As he walked out for batting practice on Friday, Tommy Pham was asked if he enjoyed the day before being an off-day. The St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder shook his head no and continued his stride towards the cage.
Mired in a slump that by his count started six weeks ago, Pham has seen his average drop below .250 for the season.
“These last few games, I feel like I’m seeing the ball good,” said Pham earlier in the week. “I’m just not putting a good swing on the ball.”
He’s not sure what led to the flaw, but pulling out his phone to refer to notes and video, Pham is confident he’s identified what the flaw is: barrel position.
“I feel like I’m getting good pitches to hit,” he explained. “My swing’s just not allowing me to hit the ball like I want to right now because I have a mechanical flaw I’m trying to fix.”
A slight change in where his bat starts before his swing has affected his ability to stay through the ball and drive it, instead Pham feels his swing is long and he has to swing around the ball. And so he’s been attacking the issue the only way he knows how, with more work.
“The only thing is, I’m tired of using my off-days as workdays,” admitted Pham. “But I’ll be here. It’s frustrating.”
And he was. Pham shared he spent about two hours at the ballpark on Thursday working on his swing.
“I can’t remember,” he answered when asked about the last time he actually used a day-off as intended.
Might a break away be of some benefit?
“I don’t know,” said Pham. “Right now, it’s tough for me to have mental clarity knowing I’m under-performing and to sit back and do nothing about it.”
“That’s all he knows,” said an understanding Willie McGee. “That’s what made me–I had to work. That’s how I eliminated the doubt, is by putting in the work. I hit everyday, everyday, everyday. In the winter I hit. I hit, I hit, I hit. I loved it. I enjoyed it. Took balls off the bat. It was fun to m–it wasn’t work. But that’s what I had to do to be at my best.
“Then you’ve got certain guys that won’t pick up a bat or don’t hit that much and that’s what makes them tick. That’s what I’m learning. You’ve got different guys, different mindsets–so do you mess with a guy and tell him not to do so much or not? Because that’s what made him successful in the past. Right now, he’s struggling a little bit but history shows if you stay healthy, you keep working, he’ll wind up where he’s supposed to be. That’s what happened with me, as long as I stayed healthy, I always wound up where I was supposed to be in the end.”
Last night against Atlanta, Pham drew a pair of walks. While that doesn’t directly reflect a change in his swing, it does count as a positive result.
“A walk is like a hit to me,” said Pham. “The object of the game is to not get an out.”
He also noted that one game is too small a sample size to mark any real change.
“I’ve got to figure it out, it’s up to me,” stated Pham.
photo credit: Joe Puetz, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports