Last year, when Austin Jackson was lighting up the end of August/beginning of September, Tigers’ broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen could not stop raving about the second-year hitter being the team’s fire-starter. Of course, the easy joke when he’d strike out — and it was a lot — was that he was just fanning the flames.
Overall, Jackson experienced a significant decrease in his hitting line during his sophomore campaign and an even uglier postseason, inspiring him to work all winter with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon on developing a better approach at the plate. It would start with his stance and swing, maybe alter his mentality for the better, and hopefully result in fewer strikeouts and him hitting like a rookie again, or even better.
We can’t exactly break down any mental adjustments Jackson has made, but we can note the obvious differences in his stance and swing that he’s been diligently working on all offseason. Take a look as Jackson stands in on Derek Holland in that stupid 2011 ALCS:
Now, take a look at Opening Day 2012, a game in which Jackson had four quality at bats and hit the ball hard three times for two hits:
Jackson’s hands are down, with his elbows in closer to his chest and his front foot is not as open.
Immediately prior to the pitcher releasing the ball is where Jackson made the most dramatic change in his swing, though:
As you can see, there is no more pitcher’s-like leg lift, which is definitely going to affect the rest of the swing. Jackson simply takes a stutter-step and keeps his hands in closer until he’s ready to throw them at the ball. In the words of Koonoo from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “the less you do, the more you do.” Well, Jackson is ‘doing less’ and he’s already seeing greater rewards to the tune of, oh, only .571/.625/1.482.
I know, he’s not going to have a video game MVP season, but if he can continue to feel comfortable in his new swing, he’s going to cut down on the strikeouts some and hopefully improve his walk-rate. In that case, we’ll see more series like Boston and, at the end of the season, an Austin Jackson that hits more consistently around .300 and gets on base closer to four out of every ten at bats — a more than adequate table-setter, ‘so the big boys can eat.’