Tigers improving two-strike approach

Tigers improving two-strike approach

SEATTLE -- Want a clue as to why the Tigers have had a propensity for clutch hits in comebacks? One thought might be two strikes.

When the Tigers began their Spring Training schedule, one thing manager Jim Leyland emphasized was a two-strike approach, encouraging guys to take a few at-bats in a particular game or two and approach as if they had two strikes from the start. The idea was to get guys to shorten their swings and cut down on strikeouts. It hasn't worked for everybody, but it's working enough for a few key guys that the Tigers can notice the difference.

Two-strike hits are at the heart of Miguel Cabrera's early surge. He entered Friday's series opener against the Mariners batting 7-for-15 in those counts this year, compared to 7-for-19 in every other situation. He has talked about remaining aggressive in those counts, but maybe cutting down a little on the swing.

Cabrera can't keep up this kind of hitting for a full season, but for comparison's sake, anything respectable with two strikes is an upgrade for him. He hit .217 in two-strike counts last year, and .215 in 2008.

Magglio Ordonez hit .249 in two-strike counts in 2009, but he's 4-for-13 in those situations this year. Brandon Inge is 3-for-13 with two strikes, which isn't overwhelmingly impressive until one considers that Inge batted just .135 with two strikes last year. Not everyone is doing nearly that well, leading to a .203 team average with two strikes entering Friday. Still, they haven't finished a season batting better than .200 with two strikes since 2007.

"I think we've done a pretty good job," Leyland said. "Like I've said, I think we've gotten some big hits. And when you get big hits, you've probably got some two-strike hits."