TORONTO — Baseball can be a funny game. The harder you try the more the game tends to slip away from you.
The entirety of the Toronto Blue Jays roster has frustratingly dealt with this all season with the team breaking out of the gates to a dismal 5-13 record. They know they’re a good team, but when they press and try to overcome their slow art in a single game nothing seems to break right.
Few individually have felt this more than newcomer Steve Pearce. After a scorching Opening Day start where the 34-year-old got three hits and scored a run, Pearce managed to equal his first game output of three hits in his next 32 at-bats.
What Pearce has been trying to focus on during this rut is simple, “just getting better.”
“Bottom line we got to get better, individually and as a team.” Pearce said prior to the Jays’ 3-0 win over the Boston Red Sox last Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Pearce has admitted to pressing in the opening weeks of the season and trying to do too much at times. What he’s lost during that time is his feel for the game. The feel of the game coming to him instead of chasing it. Seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and making solid contact on a consistent basis.
“Bottom line we got to get better, individually and as a team.” – Steve Pearce
As funny as it may sound, in baseball sometimes less is more. When you start to try to do too much you end up pressing and making things more complicated for yourself.
“That’s when everything gets tense. You can’t play the kind of game you want to play when you’re tense,” Pearce said. “The looser you are, the better you feel, the better your production’s going to be, the better you’re going to feel, the better chance you have to get a base hit.
“This game can move so fast. The pitchers are so good that you really have to be in the best position in order to get base hits. They’re throwing 95 mph and if you’re tense that’s going to get blown right by you. You need your body free, and you need to be able to see the ball and unload on it.
“You know what they say, ‘if you’re thinking, you’re stinking.’ …You got to go up there and just see the ball and hit the ball.”
Manager John Gibbons knows this too.
“Baseball’s a different sport. In other sports you can run harder, you can hit somebody harder, you can give a better effort and that can work to your benefit. (In) baseball the harder you try the worse it gets sometimes,” Gibbons said.
Baseball’s a different sport. In other sports you can run harder, you can hit somebody harder, you can give a better effort and that can work to your benefit. (In) baseball the harder you try the worse it gets sometimes.” – John Gibbons
For Pearce that has led to a dreadfully slow start to his season slashing a meagre .162/.205/.162. It’s not for lack of talent either as Pearce has averaged 93 games, 16 home runs, 41 RBIs with a slash line of .267/.347/.493 over the last three seasons. All spent in the AL East.
His familiarity of the division however has not benefitted the Lakeland, FL. native, despite all but two of Toronto’s first 15 games coming against the AL East.
Even left-handed pitchers, Pearce’s bread and butter, have kept his offense at bay. Pearce hit .309 with seven home runs in 81 at-bats last season against lefties, and has slashed .264/.347/.489 in his career versus southpaws, but is just 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts against them this season.
The sample size is small, and the stats magnified this early in the season, but there’s no denying that the first few weeks of the season have been less than ideal for Pearce.
When he’s slumping Pearce relies on video, stats sheets, pitching tendencies, and any other source available to Major Leaguers these days to try and break out of it, but at the end of the day it essentially comes down to feel.
“It’s mostly about feel. You just got to find a feel,” Pearce said. “Your mechanics they could be on or off, but if you feel good that’s really the most important part.
“If you get in that box and you feel good it’s definitely a heck of a lot better than anything. You could be mechanically sound, you could have the perfect BP, the perfect cage swing, but underneath the lights it’s a completely different ball game.”
With three hits in his last four games, Pearce is is at his best production level since his first game as a Blue Jay. A baby step in the right direction.
It’s more than enough for his manager, who has full confidence in his team, and the men on it.
“Pearcey is going to hit,” Gibbons said. “He’s going to hit some home runs, he’s going to swing it for us pretty good.”
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