Matt Williams, in talking about Bryce Harper working his way back and finding his timing and touching on Jayson Werth's recent hot streak after a slow June, got into a discussion about slumps on Saturday morning before the Washington Nationals took on the Chicago Cubs in Nationals Park.
Harper, the Nats' skipper said, was still a "tick off" and "jumpy" at the plate.
"He's just trying to generate a little bit," Williams explained, "and that makes you move toward the pitcher which takes your eye -- you don't see the ball as well as you normally do."
Williams was, however, sure that Harper would turn it around.
"He'll get it," the former major leaguer-turned-manager said. "And it'll be fast too. Once he starts seeing it, once he feels it and gets his rhythm and timing a little bit better."
In discussing Werth's turnaround at the plate, Williams once again talked about the slight adjustments the 35-year-old outfielder made, which included simply standing up straighter at the plate. He touched on the work Werth has done after Saturday's game too, which saw the Nats' right fielder go 3 for 4 with two doubles.
"He made a slight adjustment with his stance, but he's just staying on top of the baseball. We saw evidence of that today. Certainly if you stay on top, to your pull side, you create backspin. He's hit a couple of homers the last three games and today that ball to center field is evidence of him really trying to stay on top and driving the ball, so, he looks good. He feels good too, which is a very good sign."
While some of the changes are mechanical, Williams said before the Nats' 13-0 win on Saturday that the mechanical is only part of it.
"I think physically and mentally you're affected throughout the season," the veteran of seventeen major league campaigns explained. "You can get tired. You can have some kind of injury. You're mentally fatigued sometimes, especially when you're struggling to try to find it. All of those things contribute to slumps. The guys that make the adjustments quickly are the guys that get out of it quickly and tend to have higher averages.
"But it all boils down, every single -- in my opinion anyway -- every single guy it boils down to pitch selection. And if you can select a good pitch to hit, then you stay out of those mini-slumps and you're making consistent contact and therefore you're getting more hits and average comes up, on-base percentage comes up because you're not swinging at the bad ones and it's all related."
"So the question is," Williams continued, "how quickly do you find it?"
"Bobby Bonds told me once, 'Matt, don't worry when you're in a slump, because you know you're going to come out of it. The time to worry is when you're hot, because you know eventually it's going the other way."
"So, he was trying to just let me know when I was in a slump that just relax and see the baseball and it will happen eventually. For me, it comes down to pitch selection. If you're seeing it good, then you recognize earlier the ball down you don't swing at, the ball up you don't swing at and you get yourself in better hitters' counts."
So in terms of the mental vs physical, it's usually more mental?
"Mostly," Williams said. "And human nature tells us that, 'Oh, I've got to make an adjustment physically.' So that's the benefit of having everything recorded now. You can look at the physical aspect of it, and solve that fairly quickly.
"The mental part of it is a little more difficult because your brain is fragile sometimes, regardless of who you are and that's the hardest one to fix sometimes too."