ShareThis Page

Unorthodox open stance works for Pirates' Jaso

| Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 9:12 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — John Jaso figured he had made it big when got caught the attention of Batting Stance Guy.

BSG, a.k.a Gar Ryness, became a YouTube phenomenon for his uncanny ability to mimic the batting styles of big leaguers. In 2010, while Jaso was on a hot stretch with the Tampa Bay Rays, he was the subject of a BSG video.

“That was pretty cool,” Jaso said. “I thought, ‘I finally got famous!' ”

These days, however, Jaso's stance has changed so much even Batting Stance Guy might not recognize him.

Until 2012, Jaso had a closed stance, sometimes with a deep crouch. Now, it's an open and unusual approach.

A left-handed swinger, Jaso plants his left foot near the plate and sets his right foot on the outside edge of the batter's box. As the pitcher delivers the ball, Jaso slides his right foot in toward the plate.

“It's unorthodox, but that doesn't matter,” Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson said. “As long as the consistency of the timing is there to get the barrel to the ball, the starting point really doesn't matter. His numbers don't lie.”

Jaso owns a career .263 batting average and a .767 OPS. Over the past four seasons using his open batting stance, Jaso has put up a .273 average and a .804 OPS.

“I've always been kind of a tinkerer when it comes to my batting stance,” Jaso said. “A lot of the tinkering developed because I was a catcher.”

Early in his career, Jaso set up square to the plate with his knees bent, similar to Jeff Bagwell's recognizable hunkered-down style. As years of catching took a toll on his legs, Jaso eventually stood more upright while batting.

It was Jaso's idea to try a wide-open stance, but hitting coach Chili Davis helped refine it while Jaso was with the Oakland A's in 2013-14.

“We got along really well,” Jaso said. “He saw a couple of my batting stances that worked equally well and said, ‘Why don't you discover kind of a hybrid between the two?' That's where this kind of awkward stance came from. I don't know if it really was what he was envisioning, but it worked for me and it stuck.”

As he broke down video of Jaso over the winter and then saw him in the cages this spring, Branson was intrigued by the open stance. Forcing Jaso to use a more conventional approach never crossed Branson's mind.

Branson recalled playing with Hal Morris, who broke a cardinal rule by constantly moving his feet in the box, but was always in position to hit. Tony Bautista of the Arizona Diamondbacks was able to generate power with his funky, open stance.

“You don't cookie-cutter guys,” Branson said. “You try to enhance and make them better, but changing them ain't what we do here. We try to make them the best they can be with what they have.”

Just as he experimented with his batting stance, Jaso often changed his crouch behind the plate while catching.

“All the catching stances really have to do with a person's flexibility and what their body's capable of doing,” he said. “You'll see guys who are practically sitting on the dirt. They've got tremendous flexibility.”

Jaso, who turned 32 last September, paused and laughed.

“All you can do is envy that,” he said.

As he transitions to a new position this spring, Jaso won't have to experiment with different setups to catch throws at first base.

“Nah,” he said with a smile. “Not much has changed there in the last 100 years.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.