MILWAUKEE — He wasn’t feeling great even before his current hitless slump, so Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant might really be frustrated after going 0-for-4 on Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He has gone 15 at-bats without a hit over the past four games, which is the second-longest hitless streak of his career — and longest since his rookie season in 2015.
“At any given moment, you look around the league, someone is struggling,” Bryant said late Tuesday after the Cubs dropped back into second place. “It’s not fun, but it’s really where you find out what you’re made of. And then once you get out of it, you feel that much better, and you don’t even think about the times when you were struggling.”
Most postgame sessions between players and reporters last just a couple of minutes, but Bryant opened up about a slump that has also zapped his power going back to last month. He hasn’t homered since May 14, and his on-base percentage in June is higher than his slugging percentage. That’s a little unusual for a slugger.
“It’s just the ebb and flow of the game,” he said. “Sometimes it will continue to eat you up. You just have to go with it and realize things always turn around.”
For the season, Bryant is hitting .281 with a .391 on-base percentage and a respectable .871 OPS. But success in bigger moments has escaped him, leading to just 29 runs driven on a .241 batting average with runners in scoring position. He insists he isn’t doing anything differently and denies that attempting to strike out less this year has zapped any power. Nor does he believe any swing adjustments have affected him adversely. It’s just a slump, and slumps are like viruses — they have to run their course.
“It’s easy to be ready and happy when you’re successful, but I think it’s even more important to learn how to deal with times when things aren’t going your way,” Bryant said. “You have to learn from it and realize everyone struggles in this game.”
“Absolutely, he’s been off of his game,” Joe Maddon said. “I am certain he’s going to be fine. There are some really good hitters this year that have gone through a little bit of a funk. It happens … You make sure he’s doing OK because he’s going to beat himself up a little bit.”
Maddon will check in often with a slumping player to make sure he isn’t driving himself crazy. There might be no player on more of an even keel than Bryant, but even he can lose it. According to Statcast, he has “barreled” zero balls the past four games, and it’s not like he was mashing all over the field before that.
“I have my temper tantrums,” Bryant said. “I go in here [the clubhouse] and break a bat or whatever. I try to do it where no one sees me. Sometimes that’s a good thing too … And this has been 15 at-bats? Sure, before that I wasn’t feeling great, but I was hitting .300. If I’m complaining about that, then I have big problems.”
It’s that perspective that has always gotten Bryant through tough times. The smile on his face and calm demeanor in answering questions late after the game tell a story of a player who’s OK with himself. Or else he’s putting on a really good act, but that’s not his style.
“My expectations are really high,” Bryant said. “That’s the greatest and worst thing in the world. … Yeah, it stinks to go out there and not get a hit, but I’m playing for one of the best franchises in all sports, and looking back at what I’ve done, I feel pretty proud. … I come to the field excited every day that there is a chance I could do something no one has ever done before.”
Cubs’ fans are eager to see that as well, but Bryant is keeping his cool. Anxiousness is his enemy because there is no cure for a slump — just persistence.