During the Yankees’ thrashing of the Cleveland Guardians last Tuesday, Willie Calhoun had an extremely impressive at-bat where he fought off quality pitch after quality pitch. In general, the former non-roster invitee Calhoun is off to a poor start in his first 17 plate appearances of the season, but this at-bat proved how he has been able to maintain such a low strikeout rate throughout his career. It was one of those at-bats where you knew if the pitcher made a mistake, the hitter would make it pay. Now, let’s jump into it.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
As an aggressive hitter with runners in scoring position, my expectation was for Calhoun to hack away. But as this first-pitch fastball came across the zone, Calhoun opted to let it go by. While I was surprised, sometimes hitters want to see one against an unfamiliar pitcher. Now that Hunter Gaddis was ahead in the count, his goal was to get a ground-ball double play.
Pitch 2 (0-1 count)
This pitch seemed like a weird location to swing at, but when a hitter recognizes that a pitcher backs up a cutter and leaves it flat at the top of the zone, it’s a good decision to swing. As I said, the goal here is to get a groundball. Gaddis intended to bury this cutter low and inside in hopes of catching the bottom part of Calhoun’s barrel, but instead let it fly and it led to a very hittable pitch. Luckily for him, Calhoun missed it and Gaddis found himself in the driver’s seat with an 0-2 count.
Pitch 3 (0-2 count)
Another weird location that Calhoun took a go at! This changeup was actually pretty nasty, but it was never in the zone. It started off going towards Calhoun’s hip and ended up a few inches inside. Calhoun, being the free swinger he is, took a swing and fought the pitch off, giving himself another go at an 0-2 count.
Pitch 4 (0-2 count, take 2)
Gaddis tried to get that cutter inside again, and this time, it went a little bitter. He didn’t back it up, but like the changeup, the pitch was never in the zone. Calhoun actually had to skirt his body to avoid the pitch.
If I’m Calhoun, I’m removing this pitch from my expectations. It’s clearly not something Gaddis has great feel for the at the moment, so it’s something that I’ll keep in my back pocket but know it’s not going to be the go-to.
Pitch 5 (1-2 count)
This was easily the best pitch of this entire at-bat. It tunneled well with the cutter and reading Calhoun’s reaction, he didn’t see it well. However, his ability to decelerate his body and get his bat to the ball no matter the location let him make contact with the pitch. Calhoun lives by the mantra of “too close to take.”
Pitch 6 (1-2 count, take 2)
Is it crazy to say that this at-bat made me think of Brett Gardner? Gardy used to battle different speeds and locations even though he couldn’t necessarily get his barrel to those spots. It’s a classic rendition of spoiling pitches you can’t handle until you get the one you want. These are the opportunities that you battle for your team and do whatever you can to get the run in.
So far, Gaddis hasn’t been in the middle of the zone since the first pitch. If Calhoun gets his chance, he will be aggressive to it.
Pitch 7 (1-2 count, take 3)
There it is! Obviously, I knew this was going to happen, but you have to sell the anticipation!
This was truly a phenomenal at-bat by the new Yankee. At no point did he try to do too much on pitches around the zone. Instead, he chipped away until he got another shot at a pitch in the heart of the plate and didn’t disappoint. It’s been Calhoun’s best at-bat of the young season and led to a big rally and blowout.