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Francisco Lindor has had a September to forget

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Francisco Lindor has been absolutely awful lately, but that might be coming to an end.

Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

Francisco Lindor has done the unthinkable.

Normally, when talking about Francisco Lindor and stating something is unbelievable or unthinkable, it means he just made yet another wonderful play at shortstop. Or maybe he slapped a double, or had another three-hit game. Anyone who has watched the Cleveland Indians’ star shortstop over the last month, however, knows that is not the case. Lindor is slumping. Hard.

Slumping is not something that Lindor has done a whole lot in his career. I wrote in July about him having the worst week of his career at the plate, at the time, but he quickly bounced out of it. Even then, he was 3-for-27 in six hits. Nothing worth getting anxious over, but it was a slump that happened. For someone as consistent as Lindor, that seemed unthinkable.

The last three weeks have been an offensive disaster

But now, with less than a week left in the regular season, Lindor is at his all-time worst for the better part of a month. In his last 17 games, he has just five hits in his last 71 plate appearances with one double and 12 strikeouts. Worse yet, he is completely hitless in his last 41 plate appearances; his last base knock coming against the Detroit Tigers on September 15. Lindor lined a single off of Michael Fulmer in one of the many Indians blowouts against the Tigers this season.

But since then? Blanked.

Lindor’s approach at the plate has not changed much since he was hitting well enough to be considered one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball. From the first game of the season on April 5 until September 8, the day before this slump began, Lindor was slashing .322/.368/.460 with 14 home runs and a wRC+ of 121. From September 9 onward, he has a .091/.243/.109 slash with a wRC+ of 1. That’s not a typo.

Looking strictly at Lindor’s PITCHf/x plate discipline, Lindor looks like almost the same batter. The biggest dip, across the board, is his overall contact rate dropping 84 percent to 81.4 percent — not nearly enough to account for a 120 drop in wRC+. Opposing pitchers are throwing him more balls out of the zone — 49.1 percent outside of the zone pre-slump compared to 55.2 percent since — but he is not chasing any more now that he was before.

In fact, from a plate discipline perspective, Lindor’s eye at the plate has been better in some aspects than it was before. Slumping Lindor has an excellent 16.9 percent walk rate, which explains his “high” (relatively speaking) on-base percentage of .243. Pre-slump Lindor was walking at a 7.0 percent clip.

Playing baseball every day isn’t easy, Lindor’s recent struggles are proof

I think the explanation is just as simple as we hope it is: Frankie is exhausted. He said just as much last week:

I go through stretches during the season where I'm dead. And then, out of nowhere, I'll feel great for the next three weeks. And then I'll go back to feeling tired. I think everybody goes through that.

From further down in that Zack Meisel piece, Lindor does not seemed worried about it, nor should he be.

I feel good. I feel strong. I feel like I've got my legs back. It's a long season. I didn't realize it was this long of a season. ... [Last year], I was playing with the adrenaline of the big leagues. I was excited. I was happy to be here. This year, it's more the grind of competing day in and day out, helping the team day in and day out. It's a long season. But, I'm still fine.

Baseball seasons are long, and this thing happens, especially to young players who play as frequently as Lindor.

Hit the ball hard and good things will usually follow

The good news is, the 22-year-old superstar may be slowly breaking out of it. The results are not there yet, but he is still hitting the ball hard. According to Baseball Savant, his weekly exit velocity was abysmal through much of September, but it’s rapidly climbing.

The results will come, his luck (and BABIP) will improve, and Lindor will be playing in the MLB playoffs. At the very least, the three days before the ALDS begins should really do Lindor some good, and it appears Terry Francona is okay with giving him a break here and there in the final few games.

When the calendar turns to October, let’s just forget September ever existed.