As it turns out, maybe the last thing that Anthony Rendon needed was a breather.
After all, he’d been doing just fine going into the All-Star break with hits in nine of his first 13 games played in July, having hit three homers in that 47 at-bat span. More importantly, he was arguably the spark plug for the Washington Nationals at the time, carrying a solid .301/.352/.461 triple-slash when baseball’s best convened for the Midsummer Classic.
As you can tell by his .260/.308/.390 line headed into off-day on Monday, however, I think it’s pretty clear that the second half of the second hasn’t been kind to the rookie second baseman thus far.
After failing to hit in six of the nine games that he’s played after the season resumed, the .277/.362 split he carried through the first part of July as plummeted to a unrecognizable 190/.236. His miserable .186 OPS over the last 14 days easily ranks dead last among the Nats’ regulars, but the fact that he’s been weakly grounding the ball into oblivion (7.1 percent line drive rate, 67.9 percent ground ball rate) isn’t even the worst part.
No, the biggest sign of the 23-year-old suddenly finding himself lost at the plate is that his usually good batting eye has all but disappeared, as he has drawn walks at a mere 2.6 percent rate in that 38-PA span.
Combined with the fact that his strikeout rate has kicked up a bit thanks to him whiffing at least once in seven of the nine contests, and what starts to emerge is the anatomy of a classic post-break struggle … well, maybe.
The fact is that whatever is throwing Rendon off might just be a typical slump — it is less than 10 games, after all, and far more established players have gone through far worst slumps than that. You’d think that with the talent he showed through the month of June, the Nationals’ second baseman would eventually work through it, though that is something they’ll have to monitor closely.
It’s one thing when bad luck hits or when a batter is having trouble dealing with the adjustments that MLB pitchers have made against them, but to be so lost (ie. inability to draw walks) that hints at an underlying problem other than just the standard ups and downs could be a slippery slope.
Right now, Rendon is undoubtedly on one of those downs — and the problem is that if it doesn’t level off soon, that nine-game slump is going to seem a whole lot less unassuming very quickly.
And with the team slipping in both the NL East and Wild Card race, the Nationals are going to have to be very careful in making sure that a slump like this doesn’t end up dragging both the team and the youngster’s development down before they know it.