Slips, Slides, and Slumps vs. Regression
OK, I’ll concede that the last few days have been rough. It was an affront to my sense of order and decency that Dan Uggla drilled my home run sculpture. He of the seemingly endless parade of errors. Tampa came over for a visit and swatted us like an annoying fly, 13-4. Out of the last six games, we’ve dropped approximately six (0-and-6 or .000, depending on the brain hemisphere you prefer), and have gone from ½ game to five games out of first, and are knocking once again on the cellar door.
In the last game of the series with Atlanta, both teams logged nine hits. The Braves scored eight runs and the Marlins, two. It got worse. Here’s a breakdown of the way we capitalized on base hits, as compared to Tampa Bay:
6/8: 5 runs out of 10 base hits: .500
6/9: 13 runs out of 14 base hits: .929
6/10: 4 runs out of 8 base hits: .500
6/8: 1 run out of 7 base hits: .143
6/9: 4 runs out of 8 base hits: .500
6/10: 2 runs out of 7 base hits: .286
Their nadir is our apex, and the standings reflect it. Our pitchers have given up 11 home runs over the past six games, and we left 47 men on base in the same period.
The strength of our pitching staff kept our heads barely above water in April. Continued strong pitching combined with good performance by the top of our batting order gave us a record-breaking May. As we close in on mid-June, our hitters are not figuring out opposing pitchers anywhere near as quickly as our opponents are figuring out ours.
Ozzie Guillen is starting to make some moves, bringing Gaby Sanchez back up and designating Donnie Murphy for assignment. Logan Morrison is back in left field, and time will tell if his stint at first will make him a better fielder than he was before Gaby got sent out for a reboot.
The bottom line remains: Without improving hitting, especially at the bottom of the order and with runners on base, we are a .500 team with good pitching. Fix that, and we are division contenders. I think our pitching is better than it has been in June, but maybe not as good as it was in May. Our hitting, with the notable exception of Giancarlo Stanton, has nowhere to go but up.
Looking ahead, we host the Red Sox for three games, and then fly to Tampa with a chance to settle the score with the Rays, and then go to Boston and Toronto before resuming National League play at home against the Cardinals. Boston’s season has been well-documented in the World Where Baseball Exists, so there’s not much point in rehashing ESPN or SI’s analysis of a ball club with locker room problems. Six games with the Red Sox is an excellent opportunity for us to make some headway in the standings. Facing the Rays in the Trop will be, unfortunately, a rehash of the past weekend unless we add an offensive component to our game. Toronto is about on a par with us, and we’ll be playing under AL rules. Unfortunately, that silences one of our better bats in Carlos Zambrano. Still, they are a beatable team.
Red Sox: We win five of the six.
Rays: We take one of the three.
Blue Jays: Two of three.
My apologies for the recent lack of input from my side of the couch, but I’ve been distracted by a family issue back home and a reluctant lawnmower here. Output should return to normal as we get deeper into June.