR of 8.5. Reynolds has a WAR of just 0.9 so far in 2010. Through the first 4 full seasons (less a month and a half for Reynolds), there is no comparison on WAR: Reynolds 6.0, Schmidt 28.0. Wow.

Check out Schmidt's most similar players by age:

24. Mark Reynolds (973)
25. Mark Reynolds (965)
26. Jesse Barfield (913)
27. Troy Glaus (942)
28. Troy Glaus (940)
29. Troy Glaus (940)
30. Troy Glaus (948)
31. Troy Glaus (927)
32. Ralph Kiner (896)
33. Harmon Killebrew (880)
34. Jim Thome (878)
35. Jose Canseco (878)
36. Reggie Jackson (884)
37. Jim Thome (874)
38. Reggie Jackson (871)
39. Reggie Jackson (874)

This tells an interesting story. At a young age he and Reynolds are nearly indistinguishable as far as raw numbers go (but remember the run-scoring environment points above). As time went on, Schmidt compared to better and better players. This is because Schmidt kept putting up good season after good season and stayed in the league for a long time.

If Reynolds hopes to do the same, he is going to have to improve.

26 Responses to “Why Mark Reynolds is not the next Mike Schmidt”

  1. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    The thing I believe seperates Schmidt from Reynolds the most are the strikeouts. Over 500 games, Reynolds has about 25% more Ks that Schmidt did. As the old saying {that I just now made up} goes, you can't get a hit if the ball doesn't go anywhere.

  2. WilsonC Says:

    There's really three major factors separating them: Context, plate discipline, and defense. Both hit for power, but Schmidt was the top power hitter of the time, whereas Reynolds is merely a very good one. Schmidt struck out a lot, but he also walked a lot, whereas Reynolds strikes out even more and has merely solid walk rates. Beyond offense, however, Schmidt separated himself as a terrific fielder, whereas Reynolds is mediocre at best defensively. It's interesting that their raw numbers are similar so far, even if most people would correctly conclude that they're not overly similar as players.

  3. Andy Says:

    Well, strikeouts are up from about 5 per game in Schmidt's early days to a little less than 7 per game in Reynolds first few years. That's about a 35% increase, so Reynolds' increase over Schmidt (both league-leading numbers) doesn't bother me so much. With similar batting averages, it just means that Schmidt put more balls into play that turned into outs.

  4. DavidRF Says:

    Bill James intentionally made these similarity scores a bit intellectually backwards because he was trying to re-create early 1990's HOF voter biases. No parks effects, no era effects, very little emphasis on OBP... because early 1990's HOF voters didn't care about those things either.

    I use the OPS+ and ERA+ columns of these similarity tables as a sanity check to see which comps are good and which ones are not. Schmidt has Reynolds beat by 24 points of OPS+. Not a good comp. Reynolds' better comps through age 25 are Cory Snyder, Fernando Tatis and Ron Gant.

    I suppose they could add a WAR column to the similarity charts as another way of doing a sanity check. They've added WAR columns everywhere else. 🙂

    The cross-era comps are fun though. Rocco Baldelli and Tris Speaker. Luis Rivas and Rod Carew. Ozzie Guillen and Joe Tinker. Gavvy Gravath and Rusty Greer. (Career comp!)

  5. Scott Says:

    Don't leave out the biggest difference, fielding. Reynolds can't hold a candle to Michael Jack's glove.

  6. Andy Says:

    Check out my post on Reynolds from the end of last season:

    I feared that he wouldn't do so well going forward...

  7. Richard Says:

    What a strange post. I'd like to address a few parts.

    "Schmidt, despite his initial struggles, was considered a massive power hitter, while Reynolds has had just one season-2009-as a top HR hitter"

    Let's see: he's 5th in the NL in HR this year and 3rd in AB/HR and this is just his third full season. So, not top ten in HR in his rookie season = not massive power hitter

    "Reynolds is putting up a stinker season this year (at least compared to expectations) in his 4th full season. It's not terrible, with a 105 OPS+, but for a guy once again leading the league in strikeouts, he projects to 36 HR and 95 RBI this season--not great."

    On what planet is 36 HR not great?

  8. Thomas Says:

    As always, statistics need to be taken in conjunction with others.... you can't just say 36 HR's = great season.

    Andy did a pretty good job of answering your question as well, a season with 105 OPS+ isn't great, 36 hr's or 10 hr's.... the OPS+ is still 105. which means only slightly above average.

