12/06/2006 11:11 AM ET
Hafner: Hitting in the middle
Indians slugger Travis Hafner relishes hitting in the heart of the order. (Mark Duncan/AP)
Every year I try to improve as a player and become a better hitter. I feel like I accomplished that goal this past season. It feels good when you put in so much hard work and it pays off at the plate and on the field. I'll go about it the same in 2007. I will always strive to become better as a hitter.
Being a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, it's always important for me to be able to drive in runs. I take a lot of pride in it. Along with that, you also have to be a tough out in that spot. I take pride in that, too. Regardless of whether you're facing a lefty or a righty, you always want to have good at-bats.
Walks are an important part of the game, and I seem to get my fair share. If you're able to get on base, you give the guy behind you a chance to drive you in. In order to get good pitches to hit, you have to show the pitcher that you're not going to swing at bad pitches. One of my biggest pet peeves is making outs on balls. I try to make sure that I choose a good pitch to hit every time I get up to bat.
It is safe for me to say that speed, however, is not a part of my game. I haven't had a stolen base in two years now, nor have I attempted one. It seems like there were four or five times this season when pitchers weren't paying any attention to me and I thought I could steal, and I was always looking for a coach to give me a sign and let me try. But the coaches never look at me when I'm on base, so I just stay put.
I probably run more when I'm a designated hitter than when I play in the field. I like doing sprints in the tunnels between at-bats to stay loose and warm. I like being a DH, though. It's a break from defense, and you can just concentrate on hitting. A lot of people hate being a DH, but to me it's something that you have to embrace.
There are a lot of advantages, such as watching video, and you have the ability to go down to the cage and take some swings in between at-bats if you want. I try to look at it as a benefit.
Slugger Travis "Pronk" Hafner led the American League with a 1.098 OPS and tied Jim Thome for third in the league with 42 home runs this past season despite missing the final month with a hand injury.