Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/15/14
Torii Hunter is a changed man. Remember when he was a power-hitting centerfielder in the middle of the lineup? Torii Hunter is the same man. See that smile? And that stolen home run? Hunter might actually owe his ability to change his approach late in his career to his personality, so I asked him about both things before the Tigers played the White Sox early this week. First, the change. Maybe you noticed? Take a look at some key stats over the last four years in two-year buckets. BA OBP ISO BABIP GB/FB 2010-11 0.289 0.350 0.160 0.302 1.40 2012-13 0.311 0.357 0.141 0.375 1.97 That’s a big leap in ground balls. The two highest ground ball rates and the two lowest fly ball rates of his career have come over the last two years. “It’s something I did on purpose,” Hunter admits, “I changed my swing plane and just told myself I’d start going for base hits.” And before I could start to speculate on why, he gave the reason: “I started hitting second a year ago, and I told myself I’d start shooting the ball up the middle and going the other way, to try and move the guy over. I’m sacrificing myself to set up the table.” Pull Center Opposite 2007-2010 43% 36% 21% 2012-2013 38% 37% 26% This new approach is not without its downfalls. His batting average and on-base percentage benefit from looking the other way, but his power numbers have been hurt. And Hunter feels he’s missing out on some hits when he’s trying to put the ball in play to move guys over, but that’s the role of the two-hitter: “That’s my job. I’m more of a selfless player than a selfish player,” he said with a smile. “My mentality has changed… but every once in a while, I still have it — Let me get some of this!” — Torii Hunter Hunter has left the middle of the lineup behind, and he’s also moved to the corner outfield. You can see his eyes light up when he starts talking about center field, so on some level he must miss it: “Oh man, center field, man, there’s nothing like center field. You get to run! You run the whole field. Even infielders, you can call them off, you can just run the whole field — you can run twenty yards and still catch the ball.” Right field? “You only have four steps before you hit the wall.” Like the infielders of the outfield, they don’t have much time before the ball is by them. Though the position has changed, Hunter still prepares like he used to. He studies the hitters and “plays the 80%” in order to put himself in the right place. Ever get bored out there? No, Hunter says, he’s always thinking: “Every pitch, you have to think about what’s going to happen. Anticipate. He has two strikes. What would I do with two strikes if I’m right-handed and he’s right-handed. What’s the pitcher going to do. As a right-handed hitter, you’re going to let the ball travel further into the zone and go the other way. … He’s not going to swing as hard, so I can come in a bit.” And that’s how a 37 year-old manages to stay productive, it seems: adapting to the situation, and holding on to strengths. There’s one more strength that might help Hunter in this matter. His outgoing demeanor. Or maybe it’s more his game face, because there are two Torii Hunters. There’s the joking, smiling outfielder that engages fans in the bleachers. And then there’s the locked in hitter. “You gotta have fun when you can. But when the pitcher’s on the mound, everyone locks in,” he says, adding “you have game face when it’s time to have game face. I’ve been doing this long enough that I can turn it off and on. When I’m at the plate, I know when I step into the box, I can’t hear anyone, only can see the pitcher, then once I foul a pitch off or take a pitch, I step out, I look around, I crack a joke with the umpire, with the catcher, and when I step in and hit the plate, I can’t hear anyone any more, I’m focused again.” So he can turn that trademarked smile — which seems heartfelt — off and on at will in order to focus on the matter at hand. Is it a stretch to say that this is a skill that has helped him adapt to changing conditions in his career? There’s a time to smile, there’s a time to focus, there’s a time for home runs, and there’s a time for a dink or a dunk to the right side. This is the picture of a veteran making it work. Source: FanGraphs — Torii Hunter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Metta World Peace expresses interest to coach St John's

Knicks want Marc Gasol, do they know what they’re asking for?

New York Rangers are the first team to clinch a playoff spot

Victorino: I plan on playing every day for Red Sox in 2015

The Rams are still planning on drafting a quarterback

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Howard willing to make 'ultimate sacrifice' to help Rockets

Pacquiao bought P. Diddy’s house for $12.5M, fight tickets

The Seahawks are already winning the NFL Draft

Fiancée takes stand at Aaron Hernandez's murder trial

Thunder announce Kevin Durant to miss rest of season

Jeremy Maclin says he still believes in Chip Kelly

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Dominique Wilkins in HORSE

Angels remove Josh Hamilton banner from front of stadium

Elite Eight preview: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

Support for relocation growing among NFL powers

Mother says special needs son forced to remove varsity letter

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Minnesota Timberwolves: Should they tank?

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

Twins to offer $19 Bloody Mary with pizza slice garnish

Ranking the NBA's hottest coaching seats

The beginning of the end for Notre Dame

An identity in flux: Harden and the collective consciousness

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Nique in HORSE

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

James Harden and the collective consciousness

Hottest coaching seats in NBA

Under-the-radar NL MVP candidates

Notre Dame’s coach makes first Elite Eight

The last Expo standing

Five under-the-radar AL MVP candidates

Michigan sent recruit's GF a letter

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.