    On what planet is 105 OPS+ great?

  9. DavidRF Says:

    There seems to be a huge gap in expectations here. There's a lot of room between "Mike Schmidt" and "stinks".

    How about more reasonable floor and ceiling? Jim Presley or Dean Palmer?

  10. flyingelbowsmash Says:

    Schmidt is a guy whose career looks even more amazing under the saber stats lens. He had 9 seasons of a WAR of 7.0 or higher. Probably the best player of his era, thought lacking speed. I wonder if the Phils had better teams in the late 80's if he would have played longer. 18 seasons isn't long for a HOF. But I guess he isn't someone we can gripe about who hung on too long to make some milestone.

    Back to this post, completely unfair to compare Reynolds to Schmidt. Not even close, especially when you factor defense. How about a post comparing A-Rod and Schmidt? They are close in HR numbers.

  11. Jesse011 Says:

    The 36 point difference is pretty significant given the similar BA. That's the difference between a guy with an ordinary or worse batting eye and a great hitter with a much better idea of what's going on at the plate.

  12. Gerry Says:

    Taking up on DavidRF's comments (#4), I would love to see similarity scores based on park- and era-adjusted stats.

  13. Adam Sadler Says:

    Reynolds, do you think he will be a hall of famer? No! He suck! Strikeout 200 times a year and can't even bat .220! Scmidt highest average was over .300 one time in his career. And Schmidt was also a MVP player and won gold gloves.

  14. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I'm thinking that the stealth point of this thread is how little unadjusted triple crown stats mean. If you look at BA, HR and RBI, Reynolds and Schmidt's first few seasons look very similar. OTOH, if you look at OPS+ or WAR, they don't look similar at all. OPS+ and WAR make Schmidt look like a premier power hitter destined for a probable HoF career, and Reynolds look like a somewhat above average hitter. Which is about right.

  15. Jeff James Says:

    Yogi Berra wishes that he would have said that :-O

  16. Jeff James Says:

    @15 was in regard to "As the old saying {that I just now made up} goes, you can't get a hit if the ball doesn't go anywhere.", the blog is chopping quotes off again

  17. MikeD Says:

    Why insult Mike Schmidt with this post?! Schmidt is the greatest 3B'man to play the game. Reynolds is a pretender. Comparing raw stats without placing them in context is a crime and a game that a site the stature of Baseball Reference shouldn't play. There is not a single skill that Reynolds is better at than Schmidt, at bat, in the field, or on base. Reynolds playing in the 1970s hitting environment and conditions that Schmidt played in is a .220, 25 HR hitter. Nothing more.

  18. Michael Poplawski Says:

    Through Age 26 (Reynolds gets another six weeks, granted), Schmidt had 28 WAR, Reynolds 6, and had already been a top-six MVP candidate twice. They're only superficially similar--the 2000s have seen significantly more offense, making these two players with similar statistics quite different in value.

    If you like HR, Schmidt had led the NL in HR three straight years. Reynolds isn't even top 3 in any season.

    It's really not close.

  19. Andy Says:

    Lots of responses:

    #4: That's fascinating about James' design for sim scores. I had never heard that before.

    #7: It's really Reynolds' RBI that I'm referring to, or really his RBI/HR ratio. Seems like he hits his share of homers, but doesn't get too many other run-scoring hits, a sign that he's really not a very good hitter. Otherwise, with 36 HR, he'd be projected for more like 110-115 RBI, not fewer than 100.

    #9: I'm not trying to suggest that Reynolds stinks overall. He looks like he could be a slightly above-average run-producer for now. He's just not on the Schmidt trajectory, it would seem, and by age 30 if he declines a little he might not be a major-leaguer anymore either (as has been the case with numerous other high-HR, high-K, low-RBI, low-BA guys...)

    #10: My point was not to compare the two guys, it was to show how sets of raw numbers don't mean all that much without context.

    #13: Sarcasm? I suspect so.

    #14: You're right, except that it's not supposed to be stealthy. This is a weekend "beginners" post, designed to appeal to the more casual fans who stop by the site on the weekends. For the majority of our hardcore blog readers, this post is all plainly-obvious stuff.

    #17: How did I insult Schmidt? I DID evaluate his stats by putting them in context and concluded that Reynolds isn't close to Schmidt. (You may not be aware that Schmidt is among my all-time favorite players...believe me when I say that I'm not insulting him.)

