In 2010, Austin Jackson’s rookie year in which he placed second in Rookie of the Year voting, he was successful spraying the ball to all fields, logging 56 hits to left field, 67 to center, and 58 to right (data from FanGraphs). In 2011, Jackson got power-happy and constantly tried to pull the ball—he had just 23 hits to right in his sophomore season and only six of those went for extra bases. This variation resulted in more strikeouts, a much lower average, and a barrage of fans clamoring for Alex Avila, Ryan Raburn, or Andy Dirks (among others) to be inserted in the leadoff spot.
This off-season and into the spring, Jackson worked to revamp his swing, finally shedding an oafish leg-kick that made contact difficult to achieve. His strikeout numbers didn’t improve much in Grapefruit League play, but many observers noted he was making solid, consistent contact and lining the ball in every direction. It’s a small sample size for sure, but he displayed this regained tendency on Thursday, Opening Day, by lining a pitch up the middle on the first pitch of the game, tripling on a very well-hit ball to the right field fence later, and ending the game by pulling a grounder down the left-field line and past a diving Nick Punto.
(With the aforementioned hits, Jackson became the first Detroit Tigers player to get a hit on both the first and the last pitch thrown to his team in a game since July 29th, 1989. – STATS LLC)
On a related note, Jackson came to the plate five times Thursday and did not strike out. In the 184 career games in which he’s accumulated at least five plate appearances, he’s gone K-less a paltry 37 times.