What is a Slump in Baseball?

What is a Slump in Baseball

Last updated on October 26th, 2023 at 04:56 pm

A slump in baseball is a phrase that describes a player’s bad performance for an extended amount of time. A slump can be a combination of fatigue, injury, poor mechanics, bad luck, or confidence issues for a player resulting in lower-than-expected results. Due to the longevity of the baseball season, players will go in and out of slumps during the season. 


So, why do they call it a slump in baseball? How do baseball players get out of a slump? What are some significant slumps in baseball history? What is the danger of not getting out of a slump?


Here is the complete breakdown of what a slump is in baseball.


Why Do they Call it a Slump?

Why Do they Call it a Slump

A “baseball slump” is a noticeable period of underperformance for a baseball player. If you chart out a player’s batting average over the season, you might see peaks and valleys due to the season’s length, which is normal. Let’s say the hitter you are looking at is halfway through the season with a .300 batting average. That means they, on average, get a base hit three times out of every ten at-bats.


However, now this player is in a slump, which means their average performance has dropped from their .300 batting average. Let’s pretend this player is now hitless in their last twenty-five at-bats. If you chart this performance in a graph, you would see a long stretch of hitless at-bats, which illustrates the slump they are in at the moment.


For all intent and purposes, the “slump” is the drop-off in expected performance for a player that you can see in a visual graph. The slump could either come from the season they are currently having or what the back of their baseball card says they should be at as a career average.


How Do Baseball Players Get Out of this Bad Streak?

How Do Baseball Players Get Out of a Slump

Baseball players are superstitious when it comes to getting out of slumps. Some take mild approaches to get out of the slump, like spending more (or less) time in the batting cage and going over their swing and mechanics with coaches. Maybe the video replay of their swing shows that their legs are out of sync with their swing, so they are not driving the ball with authority. If so, they will work on their mechanics in the batting cage to fix that issue and get out of the slump.


On the other hand, some take it to a whole new level to get out of a slump. For example, Baseball Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter, had a slump in his career in 2004 that got him booed at Yankee Stadium. He was hitless in his last 32 at-bats, which caused him to ask his teammate, Jason Giambi, for any tips on how to get out of it. Giambi gave Jeter his lucky golden thong to wear, which (Giambi) said got him out of his slumps. The next day that Jeter wore that golden thong, he got a base hit and ended the year with a .292 batting average.


Notable Slumps in Baseball History

What are Some Notable Slumps in Baseball History

Chris Davis tends to come to the minds of recent baseball fans as a player who fell off with one of the worst slumps in baseball history. After signing a record contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Davis entered one of the game’s worst hitless streaks in 2019. He went 54 at-bats without getting a base hit, a combination from the end of 2018 to the start of 2019.


Below are some other baseball players and their consecutive hitless career streaks.


  • Eugenio Velez: 0 for 46
  • Bill Bergen: 0 for 45
  • Craig Counsell: 0 for 45
  • Dave Campbell: 0 for 45


Pitching Slumps

What Do Slumps Look Like in Pitching

Pitching slumps look different than you will see for batters with consecutive at-bats without a hit. A pitching slump could be as simple as the pitcher not finding the strike zone after (x) amount of pitches in a game. For example, if a pitcher walks two hitters back to back on eight pitches, they would be in a mini-slump.


Fielding Slumps

What Do Slumps Look Like in Fielding

Fielding slumps are similar to pitching slumps, where it is harder to see than a batter having consecutive at-bats without a hit. Fielding slumps can be things like making consecutive throwing errors in a game and dropping balls more often in the outfield. Errors are a part of the game in baseball, but fielding slumps tend to increase the number of errors a player makes in the field that is out of their normal amount.


What is the Danger of Not Getting Out of a Slump?

What is the Danger of Not Getting Out of a Slump

Slumps are part of baseball, but for some players, getting into a slump means going down to the Minor Leagues. A slump, for the most part, is nothing to worry about for veterans or players with a long track record of success. However, a rookie or a player fighting for a roster spot who goes into a slump could mean a demotion from the roster.


For example, an injury may occur on a Major League team that frees up a roster spot for the next three months. A rookie from AAA comes up from the minors and starts their Major League career with a 0-18 at-bat performance. That small sample size may be all the Major League team needs to see and might send that player down to the Minors to have something else take their place. Sometimes, the team will DFA this player if they can’t send them back to the minors. DFA means they cut them from their organization due to their ability to play.


Ideally, players are working on their mechanics and more in the minors to prepare for the call-up to the majors. However, nerves, mechanical issues, or simply better pitching they are facing than in the minors may result in the player failing to succeed.


Conclusion: What is a Slump in Baseball?

In summary, a slump in baseball is a period of underperformance for a baseball player. Usually, a slump occurs when a batter goes hitless in consecutive at-bats spanning something past ten at-bats. While slumps are part of the game, an extended slump can lead to a demotion for a player. Therefore, getting into a slump is something that all ball players try and get out as quickly as they can.


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