Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/10/14

Michael Brantley has been no better than a league-average hitter in his three-plus seasons with the Cleveland Indians. It isn’t for lack of a studious approach, though. The 24-year-old puts a lot of thought into his craft — and that should bode well for his future. As for the recent past, he’s been swinging a hot bat. Brantley went 9-for-18 over the weekend against the Red Sox, including a 4-for-5 effort on Thursday night. He later talked about the approach that he brought to each at bat.


On his first two at bats and doing his homework: “Josh Beckett is a great pitcher, but at the same time, I could see that he was leaving a lot of balls up and out over the plate. He was missing arm-side a little bit.

“My first at bat, I was kind of looking out over the plate. I got a fastball up and away that I was able to drive to left [for a double]. After that, I noticed that he was trying to use his breaking ball a little more. In my second at bat, he got me 0-2 and threw me a back-foot breaking ball [for a ball]. Then he tried to double up on it, because it’s one of his best out pitches. He left it over the plate and I was able to drive it to left-center for another double.

“On that second at bat, when the count got to 1-2, I was kind of sitting breaking ball. There were runners on second and third, so I knew he was going to try to strike me out. That was going to be his strikeout pitch to me that day, and I was able to sit on it and hit it to left.

“If you do your homework and are really into the game — if you’re really watching — you’re able to sit on pitches at times. Even breaking balls. For the most part, you don’t want to, but some of the best hitters in the game do.

“What I’m looking for depends a lot on the scouting report. They tell me what the pitcher’s tendencies are. If it’s a guy who likes to stay away, you kind of look in that general region and make adjustments from there. Same thing if he’s missing a lot arm-side. A lot of times the count will dictate what he’s trying to do. Most of the time, when I get to two strikes, I like to look down the middle and adjust from there. Conversely, If I’m in a hitter’s count, I’ll look at certain sections of the plate.”

On his third at bat and hitting a cutter: “My next at bat was against Scott Atchison, who has a good two-seamer and cutter. He threw me a two-seamer for a ball and then a cutter for a ball. That put me ahead in the count 2-0, so I was looking for a pitch middle to middle-in that I could drive. Instead, he threw me a fastball away [for a strike]. That made the count 2-1, which was no problem. Then he tried to throw a cutter in, but he left it a little out over the plate and I was able to hit a single up the middle.

“The cutters Atchison threw me moved very well and his four-seamer actually has a little extra life. It’s a little sneakier than it appears on a radar gun.

“A key to hitting a cutter is to not swing at one too far in. You also have to make sure you hit the inside of the ball. If you get around a cutter, you’re not going to be successful very often.

“As a rule, I like to let the ball travel. My strength has always been hitting the ball the other way. When I swing at a pitch in, it’s more of a reaction. The best hitters in the game stay on balls and hit the ball the other way very well.”

On his fourth at bat and his approach against left-handers: “My next at bat was against Franklin Morales. He started me off with a fastball up and in. That put me ahead in the count, so I was looking for a fastball out over the middle of the plate. He threw a fastball middle to middle-in and I was able to hit it up the middle [for a single]. I wanted to make sure I didn’t try to do too much on that pitch. He’s a lefty who throws hard, so I wanted to stay within myself and work back up the middle. I was able to do that.

“Predominantly, lefties stay out over the plate when it‘s left against left. They usually throw a lot more fastballs away, unless they have good tail on their fastball. Then they try to run it in. But scouting reports show that they mostly throw it middle away, so most of the time you need to stay the other way and focus on driving the ball through the shortstop.”

On his fifth at bat and timing: “My last at bat was against [Alredo] Aceves and I grounded out to first on a changeup. He threw some very live fastballs against me. I also saw him throw a slide-step changeup to a hitter ahead of me. Once he got me to two strikes, I figured he’d go to his changeup, and he did. He was still able to get me out front a little bit. It was a good pitch. I’ll have to put that in my memory bank.

“In my opinion, the biggest key for a hitter is timing. If your timing is off, you can gets hits every now and again — maybe some jams and something off the end — but you need timing for a good swing. That said, no one has the exact same keys. Everybody’s swing is different. Some people have leg kicks and some people don’t. Some people stride and some people don’t stride. I’m a simple strider. I start early, but at the same time, I don’t do too much.

“Pitch recognition is big — seeing the ball out of the hand and picking up spin. Spin is key. You can see a dot on a slider, or if it comes out of his hand and kind of humps up, it’s a breaking ball. You have to keep your eyesight on where he’s going to throw. My focus is on his release point, because I want to pick the ball up as quickly as possible. You only have an instant to determine in, out, up, down, breaking ball, changeup. The more often I can be on time, the better chance I have to get hits. I saw the ball pretty well [on Thursday].”

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Celtics looking to make LeBron's life difficult in playoff series

WATCH: Luke Rockhold chokes out Lyoto Machida

WATCH: Masai Ujiri fires up Raptors fans with expletive

Andre Johnson: Signing with Colts not about revenge

Pete Rose joining FOX as baseball analyst


Josh Hamilton filed for divorce around time of relapse

Isaiah Thomas once peed himself to avoid subbing out

Report: ESPN employees want Britt McHenry fired

WATCH: Raptors fans shower Paul Pierce with vulgar taunts

Report: Vikings want first-rounder, starting CB for Peterson

Jarret Stoll arrested for possession of drugs

Report: Todd Gurley's knee checks out well in evaluation

WATCH: All 286 3-pointers Steph Curry made this season

WATCH: Devan Dubnyk makes great save while leaving net

Sabres GM not happy about losing draft lottery

Yordano Ventura ejected for plunking Brett Lawrie

Five early takeaways from the 2015 MLB season

WATCH: Cubs fan catches foul ball in beer cup, chugs it

WATCH: Cardale Jones throws ball 74 yards during contest

Shaka Smart was quite popular at the Texas spring game

Ohio State sets spring game attendance record

WATCH: Bubba Watson raps on Christian rap track

WATCH: Jags mascot wins closest to pin at Sawgrass

MLB 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.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce from wife

Report: McHenry's coworkers want her fired

WATCH: Raptors fans taunt Paul Pierce

Five things to watch in NBA Playoffs

Jarret Stoll busted for drugs

CJ Wilson: Hamilton is 'ready to go'

Leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase preview

Home runs ruined our ability to appreciate production

Why we love the NFL draft

The "worst" player on each NBA playoff team

Jim Harbaugh showed up at Ultimate Frisbee practice

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

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

Company Info
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.