Jaso sticks with approach, finds success

July 4th, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- It is often said that baseball is a game of adjustments. Players must constantly react to the game -- they way they are being pitched or defended, for example -- and find their own way out of slumps and bunched failures.
Not .
Jaso, the Pirates utilityman, began the season 0-for-18. His first hit didn't come until April 19 when he went 2-for-3 with a walk and two singles.
"It was slow. It was hard," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Jaso's start. "It seemed like a start I probably had a couple of times. When you look up there and you're hitting under .100, that's not comfortable territory for anybody. Especially when you're hitting .100 and it's May."
What Jaso did next, or more appropriately, what Jaso didn't do next, was something his manager had never seen.
"This is the first man in 40 years of professional baseball that I saw change nothing and just stay with it," Hurdle said. "Jaso trusted his approach too much to abandon it after a few weeks of struggles.
"I've seen guys change their shoes, change their bats, shave their face, change their swing change their stance. They change something."
Jaso did none of that. And since that day in late April when he notched his first hits of the season, Jaso ranks second on the Pirates with a .275 batting average and .354 on-base percentage, and first in slugging percentage by 25 points at .528 and first in OPS (.894).
"John's seeing the ball well. He's aggressive in the zone on pitches -- not just hard, but some soft. He's in a really good place. The strike-zone command and aggressiveness within it is making everything happen. He's fouling some pitches off, then he gets right back in there. Then he gets a little bit better pitch to hit and he doesn't miss it. We've seen some real good things from him," Hurdle said.
Kuhl heats up
While Jaso opted to stay the course, Pirates right-hander has manipulated his approach to attacking hitters.
Kuhl sat in the low 90's last season when he debuted with the Pirates, featuring a two-seam fastball as his groundball-inducing pitch. Now, Kuhl has traded his two-seamer for a four-seam fastball and has averaged 97 mph with it in several games this season, including some when he's flirted with hitting triple digits The four-seamer is paired with another new offering, a curveball, that he didn't pick up until mid-May.
"I've never seen that before either," Hurdle said of Kuhl's immediate jump in velocity. "I've never seen that during a season."