Cesar Hernandez was the leadoff man in last night’s Phillies lineup submitted by manager Pete Mackanin for the opener of a weekend series at Citizens Bank Park. He went 0-3 and drew a walk in the continuation of a slump, or swoon, or whatever you may want to call it. One thing that we might have to start calling it is worrisome.
Since August 14th, the 25-year-old is batting just .143 with a .238 OBP and only one extra-base hit. He has watched his batting average drop from a strong .289 to a more modest .267 over that span; his lowest mark since late June.
“We have to see how he’s going to rebound. I think he’s going to be fine.” ~ Mackanin
With Chase Utley now donning Dodger blue, the 2nd base job appears clearly Hernandez’ to lose. He earned the job with a torrid stretch from June 22nd through the end of July, when he posted a slash line of .326/.387/.395 with a dozen walks.
Since then, Hernandez has crashed back down to earth during the month of August, batting just .242 in 95 at-bats during these traditional “dog days” of summer. During this past week’s four-game series against the New York Mets, Hernandez struggled mightily, recording only two hits in 14 at-bats with 7 strikeouts. He struck out 3 times in Thursday night’s extra-inning loss, after also having struck out 3 times during Tuesday’s game.
It’s been a rough stretch for Hernandez, and it’s the first time since earning everyday playing time that he’s looked completely lost at the plate. At the age of 25, Hernandez’ response to his struggles will be important as the team enters the final stretch of the regular season.
For the Phillies, watching how Hernandez bounces back from his struggles will speak volumes about his development as a big leaguer, and potentially cement the belief of some in the organization that he can be a legitimate contender to be the team’s long-term option at 2nd base.
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Mackanin believes that the sheer amount of playing time Hernandez has gotten this year is starting to take his toll, but is optimistic that he will be able to rebound from his recent struggles.
“We have to see how he’s going to react to [his slump],” Mackanin said Wednesday, as reported by MLB.com’s Michael Radano. “We have to see how he’s going to rebound. I think he’s going to be fine.”
“When you think about it, he didn’t play a lot in early in the year. He has 300 and some at-bats. You get tired more mentally than physically.”
Hernandez has recorded 344 at-bats in 2015, after getting just 235 at-bats in 2013 and ’14 combined. He has been consistently starting everyday for the first time in his young major league career, so the thinking that he could be mentally drained definitely holds some merit.
Hernandez got a breather in Wednesday night’s game against the Mets, with newcomer Darnell Sweeney getting the start at the keystone position. Hernandez was back in the lineup for the Mets’ series finale, and again for last night’s opener against the Padres.
Freddy Galvis, who is also starting everyday for the first time in his career as the Phillies’ shortstop, has gone through his own struggles and has bounced back a handful of times this season.
After hitting an unexpected .355 in April, Galvis hit just .237 in May, and followed with an even poorer June, when he batted just .200 in 85 at-bats. Galvis bounced back in July, however, by batting .309 in 91 at-bats that month.
Galvis has struggled overall in August, posting just a .247 average in 89 at-bats, but is now batting .273 in his last eight games. Not great, but improvement nonetheless.
For Hernandez, finding a way to stay mentally tough and bounce back from his struggles will go a long way in assuring the Phillies that the 25-year-old can experience failure, work hard, and right the ship. It’s all part of the process of being a Major League hitter, not just for a youngster, but for all big leaguers.