What Has Happened To Pat's Bat?

Along with Jim Thome, Pat Burrell was supposed to be part of a one-two punch combination in the middle of the Phillies batting order that would rival that of Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. After hitting just three home runs thus far in the season, Phillies fans and some national media are scratching their heads. The question is "What has happened to Pat's bat?" Pat Burrell is in one of the worst slumps of his young career and there may not be a quick and easy solution.

Often known as a hitter who will either strike out or launch a home run into the upper levels of the Vet, Pat Burrell has seen his share of struggles, but perhaps, none as severe as the one he's mired in right now. If the season were over today, Burrell would finish with the lowest batting average of his four-year career. That alone is cause for alarm considering that Burrell is depended on to hit in clutch situations and drive in runs. Maybe even more disturbing is the fact that through 22 games Burrell has gone deep just three times, following a season in which he hit 37. Burrell is on a pace to hit just 22 home runs this season, which would also be the lowest total of his three full seasons.

Burrell is passing on pitches early in the count that he could possibly turn into long drives to the seats. Burrell seems to be having trouble picking up the movement of pitches, which is keeping him from unveiling those McGwireesque hacks. In these days of video analysis, it might just be a matter of some quality time in front of a TV monitor studying more film of his at bats. It could be a matter of better advance scouting of opposing pitchers. Whatever it takes, Burrell needs to fix the flaws soon, before they snowball into bigger problems as the season progresses.

What makes these struggles more pronounced is the fact that he is also struggling in the field. Burrell, who converted to the outfield early in his professional career, has had the worst fielding season of his young career. Burrell is normally a solid outfielder with a strong arm, who covers a decent amount of ground in leftfield. With all of Burrell's struggles, it begs the question of "is there something deeper to look into?"

Could this just be the case of an early season slump? Maybe. But there could also be more factors contributing to Burrell's struggles, and maybe even some psychological reasons for his slump. Perhaps after seeing the front office sign Jim Thome this off-season and watching the reception he has received from the fans may be irking Burrell may be feeling somewhat forgotten in the Phillies grand scheme. If that's the case, Burrell needs to get over it. The Phillies rewarded Burrell with a lucrative contract and he's highlighted prominently throughout the Phillies ballpark preview area and season publications. Plus, Burrell and Thome seem to have developed a strong friendship.

Maybe all it will take to correct Burrell's problems is a week or two of solid swings resulting in some majestic long drives. Soon, Burrell will again hear big ovations from the Phillies faithful and all will be well. Even with Burrell's dismal start, the final numbers can still be there considering Burrell's talent.

Pat Burrell's 2003 Season Projections

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