Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A lost Mayberry

SAN DIEGO — Another day of failure complete, John Mayberry Jr. plopped down at a laptop and began scrolling through the footage.

A lost Mayberry

John Mayberry Jr. has struggled to pick up where he left off in 2011. (Ron Cortes/Staff File Photo)
John Mayberry Jr. has struggled to pick up where he left off in 2011. (Ron Cortes/Staff File Photo)

SAN DIEGO — Another day of failure complete, John Mayberry Jr. plopped down at a laptop and began scrolling through the footage.

He saw the 87 m.p.h. fastball he popped to second base with the bases loaded in the first inning. Then there was another fastball he skied to right to begin the fourth. He swung and missed at a curveball and fastball in the sixth and then took a 93 m.p.h. fastball for strike three. And to top it off, he swung through another fastball in the ninth.

But he at least took one pitch in that at-bat, a fastball that skipped past the catcher and allowed the Phillies to score an insurance run in Thursday's 2-0 victory.

"He works real hard," Charlie Manuel said. "If you watch him take batting practice, [Thursday] he was crushing some balls."

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He was.

"But that goes to show you, you get your timing in the game," Manuel said. "And you get your timing in the game off breaking balls and change-ups. It starts by playing some days in a row, that's how you get your timing on slow stuff, and he ain't quite there yet. He'll get going if he keeps working."

So does that mean Manuel will keep playing him?

"More than likely he'll get the brunt of the playing time," Manuel said. "I'm not saying I'll play him four days in a row, but he's definitely going to get a chance to play."

Mayberry is hitting .189 in 37 at-bats. He has struck out 11 times and walked none. He has one extra-base hit and that came on opening day.

Since then? Mayberry has struck out nine times, grounded out eight times, popped out on the infield seven times, singled five times and flied out four times.

It's ugly.

Mayberry certainly isn't this bad. But the Phillies were hoping he'd somewhat resemble the player who hit .299 with a .576 slugging percentage in 158 second-half 2011 plate appearances. That's a sample size hard to make judgments from, just like his current struggles in 13 games.

Hitting coach Greg Gross has preached consistency and is happy that Mayberry has not attempted any drastic experiments to correct his problems.

But Gross sees a player who does everything correctly behind the scenes only to press once he's at the plate. The sign is when Mayberry crouches more than usual. It's his way of "grinding through it," Gross said.

Last season, Mayberry wasn't terrible by any means against righties. He hit .250 (opposed to .306 vs. lefties) and still managed a .785 OPS. But the disturbing trends were there: He struck out 21 percent when facing righties, and 61.9 percent of his batted balls were on the ground or infield popups. That figure against lefties was 42.8 percent.

In 2012, Mayberry has struck out in 40 percent (5 of 16) of his at-bats against righthanders. And, like 2011, 61 percent of his batted balls vs. righties are on the ground or infield flies.

The trends are magnified now because Mayberry has not achieved success in 2012. It is, of course, early. But it's not like this is something new.

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