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 Tigers have new approach to 2-strike hitting

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PostSubject: Tigers have new approach to 2-strike hitting   Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:41 pm

Posted: March 7, 2010
Tigers have new approach to 2-strike hitting

BY JOHN LOWE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

LAKELAND, Fla. -- What's a good way for a hitter to irk his manager?

Strike out with a runner at third base and fewer than two outs.


In that spot, a hitter doesn't need a hit to drive in a run. He needs to make contact -- hit a sacrifice fly or a ground ball.

For these opportunities in particular, Jim Leyland wants the Tigers to improve their two-strike hitting this season.

"Early in games, with the infield back, if you hit a ground ball to second or short, you get the guy home from third," Leyland said. "We did a poor job of taking advantage of cheap RBIs last year. We have to do a much better job of that."

Leyland has a method by which he believes the Tigers can improve at two-strike hitting and collecting cheap RBIs.

In road spring-training games, he will ask hitters to pick one or two at-bats per game in which they pretend to have two strikes on them at the start of the at-bat. Every swing in the at-bat will be a two-strike, make-contact, don't-strike-out swing.


Veteran hitters tend to get more at-bats in road spring-training games than in home ones. In home games, Leyland often pulls them after about five innings.

"Ted Williams was the greatest hitter, and he said that when you got two strikes on you, you had to get defensive a little bit," Leyland said. "That's good enough for me. I'm not saying you have to choke up or spread out. But you have to have some kind of plan. The phrase we're going to use is 'protect the plate.' "

Striking out frequently has become less mortifying than in previous eras. (In a 15-year span ending in 1951, no American League player struck out more than 110 times in a season. Last season, 27 players in the AL fanned more than 110 times.) But if you want to see a modern-day hitter grimace, watch him when he fans with that runner on third and fewer than two outs.

Leyland believes hitters work on cutting down on strikeouts only in games.

"You can work on it in batting practice, but the coach is throwing about 57 miles per hour," he said. "You really can't practice the game of baseball the way it happens. You can't hit the kind of hop you get in a game, or hit a ball that goes off a pitcher's glove."

Exhibitions are the ideal forum to practice two-strike hitting.

Contact JOHN LOWE: 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com.


Drive chart

According to records kept by the Free Press, here's how the 2009 Tigers players did at driving in the runner from third base with fewer than two outs and the difference in the game three runs or fewer:
PLAYER AB R PCT
Gerald Laird 15 11 73%
Marcus Thames 14 10 71%
Ramon Santiago 12 8 67%
Carlos Guillen 10 6 60%
Brandon Inge 25 14 56%
Placido Polanco 26 14 54%
Magglio Ordoñez 16 8 50%
Adam Everett 21 10 48%
Miguel Cabrera 25 11 44%
Ryan Raburn 9 4 44%
Clete Thomas 9 4 44%
C. Granderson 14 6 43%


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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