(Vern, baby, Vern! Just made that up. Courtesy of Getty Images)
Vernon Wells got off to a scorching hot start this season, all things considered probably the most surprising hot start out of anybody on the team. After 10 games he was hitting .333/.421/.697, then he treaded water for the couple of weeks. From April 28th to May 7th Wells saw his line drop down to .270/.328/.468, and the prevailing thought was that he was already starting to tire and come back to earth after that hot start that partially defied his contact rates. Since May 7th, Wells has 12 hits (3 HR), 5 runs scored, and 9 RBI in 8 games, raising his line back up to its current .300/.353/.521 state.
The dreaded "S" word was thrown around early in the month when Wells wasn't producing, but a quick check of the periphs shows that Wells isn't slumping, wasn't slumping, and hasn't really shown any signs of slumping roughly one quarter of the way through the season.
If you recall, Wells finished April with a rather pedestrian 15.6% LD rate and .296 BABIP yet still had a.390 wOBA and 145 wRC+ to show for it. That was the byproduct of more power and more walks than Wells has produced in May, but his current contact splits show that he hasn't fallen off a cliff with his swing. Wells boasts a 25.0% line drive rate in May, with a slight uptick in groundballs and a decrease in flyballs (46.8% in April, 31.8% this month). The dip in FB rate explains the dip in power, but Wells has got the most out of the balls he has driven in the air. And as he did in the season's first 2 weeks, Wells is still hitting the ball to all fields:
More GBs than FBs in the last week, but still power to left and still a healthy distribution of contact and hits up the middle and to right field. Wells appears to be sticking to his new balanced approach and he's remained productive despite a dip in overall production so far this month. A .343 wOBA and 113 wRC+ don't look that great next to Vernon's April numbers, but those numbers were never going to be maintained long-term and his overall numbers through 39 games are still right up there with the best outfielders in the league.
Wells' drop in BB rate is a bit of a concern. Any BB rate below 5.0% is always a potential red flag for older players who may have declining bat speed. Wells' contact rates don't reflect that, though, and he's remained productive this month while hitting for less power than he did in April. Between the contact split, continued balanced spray charts, and consistent BABIP, there's reason to expect Wells to continue to be productive, which should work to his advantage now that he's likely competing for playing time with Ichiro.
(Spray charts courtesy of TL)