Slumping to start a baseball season is every hitter’s worst nightmare, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable.
No matter how good a big leaguer is, there will be times when they look like a shell of who they actually are. In hindsight, experiencing a slump earlier rather than later might actually be better because a player is forced to immediately work out of it. Doing so toughens them up for the daily grind that is the MLB regular-season schedule.
The following five position players went through tough times in the first month of 2016. Those struggles are now a distant memory, and nobody would ever realize how badly they slumped just by looking at their overall season stats.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
Coming off a solid 2015 and entering the second year of a $100 million deal, there’s no doubt Seager would’ve loved a productive April. Judging from his career splits by month, though, it takes him a little while to get ramped up and in a groove at the plate.
The 2016 season was no different, but it was a little worse than normal. The third baseman did collect eight extra-base hits (five homers, three doubles), 13 RBI and 13 runs scored, but was basically an automatic out thanks to a .159/.266/.378 triple slash in 82 at-bats.
Seattle still posted a 13-10 record during that time, but Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz definitely needed their fellow offensive cog to get going, and that eventually happened. Seager completed an about-face in May by posting a 1.051 OPS in 108 at-bats, which has continued with a rather toasty performance so far in June.
After such a horrible start, the 28-year-old is on track for a career year by hitting .279/.351/.500 with 10 homers and 40 RBI in 222 at-bats. That’s good, because the Mariners will need his offense to try and keep pace in the AL West.
Logan Morrison, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay made moves over the winter to improve its offense, and things haven’t worked out like they hoped so far. Entering action on Thursday, the Rays rank 21st in baseball with 243 runs scored (they ranked 25th with 644 runs last year).
It was especially painful in April when the entire roster hit just .225/.293/.390, but Morrison struggled so mightily it was actually a little impressive. It also made the ensuing hot streak even more noteworthy.
Through his first 60 at-bats of the year, he collected just six hits, drew four walks, drove in absolutely no runs and struck out 25 times. That led to an underwhelming .100/.156/.133 triple slash. Slow starts normally mean hitters are battling to get off the interstate. Morrison was just happy he finally got there before May.
How about since then? The Rays are still disappointing overall, but LoMo has come to life with a .941 OPS in May, followed by a 1.030 OPS in June up to this point.
Just by looking at his cumulative line (.246/.330/.401, seven homers, 18 RBI) you’d assume he’s having a normal year by his standards. However, you’d have no idea what he went through to arrive at those numbers.
Marcell Ozuna, CF, Miami Marlins
It’s been a wild ride for Ozuna. He’s gone from being a likely trade chip throughout last summer and winter to possibly being the most valuable player in an outfield that also includes Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.
Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds were against trading Ozuna because they felt he had 30-30 potential. He showed some power in April (two doubles, two triples, three homers), but not much else en route to producing a .229/.297/.410 line. Once the calendar flipped the May, this dude raked at a pretty ridiculous pace, hitting over .400 and producing a 1.155 OPS with seven homers, 17 RBI and 25 runs scored in 112 at-bats. He’s gotten off to a slow start this month, but after basically putting the offense on his back for four weeks, he’s allowed a breather.
If he can sustain this current pace, his .907 OPS would easily be a new single-season career-high (.772 in 2014).
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
When looking at Rizzo’s April, it’s takes a little digging to see how much he actually struggled. Sure, his .218 batting average wasn’t great, but he more than made up for it with a .384 on-base percentage and a .577 slugging percentage. So, how on Earth could a .961 OPS be categorized as a slow start?
While the Cubs have done nothing but win this year, it’s been a roller coaster ride with regard to Rizzo’s individual production. It’s much easier to identify when checking out his daily game log on Baseball Reference. He started out like a house on fire during the first week before his numbers started to plunge.
They took such a nosedive that he rode on the interstate until the very end of April. His batting average only went up to .218 by collecting five hits in the final four games of the month. Overall, he appears to be the consistent contributor we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but Rizzo has gone through some huge peaks and valleys along the way.
He’s enjoying another peak at the moment, hitting .417/.481/.750 over his past 24 at-bats.
Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
Wait, Mike Trout slumps? It actually does happen, but you’d never know by looking at his month-by-month splits.
Through April 17 (which was just 12 games into the season), Trout was hitting .233/.333/.372 with one homer and four RBI, which is not good, but could be a lot worse. You know what magnified this mini-slump? Bryce Harper slashing an otherworldly .359/.458/.897 with six homers and 15 RBI during the same span of time.
Now, Trout owns an overall line of .309/.413/.553 with 13 homers and 43 RBI in 217 at-bats, while Harper’s triple slash looks a bit more human (.257/.411/.525 with 13 homers and 37 RBI in 179 at-bats). So, we can pump the brakes on the “Harper is better than Trout” talk. Mostly because they’re both incredible and any team would take either in a heartbeat.
The MLB regular season is a six-month marathon for a reason, and these five hitters didn’t let slow starts prevent them from eventually producing at or above their career norms. For that, fans of their respective teams and patient fantasy baseball owners are all thankful.