Photo Credit: AP Photo / Ted S. Warren
Rafael Devers is in a slump, but fear not as it is just a slump that will soon vanish. Devers is the real deal when it comes to hitting a baseball and soon expect the hits to arrive in bunches.
What is sinking about Rafael Devers? Why it is simply his batting average that is slowly degrading. As of games through May 23rd Devers is hitting just .235 for the season and a paltry .198 at Fenway Park. Against lefties, his average is .217. So far, in May, the Mendoza Line approaches for the month. So what gives with the 21-year-old left-handed hitting prize? From my view, it is growing pains.
Devers’ 25.5 K% is slightly above last season and his 7.5 BB% is slightly lower than last season. Nothing dramatic. Devers is hitting fewer ground balls (43.6%) than last season and is hitting the ball harder with a 39.6 HARD%. His .272 BABIP is a significant drop from .342 in 2017. And for another metric bone being tossed his 111 wRC+ of 2017 is now 86 wRC+ for 2018.
The myriad of swing statistics is in alignment with 2017 when Devers finished up with a solid .284. That, however, can change a bit and has with Devers becoming somewhat enraptured with outside pitches and manager Alex Cora is trying a few bribes. This – hopefully – is the problem, but I expect it will just be part of the problem.
There are certain mysteries that are simply unexplainable and baseball has their share of them. I have been fascinated by pitchers who suddenly lose all control of the plate such as Daniel Bard. It is now called “Steve Blass Disease” after a pitcher who suddenly had control vanish. And the same applies to hitting. Just look at Jackie Bradley or former Red Sox Allen Craig. Sometimes slumps simply do not end. But this one that has touched Devers will.
Pitchers have not suddenly discovered any hole in his swing or a certain susceptibility to a curve or fastball. And make a mistake and Devers – with nine home runs – will most certainly plant the ball well behind any outfield fencing. Devers – as most hitters not named Ted Williams – will have slumps in which a tweak or two is necessary. For some, there is nothing present to define why they are suddenly inept? Then – like a cold – it disappears.
My contention is Devers will periodically have a slump. He’ll lose concentration or unknowingly alter his swing. And then Devers will just have a period of poor contact and that eventually will get a tag “slump” until just as mysteriously the hits return. That is one of the great mysteries among hitters and hitting coaches – the sudden slump followed by hits galore with no coceptional hitting reason behind it.
For Devers, there is no real pressure unless his May figures continue on and are duplicated in June. Devers is not a defensive whiz with 11 errors and a -0.8 UZR, so his glove will not sustain him if he continues to fail. That, of course, draws a parallel to the financial crisis of 2008-09 where I can paraphrase: “Devers is simply too good to fail.”