On missing hitters and pressing ones
The frustration level in the Tigers clubhouse after Sunday night’s loss was high, probably the highest it has been all season. It was clearly visible, and I wrote about it last night on the site. So the sense that players don’t care and have shut it down is a bit off, based on clubhouse atmosphere compared to dugout demeanor.
There was another sense coming out of last night’s clubhouse, and something that hasn’t been so chronicled: A lot of hitters are doing a lot of pressing with Victor Martinez out of the lineup and the numbers sagging without him. And the longer the offensive struggles go, the more pressure builds, even on a veteran club like this one.
Asked if hitters are pressing, Miguel Cabrera believed so.
“I think everybody,” Cabrera said. “That’s the thing. When you put a lot of pressure on yourself, you overdo it. You overswing. You want to make the extra play. You want to take the extra base. And that’s when you make mistakes, when you try too hard.
“I think we have to cut down a little bit. We still have to play aggressive. We have to go out there and play aggressive and play better, man. We don’t play good right now.”
Cabrera knows what it’s like, because he had to learn how to play with added pressure from the time he got to Detroit, if not sooner. He struggled with it his first few years as a Tiger, then broke out when he learned how to handle it. Few guys have handled that pressure as well as Victor Martinez.
“When you press, you try to do something you’re not used to doing. That’s when you make mistakes,” Cabrera said. “That’s when everything goes wrong.”
When whatever good at-bats hitters have go unrewarded, the frustration compounds it.
“Not an excuse,” Cabrera said, “but we try and we play to make something happen. But you see we hit a line drive right at them. We have good at-bats and strike out. When you put that together, you see we aren’t doing good.
“We have to keep battling. It’s not going to be easy but we have to go out there and try to do our best. We have to try to do better.”
Ian Kinsler referenced that as well.
“You have to take your at-bat for what it’s worth,” Kinsler said. “However many at-bats you get every night, you need to be prepared for those at-bats. When you start adding extra pressure on yourself because the way the team as a whole is swinging, then it becomes difficult. You’re adding unneeded pressure. Everybody needs to take their at-bats one at a time, quality at-bat after quality at-bat, and then start rolling.
“But also, there are plays that happened that sucked the wind out of us. Hitting into that double play [Saturday] with first and second, nobody out, it seems like that’s been happening a lot lately where the wind’s kind of getting taken out of our sails. That’s part of the game.”
The double plays, of course, are a big part of their game lately. Somehow, though, they have to try to create something.
One of manager Brad Ausmus’ ways of trying to ward off pressure is to trust in the numbers. The track records suggest slumps will fade, numbers will rebound.
“When you sign a player or acquire a player or bring a player up, you’re doing that based on what you think he can do over six months of baseball,” Ausmus said. “When things aren’t going well for a month and a half, or a month, you assume that over six months it returns to the norm.”
Even Ausmus, though, is showing concern over the struggles, even if he sees them as short-term blips. Asked at what point he gets worried about the offense, he said, “I’m a little worried about it right now.
“I still think long term the offense will be fine, but with every passing day, it becomes more of an issue.”
With every passing day, meanwhile, the pressure builds, even on guys who have been used to it.
“We want to win,” Cabrera said. “But if we keep thinking like we’re thinking right now, I think we’re going to be in trouble.”