August 16, 2013 at 4:08 PM
Mariners keeping Nick Franklin at No. 2 in order despite slump
Nick Franklin has been in a nearly-three-week batting slump that has effectively knocked him out of Rookie of the Year consideration for now.
It was 19 days ago that Franklin clubbed a pair of home runs to give him 10 on the season.
Since that time, he’s hit .113 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of just .378 with 20 strikeouts in his last 53 at-bats. That and his defense has been spotty at times, including last night on that pop-up that fell between him and Brad Miller.
Still, as I mentioned this morning, young players will have their struggles. Mariners manager Robby Thompson said in his media session not long ago that he is sticking with Franklin in the No. 2 spot in the order for now and hopes he can play himself out of this funk.
“We’ve still got confidence in him and we’re going to keep him there and hopefully he comes out of this thing,” Thompson said. “And if it continues on or gets worse, maybe we’ll have to make a move or drop him down a little bit. But I don’t think hitting second is anything that’s putting pressure on him or anything. The only reason we’d move him out of there is to maybe relax him a little bit. And maybe take a little pressure off him that we think he’s not feeling — but maybe he is.”
Franklin did get a late hit last night when he could have just given the at-bat away in a blowout loss. It’s worth noting that it isn’t only young players who get impacted by slumps. Raul Ibanez was on a torrid streak right before the All-Star Break, then didn’t hit a home run for over a month.
“He’s put together some decent at-bats, to go along with some at-bats that have not been as good as they’ve been in the past,” Thompson said of Franklin. “But that’s to be expected. So, I think he’s going to be fine.”
Thompson said it’s clear that Franklin has lost some of the confidence he had when he first broke in with the tear in a hot-hitting June. In fact, since July began, Franklin is hitting just .199 with a .644 OPS and 51 strikeouts in 136 at-bats.
“You know what, he’s gotten to the point where every now and then you can sense and see that he’s hanging his head a little bit,” Thompson said. “Maybe feeling sorry for himself. And that’s kind of to be expected up here. But we talked about it and that’s not allowed to happen. You’ve got to run through times at the plates where you’re not getting hits. But as a middle infielder and as a player in general, if you’re not getting hits, your focus should be on taking hits away when you’re in the field.”
Franklin was known for his confident nature in Class AAA and in the early going up here. It’s one of the strong parts of his game and helps him stay mentally tough. But it’s a different story in the majors once things turn on a player.
“This game will humble you in a hurry,” Thompson said. “Just when you think you’ve got it made and you think you do up here — whether it be offensively or defensively or both — it can come back and bite you and bite you in a hurry. And it can bite you hard and long and he’s kind of finding out a little bit about that now. And as confident as he has been down below, and he was up here earlier, he’s lost a little bit of that. He’s lost a little bit of tat swagger. But he’ll get it back. He’s a young kid and that’s part of the growing pain and learning situations that he’s got to go through.”
Part of that, as we discussed last night, is about making adjustments. Franklin feasted on a bunch of fastballs early on and is now getting relentlessly pounded with breaking balls and changeups.
“Once young guys get up here, you’re basically going to get tested to see whether you can hit a fastball,” he said. “If you can’t hit a fastball, you’re going to keep getting them. They’ll show you a breaking ball but you’re going to keep seeing fastballs. If you can’t hit ‘em, they’re going to keep throwing them.
“Well, he’s a pretty good fastball hitter,” Thompson added. “Now, all of a sudden, they’ve made adjustments and they’re throwing changeups in fastball counts and breaking balls and he has not really made that adjustment yet. That should come with time. And when he makes the adjustment, the pitcher will make another adjustment as we go along.”