LaHair takes a step outside

Bryan LaHair has done what he needs to do to be successful against outside pitches this season. ESPN.com

Bryan LaHair has done what he needs to do to be successful against outside pitches this season

The long reach of 6-foot-5 Bryan LaHair has paid off repeatedly for the Chicago Cubs this season.

One big reward was his game-winning hit against Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

LaHair took a pitch that was on the edge of the strike zone and whipped it on the ground into the vacated hole left when Braves shortstop Jack Wilson was shifting towards second base.

Nobody has gotten greater value against pitches on the outer-third of the strike zone, or further away, than LaHair.

In the first three weeks of the season, LaHair was susceptible to that pitch. On his first 58 swings, he was only able to put 10 into play. That’s not a good rate.

The one way you could get LaHair out was to throw him a two-strike pitch away. In his first 19 games, he had 13 strikeouts and one hit on such pitches.

But LaHair has more than made up for that since.

LaHair’s last 33 swings against outside pitches have resulted in 16 balls in play and amazingly, 10 base hits. Of those, six have gone to the opposite field (four in the air, two on the ground), including the game-winner.

The two-strike turnaround has been amazing, too. In the past nine games, LaHair has six hits and one strikeout against two-strike pitches away (including a hit earlier in the game against Hudson on Wednesday).

There is a hit-or-miss aspect to this, much like there has been to LaHair’s game all season. Tuesday, the Braves were able to get LaHair out three times on outside pitches. But those games have been an exception, for the most part.

In total, LaHair has 17 hits against outside pitches this season and his batting average when an at-bat ends in an outside pitch is .439. That’s the best in the majors for anyone this season.