Whit Merrifield is struggling this season. The KC Royals need to sit him.
For the first time since the summer of 2019, Whit Merrifield didn’t bat first for Kansas City Thursday. Perhaps Mike Matheny wanted to relieve a bit of the pressure hitting leadoff entails; maybe he felt Nicky Lopez, who entered the game against Minnesota hitting .367 and replaced Merrifield atop the lineup, was the better choice.
Whatever the reason, the move reflects the fight raging between Merrifield and his bat—after going 0-for-4 Thursday, Merrifield is hitting only .136, a miserable clip to which he and the Royals are entirely unaccustomed. He has one extra-base hit, a Wednesday double, and two RBIs. His .136/.174/.159 slash is as disturbing as his .333 OPS.
Merrifield went through a slump last season, but not of these proportions. Hitting .274 at April’s end, he slumped to .247 in late May before rebounding and finishing the season at .277.
Something ails Merrifield again. It may be that at 33 he’s losing a bit of his edge at the plate, but it’s far too early to make that kind of diagnosis firm. Maybe he needs a break—it may be early in the season, but Thursday’s game was his 480th straight.
Or he could be going through a slump, and nothing more.
The answer will come soon enough if Merrifield’s bat doesn’t improve. But for now, Matheny should sit Merrifield for a game or two. Maybe a bit of a rest in the midst of his slump will help.