Michael Saunders on the Mental Side of Slumps

Baseball is a funny, complex game.

You can hit four screaming liners in a game and walk away hitless, then the very next day you hit a bleeder through a hole and a bloop into no man’s land and have a pair of hits to your name. A quick glance of the boxscore and one might believe that the hitter’s second day at the plate was productive and the first was a hot mess. Largely speaking, those people would be wrong. The game, although centred around a seemingly infinite amount of statistics and analysis, is more about the process and the little things day-to-day that truly impact a player’s season than the actual result.

This is why for Michael Saunders determining if a batter is in a slump, or hot streak for that matter, purely comes down to his own mentality. “Guys get to this level and they’re the greatest professional baseball players in the world. I think only they can determine if they are going through a slump or not,” said Saunders prior to Monday’s 13-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. “I think it is mental. We get here for a reason. It’s because of talent, and physically we’re good enough to be here. I think what separates everyone is mentality.”

“We get here for a reason. It’s because of talent, and physically we’re good enough to be here. I think what separates everyone is mentality.”

Right now, Saunders is far from in a slump. Before going 0-for-4 Monday, the Victoria, B.C. native had reached base in 15 straight games and was riding an eight-game hitting streak that included five-straight multi-hit games with a slash line of .438/.455/.594. On top of that his knee is finally healthy, and he’s playing a regular and pivotal role wherever he finds himself in the Blue Jays lineup. But what’s really making a difference for Saunders once again comes down to the M-word. His mentality.

When asked what was working for him right now, he mentioned some baseball clichés such as seeing the ball well, and going up the plate trying not to do too much, but the one thing he said that was helping him more than anything was confidence.

Confidence is certainly a delicate thing in the world of professional sports, especially one where even the best players fail two out of every three at-bats, and over 330 times throughout the course of a healthy season. Thus, when it comes to determining your own success at the plate, or lack thereof, the game becomes coloured by numerous shades of grey as opposed to the black and white of results.

“When you say how mental this game is, I don’t think you truly understand unless you’ve played this game for a really long time,” Saunders said. “I think what really separates the great players from the average player is their mentality.

“Everyone goes through periods during the season when they’re slumping or they don’t feel great, their body is wearing down, your bat is dragging through the zone, …they don’t feel like they are seeing the ball well. I feel like the great players are able to limit their slumps to one or two games. The average player their slump kind of continues, and prolongs for sometimes a month. I think the difference is the mentality and the confidence and belief that you can go out there every day and produce.”

The 29-year-old Canadian believes Josh Donaldson is a prime example of this:

“He’s been hitting the ball hard the last week and doesn’t have much to show for it. The thing about him is that he’s staying calm and trusting the process, and realizes that the ball will drop for him. He’s just going through a stretch right now where he’s hitting the ball hard, just it’s right at people.”

He was right by the way. Donaldson connected for a line drive double to left field in Monday’s loss, breaking up a three-game hitless skid.

All of this being said, Saunders also believes that there’s no such thing as a cheap hit. You take whatever you can, whenever you can. It’s baseball’s version of paying the piper for all those line drive outs, but also a strictly results-oriented belief that helps build confidence and raises the stat line.

Baseball – funny and complex, and coloured by multiple shades of grey.

Lead Photo: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

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1 comment on “Michael Saunders on the Mental Side of Slumps”


Probably the best written sports article I’ve ever read.

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