  20. Basmati Says:

    You talk about high HR, high K, low RBI, low BA guys. I'm guessing you're talking about the likes of Dunn, Pena and the new guy would be Bautista? Maybe these are a better comp for Reynolds.

    Have a look at Mike Napoli's numbers. He's only logged 473 games even though he's 28 and in his fifth year (largely due to splitting catching duties with Jeff Mathis due to questionable defense at catcher). Napoli is currently .255/.349/.489 with 86 HR, 235 RBI, 186 BB, 430 K. I know Napoli plays a different position but those stats aren't miles away. I think Napoli could have been a guy who played most days on a weaker team, using him at an easier defensive position just to get his bat in the lineup.

  21. MikeD Says:

    Andy @19, in fairness to you, the title of your blog is "Why Mark Reynolds is not the next Mike Schmidt." Yet the very idea sounds as if someone actually believes Reynolds might be the next Schmidt. I've never seen this comparision. It would be like have a blog that says "Why Jacob Ellsbury is not the next Rickey Henderson."

  22. John Autin Says:

    To Andy re: your reply to #7 ("I'm referring to...his RBI/HR ratio. Seems like he hits his share of homers, but doesn't get too many other run-scoring hits, a sign that he's really not a very good hitter.")

    By that measure, Barry Bonds wasn't really a very good hitter in 2001 when he hit 73 HRs with a .328 BA, including .374 with men on base and .382 with RISP -- because he had "just" 137 RBI; he drove in only 29 runs with "other run-scoring hits." Same for Mark McGwire's 70-HR season, when all but 29 of his 147 RBI came on HRs.

    Your analysis on this point seems to ignore the fact that, all other things being equal, RBI/HR has a positive correlation to the hitter's BA, but a negative correlation to HRs. Since Reynolds's BA is below average and his HRs are well above average, it stands to reason that his RBI/HR will be below average.

    Also, RBI/HR is highly context-driven. A small increase in the league HR rate will cause a proportionally larger decline in RBI/HR.

    If you go looking for players with the highest career rate of RBI/HR, you'll find a lot of guys from the low-HR periods, especially pre-1930. Pie Traynor and Joe Sewell both averaged more than 20 RBI per HR; heck, Stuffy McInnis averaged over 50 RBI per HR! But none of them had an OPS+ above 108.

    Bottom line: While RBI/HR may be a fun number to play with for numbers geeks such as we, it really isn't a meaningful measure of a hitter's impact.

    P.S. If you check the Play Index for seasons comparable to Reynolds's 162-game average, you'll see that his run production is absolutely normal for a guy with his power and average.

  23. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Reynolds playing in the 1970s hitting environment and conditions that Schmidt played in is a .220, 25 HR hitter. Nothing more.

    Hard to say. The Reynolds of today put into a time machine and dropped back then may not even make the majors, because he strikes out so much. But a Reynolds-type player who is born in 1949 probably develops differently than the Reynolds we know. Maybe he never comes close to the majors because he doesn't have the requisite skills. Or maybe he develops different skills and finds a way to contribute. His current value might be the same as ~25 HR in the mid-70s, but that seems a less interesting question.

  24. Mike Felber Says:

    18 seasons seems like a decent length even for an HOF player. What is the average # for them? 20+ are a lot, most do not do that.

  25. kds Says:

    DavidRF and Andy,

    The reason Andy had not heard that about Similarity Scores is that it is not true. James first published the method in his 1986 Abstract. David was probably thinking of James' Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards, both of which assign points to give an estimate of whether or not the player would get into the HoF based on the historical record of admissions. They were presented in his book, "Politics of Glory", reprinted as, "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?". Which was first published in 1994.

  26. Anon Says:

    @ Jesse #11 - much like the pooh-poohing of Reynolds's power numbers this year, his walk rate is far from "ordinary to mediocre". He currently ranks 7th in the league in walks and 7th in the league in BB/PA. He actually has a very good eye but this post is comparing him to one of the best hitters of all-time.

    Reynolds is actually experiencing a mammoth dip in his BABIP this year and that is fueling his lowered OPS. HIs ISO and BB/PA are right in line with his career numbers. He's just hitting a few more balls at people this year.

    The Schmidt comparisons (likely started here in AZ by the DBacks' TV analysts) need to stop. He's probably not the next Mike Schmidt (you never know but let's be honest here) but he doesn't have to be to be a very good player. His defensive numbers seem to be improving and I suspect his OPS will bounce back. Having an 850-900 OPS 3B who plays average defense is a very valuable player. . . .