I like to use the At-Bat of the Week as a way to teach small lessons on the intricacies of making adjustments. Last year, Aaron Judge was featured multiple times because pitchers decided it was a formidable strategy to spam the same pitch over and over again. With great hitters, that simply does not cut it — they make adjustments and hurt you if you let them see the same thing.
For some hitters, it works because you’re exploiting a hole, but you have to know the difference between a good and an average hitter. DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres both excel against lefties. You have to be precise with your pitch decisions and locations if you want to beat them as a left-handed pitcher. Andrew Heaney learned what happens when you miss against them or get too repeatable — they took him deep in consecutive at-bats. Let’s dive into the details.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
This was a good location to start the at-bat. If you can dot a pitch on the edge in an 0-0 count, a hitter will take the pitch more often than not since they are typically looking for something juicy in the heart of the plate.
Pitch 2 (0-1 count)
Another good pitch, but it ran too far off the plate to warrant a take from DJ. This is always a good feeling as a hitter. You see a pitch out of the hand and are able to spit on it with no flinch. In the 1-1 count, I’d expect Heaney to go back to the fastball.
Pitch 3 (1-1 count)
This is a swing from a hitter who was fully expecting the pitch and just missed it. Sometimes DJ will foul pitches back like this when he is a tick too late, and that is precisely what happened. However, it was a great swing. If given another opportunity to punish a pitch in this zone, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened!
Pitch 4 (1-2 count)
Heaney went back to the same location of the previous changeup and DJ still had no interest in chasing the pitch. It’s rare that you see a hitter chase a pitch two pitches later that was identical to the previous one that he already let go by. Good hitters process information and don’t forget it. Going into the 2-2 count, I’m skeptical Heaney will throw the changeup again, and he usually isn’t all that aggressive in using his slider against righties, so odds are another heater is coming.
Pitch 5 (2-2 count)
Boom. You give a good hitter a third chance to see a pitch in an identical spot and this is what they do; especially one who is had solid power to the opposite field. Solid at-bat from LeMahieu after he has been great all year in barreling the baseball. Now onto Torres:
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
Well, at the very least, we know Heaney has arm side command of his changeup. It would have been good if he flashed this pitch in this zone at least once. Since he did not, it became an easier pitch to take. Gleyber took the information he saw in the previous at-bat from DJ and made sure to use it.
Pitch 2 (1-0 count)
C’mon Heandog! You’re making it easy on this pair of infielders by not using this pitch in the zone. All Gleyber has to do here is sit on a fastball in the heart of the plate and let anything on the outside third of the plate run away. Heaney has forced himself into a corner by doing this, and with Gleyber barreling up mistake pitches this year, Heaney is in a sticky situation.
Pitch 3 (2-0 count)
Another boom! This was the worst pitch between these two at-bats, and Torres didn’t let it slip by. Instead, he turned around for — checks notes — a 443 foot home run to dad center field off the batter’s eye. Incredible execution from these two hitters. Their team will need more of this with their big bruisers on the IL.