Desmond Jennings was named AL Player of the Week for the first time in his career yesterday, after hitting .335 with three home runs, six extra base hits, eight runs, 11 total hits and 23 total bases.
The root of this success?
Possibly a simple notion that Joe Maddon advised to both Jennings and Matt Joyce at the beginning of this season: Go play.
Maddon wanted both players "to stop focusing on the specific aspect of their game in which players are most often judged - offensive production - and embrace the entire game: baserunning, bunting, outfield defense, throwing, etc."
And it's paid off, with Maddon relaying the sentiments we've all been thinking,
"Watching him play right now is really a pleasure," Maddon said. "It's a treat watching him. This is kind of what we thought he could look like. And he's doing it right now."
Joe credited Jennings taking better routes to balls with improved closing speed and throws, picking better spots to run, evident with six of seven successful steal attempts; and showing selectivity at the plate, allowing him to lead the team with an .890 on-base plus slugging percentage.
With Joyce, the key was opening up his offensive philosophy by moving away from pulling the ball so much to right, therefore using left-centerfield more, and getting more creative in beating defensive shifts. So far so good, as Joyce has eight opposite-field hits already this year, when he had 11 total in 2013.
"It's just about playing the game the right way instead of getting caught up in the numbers," Joyce said. "The numbers are going to rise and fall, you're going to have good games and bad games. For me, the biggest thing is sticking with that approach and being committed to it and knowing good things will happen if I stick to that approach."
Joyce has also been talking to a sports psychologist, to help alleviate the burden he puts on himself and reiterate the 'nobody's perfect' mentality. Whatever works, boys. Keep it up.
While we're on the topic, Alex Colome made a two inning, 47-pitch start for the Stone Crabs, as he inches closer to his May 25th eligible return date.
- Long hair, do care: a teenage baseball player was forced to cut lucious locks he was planning to donate to charity, because it showed disrespect for the game. Oh, okay.
- Great background piece from Bob Nightengale on the two men who inspired Million Dollar Arm.
- "Expanding the Edges of the Strike Zone," from The Hardball Times.