Alec Bohm took the field Thursday night for his 44th game of the season, matching his total from his stupendous rookie year with the Phillies and offering the starkest possible contrast in his year-to-year offensive production.
Consider the numbers entering the series finale against the Miami Marlins:
2020: .338 average, .400 on-base, .481 slugging, 11 doubles, four homers, 23 RBIs, 16 walks, 36 strikeouts in 180 plate appearances.
2021: .224 average, .254 on-base, .342 slugging, seven doubles, four homers, 23 RBIs, eight walks, 46 strikeouts in 173 plate appearances.
“To be honest, I feel the same,” said Bohm, who also was leading the league by grounding into 11 double plays. “I’ve definitely given away a couple at-bats where I just chased some pitches. That’s going to happen over the course of 162 games.
“I still get mine. I feel like I am getting them. They haven’t fallen as much this year, but that’s out of my control. I’m just going to keep walking up there and keep doing what I can and trying to hit balls hard. The more I do that, the more success is going to come.”
A deeper look at the numbers reveals that Bohm is hitting the ball just as hard as he did last year. His average exit velocity has actually increased from 90.2 mph to 92.7. His hard-hit rate (the percentage of balls that come off the bat at 95 mph or more) has climbed, too, from 46.8% to 50.4%.
If anything, Bohm has been unlucky as much as he has struggled. His batting average on balls in play has tumbled from .410 last season to .278 (.300 is considered average). Those results have led to frustration that can be seen on the field, sometimes even between pitches, in the reactions of a former first-round pick who didn’t experience many struggles in college at Wichita State or in the minor leagues.
“What happens a lot of times when you’re not hitting the way that you feel that you should be, you try to get all your numbers back in a day or two,” manager Joe Girardi said. “What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to do it over its process. If you can raise your average 10 or 15 points every month, by the end of the season you’re going to be right where you want to be and not get so caught up in trying to get it all done in a week or a couple weeks.
“If you continue to do your work, usually things get back to normal.”
Bohm said he has noticed a difference in how opposing pitchers are attacking him, specifically a greater number of fastballs. It makes sense. He’s batting .196 and slugging .304 against heaters this season compared with .337 and .500 last year.
“I think you’re just a tick off, and when you’re a tick off at this level, it can cause a lot of issues,” Girardi said. “We saw him hit fastballs last year. That was not an accident. He’s just a little off this year.”
Bohm figures it’s nothing that a few well-placed hits can’t fix.
“It could go either way. You could say, ‘I’m doing the same thing. Why isn’t it working?’” Bohm said. “For me, it’s just doing what I need to do, keep going up there and hitting balls hard.”
Dombrowski ‘where he needs to be’
Dave Dombrowski didn’t get the storybook ending in Boston that he would have liked. But a three-game weekend series against the Red Sox will mean a reunion with Alex Cora, the manager he hired after the 2017 season and worked with in 2018 to win a World Series.
Cora said Thursday that it “caught me off guard” in December when Dombrowski got hired as the Phillies’ president of baseball operations. Cora had been rehired by the Red Sox a few weeks earlier after serving a one-year suspension for his role as the bench coach in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017. Like most people, he figured Dombrowski, fired by the Red Sox late in the 2019 season, would stay in Nashville, where he was trying to bring an MLB expansion team.
“I was surprised he accepted that job [with the Phillies] because he was very settled in Nashville, he loved what he was doing,” Cora said. “But he’s where he needs to be, impacting a baseball organization, and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Cora said he received a weekly call or text from Dombrowski last season, a gesture that he said he appreciated.
“He was one of my biggest supporters personally last year,” Cora said. “I’m glad he’s back in baseball.”
J.T. Realmuto wasn’t in the lineup for a fourth consecutive game, but Girardi said the star catcher’s bruised left wrist was feeling “much better.” Girardi sounded hopeful that Realmuto could return Friday night. ... Second baseman Jean Segura was under the weather and not in the lineup. ... Center fielder Roman Quinn (lacerated right index finger) could begin a minor-league rehab assignment Friday. ... Aaron Nola, who lost his last two starts, will open the Red Sox series against lefty Martín Pérez.