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A key to Jake Cronenworth turning it around for the Padres

Padres Jake Cronenworth started the season colder than a iceberg. He has flamed up since, what changed?

MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Jake Cronenworth was traded to the San Diego Padres on December 6th, 2019 he has been a star and a foundation for the Padres return to contention. In fact, it was the acquisition of Tommy Pham that had Padres fans excited. Many didn’t know who Cronenworth was. About 30 months later, Cronenworth is an all-star and Pham is no longer in San Diego (thankfully), instead, he’s causing chaos elsewhere.

Early season struggles

Baseball is genuinely about a law of averages. There are plenty of cold and hot streaks throughout a 162-game season. Every great player has gone through it. The same approach that notched an all-star bid is suddenly not working. Well, what’s the issue?

Cronenworth hasn’t been immune to a cold streak before in his career. Last season his final 32 games played Cronenworth slashed .205/.286/.342, 3 HR, and 11 RBIs. Could fatigue have played a factor? Possibly since the 2020 60-game season was his only experience in the big leagues before last year.

There’s no doubt the start to this season was his longest cold streak as of yet. Over 51 games played (almost the amount of his rookie season) Cronenworth slashed .206/.291/.312, 3 HR, 19 RBI, and 49 strikeouts with just 41 hits.

Notice I highlighted the strikeouts to hits. In his previous two seasons, he never had a strikeout rate above 15.6%. In comparison to the Padres as a team, they have never been below 21% on the season while Cronenworth has been there. During his first 51 games, Cronenworth was at 21.3% (yikes). Remember his slump last year in the final 32 games? His strikeout rate was was actually better than his career rate at 13.4%. The elephant in the room to Cronenworth turning it around was about eliminating the strikeout rate and just putting the ball in play and letting the game come to him.

The turnaround

Letting the game come to him is exactly what has happened over the last 13 games for Cronenworth. His 21.3% strikeout rate dipped to 16.6% which is a lot closer to his career average. Over the span, Cronenworth slashed .408/.509/.755, 3 HR, and 21 RBIs.

To say you should expect those numbers moving forward would be a flat-out lie. Seriously, 21 RBIs in 13 games? That’s insane. I am not sure I can even do that on MLB the show in rookie mode.

In all seriousness, as long as Cronenworth doesn’t allow his strikeout rate to sneak back into the twenties, I think this all-star version of himself is here to stay. There wasn’t any alter in the stance or swing that made the spike in his strikeout rate happen. Sometimes it’s just baseball.

You expect Manny Machado to be himself, Luke Voit continues to come along, Jorge Alfaro is on a hot streak himself, and Nomar Mazara is bringing juice at the plate from the outfield position. You pair that in with all-star production from Cronenworth and you can see why the Padres have leapfrogged the Dodgers over the last 14 games (11-3).

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