So, it’s not particularly great when the most important at-bat of the week was on one pitch. Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter for the sake of the game, but for the sake of this column, I certainly do wish it was a little bit longer. I have a word minimum to adhere to, and believe it or not, it is hard to write multiple hundreds of words about a one pitch at-bat. That is why this At-Bat of the week will be a little unorthodox.
Billy McKinney had himself a hell of day on the baseball field last Friday night. He was filling in temporarily for Harrison Bader, the Yankees defensive wizard. I was at this game and was genuinely sad I wouldn’t get to see one of the most entertaining in-person players in the league in Bader. Little did I know that McKinney planned on looking like Mickey Mantle that night. The game started with a Franchy Cordero solo home run, then went quiet for a while as Clarke Schmidt ran through the Royals’ lineup. There were hardly any hard hit balls until this one from Kyle Isbel:
This was the first fantastic play from McKinney on the night. Off the bat I thought this was a for sure double in the gap, but the Yankees outfielder had other plans.
In the previous inning, McKinney had a fantastic plate appearance where he worked a nine-pitch walk. Depending on the context, a long PA like this could suggest a player is feeling it, or that he just can’t quite catch up. However, it was clear to me McKinney was on Alec Marsh like white on rice. Here is the most important pitch from that at-bat:
You can be early in a bad way, and you can be early in a good way. This is the good kind. He keeps his front foot planted firmly in the ground through his rotation and is still able to make contact on his upswing. This is actually one of the key reasons why McKinney has been so serviceable this year. Using your front side as an anchor is incredibly important. Now, let’s get onto how this swing transitioned into his go-ahead home run in the fourth inning.
He did not forget that foul ball from a couple innings earlier. This time, the pitch was left just a tiny bit higher and was a perfect pitch for McKinney to elevate and celebrate. Those two same cues that you saw before are still in play here. His front side was firm in the ground as he rotated, and he still caught the pitch out in front. McKinney is playing lights out this season in a part-time role and it is largely due to his refined swing.
Before I let you go, I want you to see how McKinney rounded out his fantastic night. With his squad up two in the seventh, he did Wandy Peralta a huge favor when he saved a barrel from Drew Waters that was so very close to leaving the park. Here is that play:
Man it is not easy to handle walls like this that are not one consistent surface. Somehow, McKinney scaled this wall like Spiderman after perfectly slowing down on the warning track and snagged this out of the air. I was sitting in the grandstand in foul territory on the right side of the stadium and had a perfect overhead view of this. It’s not every day you get such a different angle on a home run theft. Great job to McKinney on this play and for a fantastic day overall.