You do not have to be around Bryan Reynolds long to realize he has old-school sensibilities.
The Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder has put together a fine career since making his major-league debut in 2019 without doing anything to draw attention to himself. Reynolds is a fun guy to talk with – intelligent with a wry sense of humor – until the subject turns to Bryan Reynolds.
Reynolds never boasts, doesn’t take part in social media (at least publicly) and would probably be fine with never having to do an interview for the remainder of his career.
However, Reynolds is a new-school player when it comes to setting goals for a season.
“It used to be .300 (batting average). Now it’s just an .800 OPS,” Reynolds said. “I pretty much had that last year, minus a bad end to the year. I slipped under it.”
OPS, which stands for on-base plus slugging percentage, has gained mainstream acceptance over the last decade or more. However, entering my 37th year of covering baseball, it was the first time I heard a player use the statistic as a season goal.
Reynolds had a .790 OPS last season as he finished with a .330 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage. Reynolds’ career OPS is .830 over five seasons and he had an outstanding .912 mark in 2021 when he finished 11th in the National League MVP voting despite playing for a team that lost 101 games.
“That’s what I want to do,” Reynolds said of his .800 goal. “I can go higher, too, but that would be a good floor.”
There is little reason to think Reynolds cannot get his OPS back over .800 in 2024. He was at .801 during the final week of last season before going 2 for 14 with no extra-base hits and one walk in his last three games.
As far as traditional stats, Reynolds wound up the season hitting .263 with 24 home runs, 84 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 145 games.
Reynolds’ favorite statistic from last season, though, was the Pirates’ 76-86 record. It marked a 14-win improvement over the 62-100 record of 2022 and included an 18-13 stretch to end the season.
Reynolds liked that even better than the eight-year, $106-million contract extension he signed in April.
Like so many of his teammates, Reynolds believes the Pirates can contend for their first postseason spot since 2015. He thinks the intensity level should be turned up a bit in spring training, which begins on Feb. 14 when pitchers and catchers work out for the first time in Bradenton, Fla.
“I think we always are focused and all that, but I think the focus this year should be making the playoffs,” Reynolds said. “Not just trying to make strides but making tangible strides where we’re winning and in the playoffs. I don’t think that’s too far-fetched. I think that should be the goal.”
Making the playoffs still seems like at least a bit of a stretch in 2024. However, the Pirates did win just eight fewer games last season than the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went 84-78 and won the NL pennant before losing to the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
“We finished well. I don’t know what our pace was on, if we would’ve stuck that out for a full season but I think it was pretty good,” Reynolds said. “We had some bad years, losing 100 games. We would’ve lost 120 if it was a full season (during the pandemic-shorted 2020 campaign).
“We weren’t in last place, and we made strides. It’s not far-fetched to say that we could get in the playoffs. From there, who knows? But it’s exciting to see what we’ve got and what is actually in front of us and those graphs that we can grasp.”
The Pirates are counting on Reynolds playing a big part in potentially getting them to October. That is why they gave him the largest contract in franchise history.