As The Orioles returned home to Camden Yards to open a seven-game homestand, I caught up with hitting coach Terry Crowley to talk about the O's 1-4 road trip and overall team hitting.
Talking with "The Crow" on the field during batting practice, I asked Crowley about the numbers his hitters are judged by in the public and how he judges his hitters from his perspective as their coach.
The Orioles as a team hit just .223 on the five-game road trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay. Those are the numbers. But Crowley also knows that at times, hitters hit in bad luck, and it's critical to remind his players not to change their approach if the balls stop falling in for hits. His reminder is always "don't mess with a good swing."
Crowley and I talked about Aubrey Huff who was 0 for 10 in his final 10-at bats on the trip. Those are the numbers. But Crowley also watched Huff hit three balls hard right at Rays 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura in Tuesday's game. Any of those three balls put in play could have changed Huff's 0-fer so Crowley's message for Huff is to take that same approach into each game.
The fascinating part of watching major league baseball day in and day out is how hard it is to hit with consistent success. Hitters can't guide the ball, and it's counter-productive to try to. So Crowley sticks with his mantra of taking a sound approach to the plate and putting a good swing on the ball. That's how you have success.
Crowley has a group of dedicated professional hitters who understand the ups and downs of the game. I asked the Crow if he said anything special to Brian Roberts before he snapped an 0 for 18 slump. Crowley said he was aware of the numbers but he instead talked with Roberts about the good at bats during the stretch that went for outs. He told Roberts if he kept swinging like that and the hits would fall. Roberts then hit home runs in the last two games in Tampa Bay to prove Crowley's point.
I keep track of every at bat for the Orioles hitters all season long. I believe trends are a big part of the game and tell a big part of the daily story. Those are the facts for the hitters. But Crowley and the Orioles players have to look at it differently. Each at bat is a new story line. There is no right and no wrong, just hard work to try to get hits to win games with the constant fact that once a hitter puts the ball in play, it can't be guided away from a fielder.
You can learn a lot at the batting cage, watching the hitters work on their individual swings. And the hitters know the man they all call "The King" is watching every move and every swing they take. Good hitters will hit. Crowley knows that. That's why he stays the same each day. A good foundation leads to a good swing and a good approach at the plate. And before long, slumps turn into streaks and 0-fers turn into multi-hit games.
Consistency. That's what it's all about and that's what every hitter strives for in the end.