ST. PETERSBURG — Brandon Lowe doesn’t always scream, curse and slam stuff around when he is going through a batting slump.
Or, at least not as much as he used to.
“Especially when I was younger, I would get mad about every single at-bat if I didn’t get a hit,” said Lowe, the Rays’ somewhat streaky slugger, now in his fourth season. “But as I’ve gone through the game and understand how difficult it really is — sometimes even if you do everything right, you’re not going to get on — you start to try to push all that out.
“The anger, the want to break something because you’re so mad is going to happen. We’re all huge competitors. We all want to be our very best all the time. And when we’re not, it definitely weighs on you. You think the best way to do that is shouting an ‘f bomb’ or breaking a bat. It’s something that I try to not let that come out, but sometimes it’s going to slip and frustration will get the best of you.”
Hitting is hard. Especially these days.
More pitchers than ever are throwing at max velocity with physics-defying movement, and defenders are shifted in seemingly odd positions that often prove to be the right spot, foiling the age-old strategy to hit ‘em where they ain’t.
Unsurprisingly, offensive numbers through the first four weeks of the season are way down, with a league-wide .232 batting average, .698 OPS, 4.25 runs per game and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. (So, no, it’s not just the Rays.)
Five years ago, the full season numbers were .255, .739, 4.48 and 8.1. Fifteen years ago, .269, .768, 4.86 and 6.6.
Understandably, frustration among hitters is up.
How they handle those slumps and struggles is challenging and important, impacting not only the team’s performance, but the vibe around the clubhouse — and even their own house.
Lowe, 26, admits to taking his work home, trying to figure out which slight adjustment or correction he needs to make, having already had three double-digit 0-fors and going into play Saturday with a .182 average that is the third lowest of all American Leaguers with 100 plate appearances.
“I would love for someone to come up and smack me on the head and tell me what I’m doing,” Lowe said. “There’s not a person out there that’s more upset and mad at me than myself. I really hate not doing well. I’m up every night trying to watch video, looking at at-bats, trying to figure out what that little thing is.
“Been playing for so long that I understand that it’s going to be something super simple that I’ve overlooked for two weeks. And maybe it’s just one little tweak, and then everything’s back to normal.”
Outfielder Randy Arozarena, who rode a historic hot streak through last postseason, said he tries to maintain consistent composure and attitude no matter how he’s hitting, focusing instead on the team’s play.
“I just go out there and I do my same routine every day regardless if I’m streaky good or if I’m slumping,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I know it’s in God’s hands, the results. He already knows what my numbers are going to be. So my job is to just continue to compete.
“... I’ve never thrown anything. … It’s hard to hit in this game of baseball. So as long as you go in there with just the positive attitude. If you get mad, you’re only going to make things worse. So I just try to continue on.”
Arozarena, though, will try some cosmetic changes — such as dyeing his hair blond, then after a slump going back natural. “This color has more hits,” he said.
Infielder Mike Brosseau is somewhere in between, trying to maintain his belief that he can work his way out of any slump and not become obsessed — at least on most days.
“I try not to do the B-Lowe strategies, but sometimes it’s inevitable,” Brosseau said “I really try to flush it. I’ve really tried to stay consistent as far as keeping this stuff on the field and not letting it affect outside personal life …. just getting ready for a new day the next day. I think that’s the best way to go about it without driving yourself insane.”
Manager Kevin Cash, who played parts of eight seasons in the majors with a .183 career average, said he had a simple strategy for dealing with his struggles.
“I didn’t have a batting slump,” Cash said. “More or less, that was just me. So I dealt with it really well.”
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