Welcome back to the at-bat of the week! This is my favorite article to write each week. It allows us to reflect on a notable at-bat from each week in a detail-oriented way. Sometimes when writing and blogging, it can be easy to neglect the finer details of any given at-bat and focus on macro trends. This exercise is a reminder that quality at-bats and the cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and hitter can sway the course of any single game.
On Monday night against the Phillies, Gleyber Torres stepped to the plate against Taijuan Walker in a 2-0 game. His at-bats in the first three games of the season had all been impressive, especially his opposite field home run on Opening Day. But this matchup against Walker was a tough one. Torres is looking to go the opposite field, and Walker strategically locates his sinker inside to get on the hands of hitters like Torres to set them up to miss his splitter or slider. Let’s see how it played out.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
It’s always the worst as a pitcher when the hitter gives away that they’re taking all the way to start an at-bat and your breaking ball moves out of the zone. Torres got geared up normally, then put his bat on his shoulder and got himself a 1-0 count. It seems like he was taking a strike, but the next pitch well tell us more.
Pitch 2 (1-0 count)
Torres was indeed taking first strike. He let this four-seamer in a hittable zone pass him by for a 1-1 count. He does this every once in a while, and I’m assuming he did it here because of the two quick outs to start the inning. That’s a veteran move. You hate to allow a pitcher to get through an inning with too much ease. If they want to beat you for a 1-2-3 inning, you have to force them to challenge the zone. Expect some aggression for the rest of the at-bat.
Pitch 3 (1-1 count)
This may have been a whiff, but it’s clear that Gleyber has a plan. He was patient to take the first strike, then in the one-strike count, he didn’t get cheated on his swing. Walker isn’t really the type of pitcher that you get too worried about going down to in a two-strike count. It’s more than worth it to get your best swing off, then battle after that if it doesn’t work out. Down 1-2, Torres now had to lay off Walker’s breakers.
Pitch 4 (1-2 count)
This is one of those pitches that is just too close to take! It’s a well-located pitch by Walker, who seems to have added some horizontal break to his slider this year. As the pitch moved further out of the zone, Torres lost his legs but kept his hands back enough to poke this one just far enough past the foul line to spoil the pitch. If I’m Walker, I go right back to this and force the second baseman to lay off the slider.
Pitch 5 (1-2 count)
Instead of going back out of the zone, Walker opted for the high fastball, but it was too far off the plate to tempt Gleyber and resulted in an easy take. I don’t love the pitch selection, but this could have been a setup pitch for a slider off the plate or splitter below the zone. Gleyber saw this pitch well. It’d be best to go slow and yield a swing like we saw on the slider breaking out of the zone.
Pitch 6 (2-2 count)
Realmuto was ready to block this splitter under the zone, but it slipped out of Walker’s hand and ran way too far out of the zone. Simultaneously controlling the splitter with a mix of other pitches is Walker’s M.O., but in this at-bat, I would have thrown the splitter out the door because of this miss. He already located both the sinker, four-seamer, and slider in their ideal zone, so it’s a safe bet to think he would go back to one of those pitches in the 3-2 count.
Pitch 7 (3-2 count)
This pitch and location played much too well into Gleyber’s opposite-field approach. He wants to let a fastball over the plate travel so he can drive it to right field. Until this point in the at-bat, Walker had avoided a mistake pitch, but this was put on a silver platter for Torres, and he didn’t miss it. It sailed far into the right field seats to give his squad a 3-0 lead. It’s great to see Torres sticking to his ideal approach to kick off the year. Everybody loves a hot start. It can fuel your confidence to go on and have a great year.