What to do? What to do?
That is the talk on blogs, sports talk radio, in the stands at the Ballpark, around the water cooler, in the papers, on bar stools, and anywhere else people are talking about the Rangers.
What to do with Fielder and Moreland?
Both Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland are entering their third months mired in deep prolonged slumps.
Since they both homered in the same innings and gave everyone in Rangers nation hope last Saturday against the Pirates, Fielder has gone 1-for-14, or .071, with no extra base hits, and Moreland has gone 1-13, or .077, with no extra base hits.
A small sample size to be sure. But it’s not out of character with the much larger sample size that preceded it.
In almost every interview Jeff Banister has conducted in the last few weeks, he has been asked what he is going to do about them. His conclusion is this: you do nothing. You let these guys work it out. They are professional hitters and they will figure it out because they have always figured it out. You cannot work it out on the bench.
While I agree that chances are pretty strong that they will figure it out—Fielder much more than Moreland, because Fielder has a track record while Moreland has a one-great-year record—what I totally disagree with is that you do nothing. Because that was not Banister’s MO for success last season.
The argument is that Banister is handling Fielder and Moreland the exact same way he handled Choo last year—meaning the manager left him in and let him work it out—and, boom!, look what happened to Choo. He turned things around in a big way.
That is only partially true. Sort of. He did keep leave him in. But he didn’t leave him alone.
Choo, if you recall, couldn’t buy a hit to start the season. At the end of April, 2105, Shin-Soo Choo was sporting a batting average of .096. That is just ninety-six points higher than anyone reading this could have gotten.
He had so few hits in April, five to be exact, he could have named each one of them.
He ended up batting .295 for the month of May. But sputtered in June, hitting just .225 for that month. And a decent but not spectacular .262 for July.
So by August 1, Choo’s collective average was still just .238. He wasn’t out of his slump. He had merely left Suckville.
So it is true that leaving him in worked, but it didn’t work that well. Or, it didn’t work that well for a couple of months. It wasn’t until August and September that Choo went nuts, hitting .274 for August with a .405 on-base percentage, and .387 for September, with an insane .500 on-base percentage.
Yes, Choo figured it out. It took a while. You can decide if it was the way he was handled. Nothing happened in the lineup between July and August to make him click. He just finally clicked.
But the reality is, Banister didn’t leave Choo alone like he is doing with Fielder and Moreland.
Choo was the number-five hitter in the Texas lineup when 2015 started (behind Martin, Andrus, Beltre and Fielder). When his slump reached epic proportions, two things happened.
The first thing is, he was benched for two games at the end of April. There was also an off-day after those two days, so he was given three days in a row to sit and think.
But Banister did something else with Choo that he is not doing with Fielder, or Moreland. He dropped Choo down in the lineup. Probably because you do not keep a guy hitting .097 in a run-producing slot.
When Choo came back from his head-clearing three-day vacation, he was no longer the fifth-place hitter in the Texas lineup. He batted eighth, sometimes seventh.
Slowly Choo worked out of his miserable slump. And when he did, he was moved up again. First to the leadoff slot, eventually settling into the two hole. But even then, he didn’t snap out of it for another two-and-a-half months.
Another thing happened, though, while Choo was slumping badly. So was Leonys Martin.
What did Banister do with Martin? Did he leave him alone to work it out? Not at all. He was removed from the leadoff slot. Dropped to the bottom of the lineup.
Then, when Martin didn’t respond, he was removed totally from the lineup.
By the way, all this, for both Choo and Martin, happened by mid-May. They were not given two full months. Perhaps the horrible April hastened those decisions.
In 2015, the Rangers had a tandem of ineptitude in Choo and Martin. In 2016, it’s Fielder and Moreland.
For some reason Banister is approaching it differently. You can say it’s a case of different players, different circumstances, and that’s probably true. But just quit saying he is treating Fielder the same way he treated Choo.
That’s not true.
And let’s hope this strategy works. Soon.
Because you can get away with two gaping holes in your lineup at three and six when so many other guys are making up for it. But when those guys go cold, those holes will become craters.
Taijuan Walker (2-5, 3.31) vs. Yu Darvish (1-0, 1.80)
Game time: 7:05 pm