For the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Peter Bourjos, the season has been anything but clear. Brought in to shore up center field, he quickly lost his starting role to mainstay veteran Jon Jay after starting the season slowly. Bourjos was not hitting well and seemed confused at the plate. However, his defensive range is among the best of all OFs in baseball, so many observers were still defending him.
Watching Bourjos swing recently, it is clear he has dropped the Paul Bunyan chop for a short to the ball, long through the zone swing reminiscent of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Now while nobody is going to compare him to a legend like Molitor, it underscores how easy it is to criticize yet how simple adjustments can break slumps. Early in the season, fatigue can set in rather quickly, causing too much downward action resulting in a slow bat and a topping off of the baseball.
This is not unusual, nor is it a sign of a player that is incapable of big league production. In fact, many Cardinals are experiencing the same problem that resolves as strength builds in the torso. Tired hands usually result from a weak core or perhaps a sore one. The chopping action is a defense against strains and soreness in the obliques and often the trapezius muscles. Thus the exact cause of Bourjos’ issues may not have been mechanical but endurance based. In other words, in order to be worth playing, he needs to play.
Were Bourjos to continue his turnaround and bat at least .270, only the most ardent of detractors would not see his value. Unfortunately it does seem there are cliques within the club administration and certain players are more valued than others. What is clear is that the best team must be put on the field regardless of tenure or past history. Time will tell if Bourjos can maintain a consistent approach to hitting, but his physical tools are intriguing and worth a continued evaluation.