Chicago White Sox left fielder Adam Dunn may still have a weak batting average, but his home run count gives him a lot more to be happy about in 2012 than in 2011. Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Can Anybody Explain This Game?

You would think after all of these years I’d have a better handle on baseball trends,  but no, I still can’t figure out the difference between a hot streak and stardom and a slump and the end of a career. But then, since no one in baseball can, either, I don’t know why I have greater expectations for myself.

Just for starters, how about Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome, Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton, and Stephen Strasburg. This all relates to the law of baseball averages which in some cosmic sense is tied to the law of averages in daily life, though the person who deciphers that connection will win a Nobel Prize for mathematics. Won’t she?

Let’s start with Pujols. April can be summarized as “What’s wrong with Albert?” month. When the disparaging remark, “He isn’t even hitting his weight” gets thrown around it rarely means a guy has missed by 50 pounds, but that’s where the new Los Angeles Angel was sitting. He was hitting about .190 and weighing about 240.

Eventually the law of averages caught up with Pujols and he began smashing the ball here, there and everywhere and has raised his batting average like 70 points. Maybe reports of his demise were premature, though this is the second straight slow start for the Man Who Would Be King. For now, to the Angels’ great relief and to Albert’s avoiding great embarrassment, it seems he still can hit.

On to Adam Dunn. No one’s career looked deader than Dunn’s last year when he not only couldn’t hit his weight he couldn’t hit a whiffle ball. Never a high average hitter, Dunn is hitting a rather lowly .227 right now, but has still managed to hit 22 home runs so far. I wouldn’t have bet a Lincoln penny that Dunn would be on pace for a 40-homer season by mid-June.

Good old Jim Thome. I love him. Anyone who comes into contact with him and spends more than 30 seconds with him loves him. Great guy. But a week ago, after being injured, he was hitting .105. Now he is hitting .293. Who raises their batting average 200 points in a week? I think he has had three multiple-hit games this week. Good on ya, Jim.

Of course, a couple of weeks ago Derek Jeter was hitting .400 and now he’s trying to stay above .300, and Josh Hamilton was hitting .400 and he’s down to .330. Those oh-for-four games get costly in a hurry.

As for Stephen Strasburg, well, the most heralded pitching prospect in a decade or more practically never loses. From the moment the Washington Nationals brought him up (and injury notwithstanding) Strasburg has been king of the hill.

This year Strasburg is 8-1 with a 2.45 earned run average. It looks as if the kid is going to be alright. Of course, now he will probably go 3-5 in his next eight starts or something.







Tags: Adam Dunn Albert Pujols Derek Jeter Jim Thome Josh Hamilton Los Angeles Angels Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

  • FredOwens

    I’ve watched and listened to this game for 55 years and what I can tell you is that Yogi Berra was right, 90% of the game is half mental. Once something gets into a ballplayers head – good or bad – it stays until it gets kicked out forcibly or wanders away on its own.
    Adam Dunn will hit 35+ big glorious home runs, drive in 100 and  get on base close to.400 a year until the bat slows down or injury stops him. BUT he always hated he AL – I do too, wussy pitchers that are so fragile managers are scared to let them run the bases, gimme a break – and wanted to play every day. He had DH’d in a few inter-league games and always felt that he had to play the field to stay focused and hit. He dreaded it so badly that when he changed leagues he didn’t know the pitchers and started slowly -which of course  happens to most who switch leagues i- it becames a self-fulfilling prophecy.   He told himself the worst had happened and it proceeded to happen. Once the season was over and he started his routine to get ready for the next season the daily focus on his bat went away and suddenly  the stroke was back. Like a pouting child the mental block wandered away when no one was noticing it anymore.
    Reports are that Pujols regretted the decision to move to Anaheim almost as soon as it was made. He felt that he had let his agent and his ego over rule his heart and got the biggest contract but hurt the fans who had supported him for a decade in St Louis. Letting people who cared for him down hurt and his focus became what he should have done instead of what he was doing. Eventually he looked in the mirror and said “this is stupid, St Louis will be fine, you’re here for 10 years, an dnow you’re letting down the people who believed in you enough to give you a salary bigger than some country’s gross national product down. Get your head out of your back pocket and play ball like you know how.
    Some guys aren’t mentally tough enough to recover. Steve Sax still can’t throw from second to first, Rick Ankiel can’t pitch anywhere near the strike zone but can throw a rocket from the centerfield wall to home plate and the catcher without batting an eye.
    Players returning from injury are notoriously glad to be back and funnel that enthusiasm into their play. Great players come back hard like Thome did recently or Chipper Jones did in his previous
    returns form the DL in the last year+. That explains the surges. In Chipper’s case this return is accompanied by the news that he and his second wife are divorcing. Unlike every previous return he can’t hit a chair with his butt. While part of it is a 40 year old man coming back too soon the big reason is he’s trying to figure out his personal life, dodge reporters questions and not loose it emotionally. With all that pulling at his mind every day there’s not as much left to use in the batter’s box.
    So when you want to figure out why someone who isn’t injured or old and slowing down has suddenly lost their way, look at what’s affecting him mentally and you will usually find the answer. Yogi was right and we were all just too busy laughing to understand it.