CLEVELAND -- Baseball has changed, but Michael Brantley's swing has not. As strikeout rates have soared to historic heights, the Indians' veteran outfielder has become a kind of renaissance man in the batter's box.Throughout his career, Brantley has defied the Major League-wide trends of plummeting contact rate and increasing strikeout
CLEVELAND -- Baseball has changed, but Michael Brantley's swing has not. As strikeout rates have soared to historic heights, the Indians' veteran outfielder has become a kind of renaissance man in the batter's box.
Throughout his career, Brantley has defied the Major League-wide trends of plummeting contact rate and increasing strikeout percentage among hitters. Through his first dozen games this season, Brantley led baseball with a 97.3 percent contact rate (minimum 50 plate appearances).
"We're just in a different day and age now," Brantley said on Tuesday. "Computers and stuff are telling us different things. Everybody wants to talk about launch angle. It's just a different time. I don't know how to explain it -- the evolution. I just know what's been successful for me in the past and what's worked for me in the past, and I don't want to change.
"I had success doing it my way, and I'll continue to do it my way. That's hitting line drives and getting the barrel to the ball as consistent as possible. It's something I pride myself on, and I will continue to do it."
MLB's league-wide contact rate has dropped to 76.5 percent this year (through Monday's games) from 80.5 percent in 2009. The league's strikeout percentage has climbed accordingly to 22.9 percent this year, compared to 18 percent when Brantley broke into the Majors in '09. For his career, Brantley had a 91.3 percent contact rate and a 10.8 percent strikeout rate entering Tuesday.
Brantley, who received a scheduled day off from starting for Tuesday's game against the Cubs, was batting .320/.346/.460 through 12 games. The All-Star left fielder had only three strikeouts in his 52 plate appearances, which equates to a 5.8 percent strikeout rate. Heading into Tuesday, that ranked third overall in baseball (minimum 50 plate appearances). Brantley's teammate, Jose Ramirez, ranked fifth at 6.7 percent.
"[Brantley] and Josey kind of stick out," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Maybe it's because I'm older, but I like it. Just the idea of making adjustments with two strikes and taking what the other team gives you, hitting the ball the other way, I really do like that."
• MLB.com confirmed on Monday night that the Indians have reached an agreement on a Minor League contract with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera, pending a physical. Francona declined to comment on the deal on Tuesday, given that there were still steps to complete in the signing process.
"I know it's out there," Francona said. "Until things are official, I need to stay away from it. There will be a time for that. It was on the internet, though, so it must be true."
• This marks the Cubs' first trip to Progressive Field since defeating the Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Francona downplayed the significance of Chicago's visit to Cleveland.
"It's April. It was two years ago," Francona said. "Maybe for the fans, it will be a little more cool or something. I think under different circumstances -- if it was September or something -- but, no, I think it's more just baseball."
• Infielder Gio Urshela (10-day disabled list), who continues to work his way back from a right hamstring injury, went 1-for-4 with a double on Monday in his sixth Minor League rehab appearance for Triple-A Columbus.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.