3) Are Teams Figuring Whit Merrifield Out?
The last two games, Whit Merrifield has gone 2 for 9 with six strikeouts against Houston’s Doug Fister and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright. Though Merrifield is still slashing an impressive .317/.340/.441, I’m beginning to wonder if major-league pitchers have identified a hole in his swing.
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It’s not entirely unusual for a veteran player to strike out three times in a game, or even to do so twice in a row. But, it’s another thing for a young rookie in his first months in the big leagues to do the same thing after a hot start to his career.
In the latter case, it’s much more likely a sign that teams have begun to figure out how to attack the young player at the plate. Typically, pitchers will go after rookies and force them to show can hit big league stuff. When the rookie establishes that he’s got the chops to hit strikes, THEN pitchers will begin to try fooling him with off-speed stuff or hitting the edges.
Often, the hot start fades as a player’s weaknesses become known.
That’s when the young player either sinks or swims. They’ll have to adjust to changed patterns. If they can do it, they’ll stick. If they can’t, they’ll sink to marginal status or even bounce out of the game. Merrifield’s conditioning program to increase his strength and his adjustment with his top hand case propelled him from a nondescript minor-league utility man into a major-league regular. Now we’ll see if Merrifield can stick around for the long-term.
Maybe Merrifield really is a lead-off hitter at the big league level. Maybe he’s a bottom of the lineup guy, but can still hold down a regular job. Or, Merrifield might be no more than a utility guy that sticks due to his ability to play almost every position on the field.
Next: Kendrys Morales