Those familiar with Ender Inciarte’s career trends probably aren’t concerned by the Braves center fielder’s slow start. He slumped longer than this at the beginning of three of his first four major league seasons and each time snapped out of it and never looked back.
Inciarte hit .209 (9-for-43) with two doubles, a .255 on-base percentage, a .256 slugging percentage and a puny .511 OPS in the Braves’ first 10 games before Tuesday.
“He can go 10-for-15 just like that,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who had Inciarte in the leadoff spot for the 11th consecutive game Tuesday against the Nationals. “He can throw hits together. That’s the last guy I worry about. Because I know at some point in time, he’s going to go off.”
Before Inciarte went out for batting practice Tuesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the two-time Gold Glove winner discussed a sluggish starT, after saying last year he wanted to avoid doing it again, then enhanced his offseason workouts in an attempt to come out of the blocks hitting.
“I mean, I never want to start out on the wrong foot,” said Inciarte, who made the 2017 National League All-Star team despite struggling in his first 20 games. “I always try to do my best. My swing hasn’t been where I it to be, my approach hasn’t been right. Hopefully I’m going to make the necessary adjustments I need to make to stay consistent till the end of the year.”
If his past is an indicator, Inciarte soon will start hitting at a high rate and keep it going through the summer.
Here’s how he did it each season before this one, including two with Arizona and the past two with Atlanta:
-- In 2017, Inciarte hit .207 (18-for-87) with a .242 OBP and .379 slugging percentage (.621 OPS) in 20 games through April 27. Then he hit .318 with a .365 OBP and .414 slugging (.779 OPS) in 137 games the rest of the season
-- In 2016, he hit .219 (16-for-73) with a .278 OBP and .260 slugging percentage (.539 OPS) in 19 games through May 24, including a four-week stint on the disabled list in April and early May. Then he hit .311 with a .369 OBP and .410 slugging (.779 OPS) in his next 102 games through Sept. 20.
-- In 2014, prospect Inciarte was called up at the beginning of May and hit .182 (12-for-66) with a .206 OBP and .197 slugging percentage (.403 OPS) in his first 28 games. Then he hit .300 with a .344 OBP and .394 slugging (.738 OPS) in his next 88 games through Sept. 26 en route to finishing fifth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
-- The only time Inciarte didn’t start slowly in the majors was 2015 in his second season with Arizona, when he hit .303 with a .338 OBP and .408 slugging percentage, his highest average and OPS (.747) until last season’s .304/.759.
“I mean, I know. I’ve been through this a lot of times, and I know I’m going to come out of this soon,” Inciarte said. “I’m glad the team has been playing well and they haven’t needed me a whole lot. I hope they can continue to succeed offensively and I’m going to do my best to try and catch up.”
Snitker said, “He’s hit some balls hard that haven’t fell; that happens. It’s just accentuated early. When this happens in July you don’t even think anything. Ender will be fine.”
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