Over the past two weeks I've been up and down the East Coast, up and down the West Coast, and spent at least a little bit of time in between. Throughout that time our Major League Club has played poorly. And it's been frustrating.
People often comment about how much fun our jobs must be, and sometimes I'll respond with, "It's fun when you win." Well, we haven't been winning, and it hasn't been much fun.
Nevertheless, this is part of the reason for this blog - times like this. It's also a time for us to analyze what has gone awry. So what has happened?
We started out hitting a solid .254/.336/.433 over our first 12 games, but we've managed just a .232/.305/.367 line since then, so we're now at .240/.316/.391 as a team. A .316 obp isn't going to get it done. We're better than that.
One of the things that happens when teams aren't scoring a lot is that individual hitters tend to press, thinking that they have to be THE guy to break the team out of the collective slump. Unfortunately, this often exacerbates the problem.
This self-inflicted pressure is never more evident than when the pressure ought to be on the pitcher - when there are two men in scoring position (2nd and 3rd or bases loaded). Pressing hitters will get jumpy in this situation rather than let the game come to them. We've had 53 chances so far this season in those situations and we're hitting an abysmal .109/.283/.152 with just 16 rbi. In contrast, the National League has combined for a .264/.359/.436 line in those hitter-friendly circumstances. Basically, we've missed out in a big way on the best chances that we've created.
Additionally, a portion of the bad numbers has come from bad luck. The National League as a whole has a batting average on balls in play of .238 on ground balls, .144 on fly balls, and .710 on line drives. That's a reasonably good proxy for where we ought to be; however, we're hitting just .204 on grounders and .105 on fly balls (.708 on liners is on par with the league). Brian Giles, for one, has been hit particularly hard in this area, hitting just .130 on ground balls and .500 on line drives. A long season is a good thing.
Similar to our hitting, our pitching took a turn after the first 12 games. We posted a 3.79 ERA as a team in the first 12 and we've had a 5.24 since. The good news is that we were back to a 3.74 in the past seven days. In general our walks are too high, and we're spending too much time pitching from behind in the count, but I continue to have faith that this will improve.
One of the things that every team has to deal with is injuries, and we've certainly had our share. There is a strong correlation between our DL numbers on a daily basis and our winning percentage, but it's tough to ascertain whether or not a causal relationship exists. Since April 20 we've had six players on the Major League DL and seven since April 27. While we haven't lost a #1 starter, a closer or a cleanup hitter (knock on wood) to the DL, it does get to a tipping point where the sheer volume hurts. In essence, we have seven players currently on our team - nearly 30% of our active roster - that were ticketed for AAA. Day in and day out that ends up taking a toll. Of course, we're not the only team having to deal with such an issue.
It is often said that you're never as good as you look when things are going well and never as bad as you look when things are going poorly. Our season to date has typified that axiom. Now we have to forget about the last couple of weeks and get out of the trough of the rollercoaster.