Boesch searches for consistency at plate

Boesch searches for consistency at plate

Boesch searches for consistency at plate
CINCINNATI -- Brennan Boesch is watching video of his games and chuckling at himself. And that's probably a good thing.

It has nothing to do with his swing mechanics. He had his fill of that last week.

His slide home Saturday, on the other hand, got a smile out of him. It also twisted his right ankle a little, but he isn't too worried about it heading to Wrigley Field for this week's series against the Cubs.

"I think I wanted to get that run so bad I jumped, like, 50 feet in front of home plate," Boesch said Sunday. "It was like this crazy ninja jump. I wasn't sure if I was going to have to take the catcher out, because Prince [Fielder] hit that ball pretty hard. I was going to be safe one way or the other, I'll tell you right now."

If that's the last time he has to critique his mechanics, he'll be overjoyed. If that's the first of many times he slides home for a go-ahead run, he'll be happy, too.

He has heard plenty about his slow start, from reporters trying to figure out what was happening to coaches trying to understand why it was happening to the boos from home fans upset that it was happening. It all converged last week, when a comment about a mechanical adjustment came amidst a miserable homestand.

Boesch is ready to move on. He has ridden the roller coaster of tears and slumps for most of his three-year career, and the Tigers' fortunes have gone along for the ride, but he'd rather worry about the latter.

"I guess any player would feel more comfortable and relaxed when things are clicking, and obviously a lot has been made about where we stand at this point," he said. "But I've gotten over what everyone else thinks, and I'm just trying to do my job personally."

If he can build off of what he did here against the Reds over the weekend, it should be plenty.

On a team with many prominent hitters, Boesch's hitting has been oddly inconsistent. He was a rookie sensation at this point two years ago on a Tigers team that surprised many by contending. Their collective fortunes fell down the stretch, when injuries left Boesch to protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup.

His .380 average, six home runs and 13 RBIs last June helped the Tigers close in on Cleveland. A torn hand ligament ended his season in August, but the Tigers recovered by acquiring Delmon Young and batting him in front of Cabrera.


"I've felt good and not had results. I've hit balls hard and been 0-for-4. You can get specific and look at your batting average when you put balls in play and the luck that you've had versus other good years."
-- Brennan Boesch

That was Boesch's role out of the gate this season, and he struggled mightily in it. Now, after injuries left manager Jim Leyland with little choice but to move him back, it might actually have sparked him.

"I think it's great," teammate Justin Verlander said. "I think he's somebody that is extremely tough on himself. That's going to take a toll on you in this game. Especially as a position player, it's a game of failure. I think that the more he starts to understand that one bad day doesn't have to carry over into the next, one at-bat doesn't have to carry over into the next, I think the better he's going to be. I think his talent level's off the charts."

He seems to get it.

Boesch's mechanics, Leyland said last week, have been inconsistent, with his hips opening up on some swings and barely at all in others. The statistics haven't been simple, either. He has always been an aggressive swinger, but his strikeout rate is virtually identical to last year, according to baseball-reference.com. His walk rate, however, has plummeted.

He has swung at slightly more pitches outside of the strike zone, according to fangraphs.com. He's making contact at about the same rate, but his .268 batting average on balls put in play is 47 points lower than last year, and 29 points under his rate from 2010.

"I've felt good and not had results," Boesch said. "I've hit balls hard and been 0-for-4. You can get specific and look at your batting average when you put balls in play and the luck that you've had versus other good years."

He went 2-for-38 over a 10-game stretch from Memorial Day weekend to the middle of last week, yet struck out just seven times. He had an 0-for-4 game Wednesday in which he didn't strike out, but also didn't get a ball past the lip of the infield.

He had a ground-rule double and a single in the series finale against the Tribe on Thursday, the day Leyland moved him into the second spot. Starting then, he's 7-for-13 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs.

His sprained right ankle left him out of the lineup Sunday night, but his ability to turn on an Aroldis Chapman fastball and ground it just hard enough to get past Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips helped fuel the Tigers' amazing go-ahead rally.

"That's fun for you guys to point to, and the fans and everyone," Boesch said. "And you can write nice stories how one day just the light bulb went off. But to me, it's just, I don't like to point to one thing. You can feel good and not have the results. And in this game, it's all about results.

"This game, to me, it's over analyzed. That's why I think about it as a team first, and that's where my state is emotionally. If I ride my own personal roller coaster, this game is too hard mentally on me. Yeah, I've felt like I've been swinging the bat better. If you want to talk about specific hitting, we can, but it's not something that I feel like is the most important thing right now."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.