Hit one out already!

It’s coming. You can feel it.  Any day now, Grady Sizemore and Ben Zobrist will get that first home run.  It’s a giant eyesore, I know, to scan down your team’s box score and see a big goose egg under the HR category next to a guy you pegged for at least 25 there.  By mid-May, that ‘zero’ is just a slap in the face.  Sizemore and Zobrist might as well be on the 60-day DL when it comes their trade value, and as tempting as it is to cut one of them, you just know as soon as you do they’ll start launching ’em left and right.  Your eyes light up when you check the box score and see a 4-1-1-1 next to Zobrist’s name, only to be disappointed when you look down and discover he sprayed a single and hit a sacrifice fly.  It’s gotten to the point where you couldn’t care less about multi-hit or multi-RBI performances from Sizemore; all you want to see is home run No. 1. 

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It eases the stress a tad when you consider that last year Matt Holliday tortured owners up to April 30th until he first went deep, then proceeded to belt 23 more.  David Ortiz waited until May 20th to hit one out and ultimately finished with 28.  Carlos Lee appeared lifeless before he got off the schneid in walk-off fashion just last week, and has been groovin’ ever since.

In an attempt to offer more hope, here’s some scrounged up evidence that suggests Grady and Ben will finally get one over the fence soon (although it may all be stemming from denial considering I own both of them on the same team, which I can barely bring myself to look at anymore).  

Sizemore’s .213 average, 12 RBIs and .583 OPS are brutal.  Owners that drafted the (former?) superstar center fielder in the mid-late second round are really cursing him right now.  But recently he seems to be on the verge of breaking out.  On May 7th the ultimate stomach  punch came, when he finally crushed a solo shot over the right-field fence in the first inning – only to have the game stats officially wiped out when it was called due to rain in the fourth. 

The dynamic 27-year-old is too powerful to be held down much longer, as he averaged 27 long balls per 162 games from ’05-’09.  Even in what was widely labeled a disastrous 2009 season, Sizemore went deep 18 times in 106 injury-plagued games which equates to about 27 over a full season.  He had a recent string of five-straight games with an RBI (although it was exactly one in each), and he’s notched three multi-hit games over his last eight.  You’d think this would mean power is the next logical progression, right? RIGHT???

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Zobrist really likes to taunt you.  Batting in the three spot for the third highest scoring offense in baseball, you’d think he’d have to have at least five or six bombs by now.  The Rays average over 5.5 runs per game, and have scored at least eight runs 12 times, but somehow Zobrist has only crossed the plate 12 times himself.  You get excited when you see Tampa put up a 10-spot and figure the super-utility man must have contributed, only to discover yet another empty 1-for-4 performance. A .267-0-13 line through 120 at-bats has many ‘experts’ declaring his 27-homer campaign (in just 501 at-bats) from 2009 a fluke.  However, that would also mean his 12 long balls in 198 at-bats in 2008 (a 30-homer pace) were also strokes of luck. The Rays clearly aren’t buying into to this skepticism, as they awarded Zobrist with a sweet three-year contract extension worth up to $30 million back on April 24th when his production looked just as meager.

It might be hard to notice, but the 28-year-old has slowly turned it around of late, batting .333 (11-for-33) over his last nine games with a .405 on-base percentage. He does have nine extra-base hits on the year (seven double and two triples) so it’s not like he’s been a complete slap hitter, and six stolen bases have done just enough to prevent owners from going nuts.  Maybe if he stops getting jerked around between second base and right field and can settle on a position, he’ll be able to relax more at the plate.  I got a feeling Big Z will get that Big Z-ro off his back in the near future.

So just be a little more patient, and don’t do anything rash.  Although if this week comes and goes with no balls flyin’ out, that might just become a hypocritical statement.

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