That’s former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu out on the field post-game, running a bit of a baseball clinic for some fans. Wakamatsu is now the Blue Jays bench coach.
The Mariners weren’t running any hitting clincs out there today, taking a 7-0 loss to Toronto in a game that was still close until Hisashi Iwakuma gave up that grand slam in the eighth inning. But the way the M’s were hitting — striking out 13 times — the slam didn’t make much of a difference.
Two of the strikeouts were by Brendan Ryan and it’s becoming impossible to ignore some of his struggles any longer. He is now 0-for-18 dating back to the end of the last homestand and his batting average is down to .143.
One of the reasons we keep seeing him run out there by manager Eric Wedge is becasue he is not looking overmatched. He just keeps fouling off hittable pitches. And there’s a big difference.
Overmatched would mean he’s going up there without a clue and swingng like a wild man. He isn’t. He’s falling behind early in counts, to be sure, but not because he’s chasing stuff. It’s because he isn’t putting good wood on what he should be hitting.
I asked Ryan about that after the game and he agreed.
“I’m competing in every single at-bat,” he said. “I want the challenge every single time. But when I get the pitch I should hit hard, it’s back into the net. It’s incredibly frustrating because now, it’s a 1-2 count, an 0-2 count. And at this level, if you do that over and over, the percentages are not in your favor. Put it that way.”
Thing is, he has been battling in those at-bats and getting himself the pitches he should be able to hit. And that’s why the Mariners keep running him out there. Wedge spoke pre-game about how Michael Saunders and other struggling players are now parlaying their “battling” during at-bats into future success. Saunders fought through some tough outs last night before belting a pair of late home runs.
“It’s those at-bats prior that put him in a position to do what he did later,” Wedge said. “When you’re fighting through those at-bats, you’re putting up good ABs, you’re fouling pitches off. You may not have much to show for it. But those are the kind of spirited ABs you’ve got to have to be in that much of a better position later.
“And that’s what we’ve been talking about all along. And that’s why I get so upset when we give away ABs. And we’re going to see fewer and fewer of those as we move along. If you grind out every AB, over the course of 162 games, you’re really going to benefit from the results.”
I asked Wedge before the game what he sees in how Ryan is handling his slump. Clearly, he sees something, because most managers don’t want a sub-.200 black hole out there daily if they don’t feel he can pull out of it.
“He’s right in the middle of that right now,” Wedge said. “Fighting through ABs. And it’s going to pay off for him. His BP is so much better than it was last year. It’s a more disciplined BP. His mental thought process and his approach is so much better, it’s coming into games and he’s going to benefit from it.”
To be honest, I can’t really tell whether this is really happening with Ryan when I’m watching the Mariners in BP. Neither can most of you, I’m sure.
So, I asked Wedge, what goes into a “more disciplined” BP? What does he see?
“I can’t explain it to you,” Wedge said with a laugh. “Just being in the game as long as I have, paying attention. Just watching them and having a feel for what they’re doing, how and why.”
There you go. We’ll just have to take his word for it and see what happens. See whether Ryan improves shortly. He won’t get all year to do it. But other hitters have stepped up, so we’ll have to wait on this last one.