Pirates Try to Find Their Way at the Plate

Jeff Branson trying to cut down on strikeouts as he breaks down some of his hitters.

Jeff Hathhorn
March 28, 2018 - 5:45 am
Francisco Cervelli HR

93.7 the Fan

27th in batting average and 29th in runs and home runs in 2017, Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson says communication was key in the off-season to build off positives and fix the negatives from last year.

“You try to find a happy medium,” said Branson.   “What I say it’s always right.  What they say it’s always right, so we try and find a common ground and build off of that.  It’s what they believe is going to work, along with some of the things that’s going to help them get better and be consistent for the team.”

Branson said from the time the players left in October, there have been ongoing conversations with the players as to what they are working on during the off-season.

“If you don’t, you’re going to get blindsided when you do come in or we blindside them coming into spring,” the fifth year hitting coach said.  “So there is that constant communication of the expectations.”

As a professional, Jeff Branson went to the plate 4,455 times, and never struck out more than 90 times in a season.  Today’s numbers are much higher and that’s a major emphasis this year in Bradenton.

“We have to be able to put the ball in play,” Branson said.  “We can’t wait for the three run homer.  We have to be able to maneuver the ball around the field, shorten our swings when we do get in those situations.”

Branson said nobody likes strikeouts including the players, but we are in a society where strikeouts are accepted.  Ten teams last year accumulated more than 1,400 strikeouts, as Branson said it’s more about how they look.

“It’s how they strike out,” Branson said.  “Whether it’s big swings, or taking called strikes with runners in scoring position.  Or shortening up with two strikes trying to make an adjustment.  We’re constantly talking to these guys about it, but once they get in the box, they are their own person.”

I asked Branson about some of the Pirates hitters this year including Francisco Cervelli, Josh Bell and Sean Rodriguez.  You can hear what he says below.