According to Baseball-Reference, Michael Brantley has made contact 92% of the time he’s taken the bat off his shoulder this year – good for the second highest percentage in the majors, trailing only Minnesota’s Denard Span (94%).
Brantley’s contact percentage, coupled with his incredible patience at the plate, is why he has been so valuable when leading off for the Tribe this season.
However, a pattern is emerging which may tip pitchers off as to how to attack Brantley.
Brantley may rank among the leaders in contact percentage, but he also has the 7th-lowest first-pitch swing percentage (10%).
His patience, particularly at the start of an at bat, allows him to get into a hitters count and pick out his pitch. However, when pitchers do get ahead in the count, Brantley struggles. After falling behind 0-1, Brantley is batting just .200 with a .254 OBP. When ahead 1-0, his OBP is .524.
Fortunately for Brantley he has gotten ahead 1-0 in over half of his plate appearances this season, but if his patient approach remains too predictable pitchers will start feeding him fastballs early in the count to get ahead.
It’s only a matter of when, not if, pitchers make this adjustment. And Brantley’s continued success will depend upon his ability to then adjust to their adjustments.