So far this season, Austin Jackson has been the prototypical lead-off hitter for the Detroit Tigers. He’s been getting on base anyway he can and creating problems on the base paths. Someone who has already taken advantage of Jackson’s success has been Torii Hunter, who is spending his first season in Detroit hitting directly behind Jackson.
In the first four games of the season, Jackson has hit .333 and has an on-base percentage of .429. This is the best case for the 37-year-old Hunter because of Jackson’s speed. Already twice this season, I’ve seen Hunter get a hit solely because of the running threat of Jackson.
When a runner on first has enough speed to steal a base, this makes it easier for the hitter behind him. He will get primarily fastballs to hit, and when he does get an off-speed pitch, it will more than likely be easier to predict.
Two times this season, Hunter has hit the ball to the right side of the infield while Jackson is trying to steal, leaving the second baseman in a position where he’s usually is wide open. I like to call that an assist for Jackson because if he wasn’t running on the pitch, Hunter would be headed back to the dugout after rolling over into a double play.
With the Tigers putting an emphasis on stealing this year, I would expect this to happen a lot. A veteran like Hunter has learned how to hit behind runners over his 17-year career and this will come in handy hitting behind Jackson, who I would be willing to bet to have a career-high in stolen bases this year.
If Jackson continues to perform at the level is so far this season, look for not only him to have great season totals, but Hunter as well.