Towards the end of April, Jose Tabata said that he was working on tweaking his swing. The outfielder was watching old videos from the 2011 season, and put that work into the cages with Manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie.
Tabata knows his strength is to right-center field, and admitted that at the beginning of year he was trying to do too much. After hitting for a .246/.295/.298 line in 57 at-bats in April, Tabata has seen improvement in May. With Alex Presley in a slump, Tabata was moved up to leadoff where he’s started to look like the player fans saw when he first came up to Pittsburgh.
So far in May, Tabata is hitting for a .273/.333/.409 line in 22 at-bats. His hot streak started toward the end of April, with the outfielder hitting for a .326/.367/.457 line in 46 at-bats since April 22nd.
“There’s a number of things that are different right now,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s less movement. He’s found a stronger hitting position when that front foot hits the ground. But there’s a lot less preset movement. He was just — a lot going on. Too many moving parts early. Quiet head now versus a head that had a lot of movement as well during the stride.”
“A complete sellout to letting the ball travel and get deeper and hit the ball hard to right field. He’s repeatedly struck balls to right field in the past two nights. This is what I think you saw in 2010 when he put up the first blueprint of a good season, what kind of an offensive player he could be, what we saw glimpses of last year.”
On Saturday, Tabata led off the game against Houston with a triple off lefty J.A. Happ. In his third at-bat, the outfielder, who took a foul ball off the hand during the at-bat, drilled a homer to right field.
Tabata has been more aggressive at the plate, too. When facing Stephen Strasburg on Thursday, Tabata connected for two doubles off arguably one of the games best current pitchers — both off the first pitch.
The Pirates skipper has even noticed that Tabata’s presence in the clubhouse and dugout is back, seeing him dance and joke around with the players again now that his confidence has returned.
“That swagger’s back,” Hurdle said. “You see some antics going on. That’s just him being him. And when he’s not doing those, it’s kind of a red flag for me. That means he’s unsure and he’s not confident…That’s Jose, being Jose.”