For as many walks as both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder take, you wouldn't expect to see them swinging at the first pitch every time they come to the plate. However, that's exactly what happened tonight against Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber.
Situation: top of the first inning, runner on first, one out. Miguel Cabrera gets an 89 mile per hour cut fastball from Kluber and whiffs on it. Kluber locates it well, hitting catcher Carlos Santana's target low and away.
Cabrera would go on to strike out, fanning on a breaking ball off the inside half of the plate.
In his at-bat, Fielder gets the same fastball from Kluber and fouls it off.
Prince would go on to pop out, ending the first inning with Austin Jackson still on first base.
Situation: top of the third inning, no runners on base, zero outs. Cabrera swings at the first pitch again, hitting a deep fly ball to right field.
Kluber wouldn't be so fortunate after this, however, as Prince gets another fastball and sends this one roughly 460 feet away from home plate.
Situation: top of the fourth inning, runners on first and third, two outs. Cabrera gets yet another first pitch cut fastball from Kluber and hits his own tape measure shot.
I didn't GIF the next at-bat, but Prince took a pitch off the plate for ball one before flying out on a changeup.
When I first started this post, I thought I was going to see Prince and Miguel taking a lot of pitches in their first plate appearances, setting up the first-pitch swings in their following at-bats. As we have seen, this wasn't the case.
Kluber does rely on his fastball quite a bit -- as I illustrated in this morning's preview, he throws a combination of three fastballs roughly 80% of the time -- but he isn't known as a guy that really pounds the strike zone. He had a walk rate of 3.6 batters per nine innings in the minor leagues and his 60.6% first strike percentage is pretty average.
My guess? Prince and Miggy must have seen something in those meetings last season that they liked. Kluber's best pitch is his slider, but he primarily saves that for two strike counts. They knew they were getting fastballs early in the count, jumped all over them, and staked the Tigers to a big lead.