Willie Calhoun is a crucial part of the Yankees’ offense right now. I can’t believe I’m saying that in 2023 (!) but it’s not like it isn’t true. He hardly strikes out, hits for decent power, and has tagged a few clutch hits when the rest of the team has been nearly silent. Even though I wrote about this earlier in the week, I’m still surprised! Aaron Boone has been able to call his name with confidence that he will provide solid at-bats.
This weekend against the Red Sox, he wasn’t necessarily the best player on the field, but Calhoun’s clutch go-ahead home run off Tanner Houck came after multiple swings where Calhoun looked overmatched. I’ve said it countless times, but hitters that make adjustments during games or at-bats are the ones you want on your team. Baseball is a game of constant micro learnings and improvements – the faster you make those improvements the more successful you will be. In the first inning against Houck, Calhoun went down 1-2 and took this swing to go down on strikes:
He flailed over the pitch as it dove to lower third. It was a nicely executed pitch ahead in the count for Houck. In Calhoun’s second at-bat, he chopped the pitch on the ground for an out to the first baseman. As he went into his next matchup against Calhoun, you better believe he would have this in his back pocket. Now, let’s jump into when they faced off again in the sixth inning.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
There it is again! Like the final pitch of the previous at-bat, Willie swung right over this one. Houck’s command of his splitter was impressive this night, and he used it to gain a few whiffs against Calhoun and the rest of the Yanks. The thing is, I think Calhoun saw this pitch a tiny bit better than the previous one. This could be because it was an 0-0 count instead of a two-strike count, but this time around it was an A swing. If you’re going to take an 0-0 hack at a pitch in this location, don’t get cheated. For the rest of the at-bat, I expected Houck to try and set up this pitch again.
Pitch 2 (0-1 count)
The intention of this pitch was to go up in the zone and target Calhoun’s eye level. Like I just said, this would have been an ideal setup for the low splitter, but Houck didn’t have feel for the pitch and let it run out of the zone, giving Calhoun an even 1-1 count.
Pitch 3 (1-1 count)
Well, this one was unexpected. In a 1-1 count, there is literally nothing you can do about this. It’s a perfectly located slider hooking around the backdoor and far away from Calhoun’s ideal bat path. Could Houck execute this pitch again? I’m not sure. But the way he was pitching in this at-bat and their previous matchup, I’d expect some sort of slow pitch in the bottom of the zone.
Pitch 4 (1-2 count)
This was good execution! Other than completely out of the zone, Houck couldn’t have located this splitter much better. However, he forgot that Calhoun had seen this pitch and location multiple times and was slowly progressing against it. This is a classic case of third time through the order penalty. Houck was still executing, but Calhoun got better and better at recognizing and got his barrel on the ball despite the good location. That is good hitting at its finest, folks.