Scratch that, a worrying start.
And it’s not just fans and writers who are taking notice.
— Brady Hamilton (@Brady_216) April 28, 2022
Francona explained the move was a strategic one (obviously) but had less to do with Reyes and more to do with the Angels’ unwillingness to pitch at José Ramirez:
“It’s been pretty evident on this trip that they haven’t wanted to pitch to Josey much, or give him much to hit.”
By moving Reyes back and promoting Owen Miller to the cleanup spot, Francona apparently hopes to kill two birds with one stone.
On one hand, he can make pitchers think twice before coughing up a walk to Ramirez when the next batter up has a real tendency to get on base.
So far, Owen Miller is putting up a .432 with 7 RBIs in only twelve games.
On the other hand, Francona can move Reyes down and out of the spotlight, easing the pressure.
Reyes’ Bat A Major Need
Francona knows how important Reyes’ offense is to the team:
“We can hit (Reyes) anywhere in the order. We’ve got to get him going. That’s a big bat for us.”
If the Guardians are going to remain relevant in the AL Central and beyond, the squad needs Reyes to look more like his 2021 self.
Last season, Reyes was an offensive dynamo, mashing 30 home runs and accounting for 85 RBIs.
He also reached base just under a third of the time (.324).
This season, however, has been a different story entirely.
His batting (.152), on-base percentage (.188), and slugging (.242) are all career lows.
Even worse, he leads the majors in strikeouts (30) and double plays grounded into (5).
Franmil Reyes' strikeout streak ends at 8 consecutive at-bats.
Instead, this time he grounded into a double play.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) April 28, 2022
Basically, not only is he not getting himself on base, but he’s a liability for other players as well.
That’s a problem batting anywhere, but especially cleanup.
And even more so when the guys batting before you, Ramirez and Steven Kwan, are having red-hot starts to the season.
So what do the Guards do?
The first move has already been made.
Francona’s decision to send him down to the sixth spot is a recognition that, so far, things just aren’t working out.
The team would be best served by keeping Reyes in that spot and just letting him work.
Fortunately, the Guardians have enough offense at the moment to give Reyes some slack.
If Owen Miller stays hot, Reyes’ burden will be all the more alleviated.
Plus, Reyes has been a streaky bat in the past.
He’s found ways to get going in the midst of a slump, like last fall, when he exploded in September after a quiet August.
But what happens if Reyes doesn’t get going?
He’s a literal zero on defense (DH), so would the Guardians be forced to simply sideline him during crucial series down the stretch?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
But no batter ever improved chewing sunflower seeds riding the pine.
Right now, the team should keep Reyes at the six and hope he finds his groove.
Either that, or the top of the lineup doesn’t lose a step.