Count the Texas Rangers among teams who are tweaking their approach to hitting. That much was clear when I spoke to Chris Woodward during the regular season, and again during the Winter Meetings. In our recent conversation, I asked the 43-year-old manager who stands out as having made the most progress in 2019.
“In my eyes, Willie Calhoun probably made the biggest jump,” said Woodward. “Joey Gallo, as well, before he got hurt. But Willie really, really bought into a lot of things that made him successful. He had different swings for different pitches. He’d go into a game knowing, ‘Is this guy sinking the ball, or is he going to be spinning me with curveballs?’ He’d know what kind of swing path he needed. Willie was able to manipulate, and be versatile enough with his swing, to almost have two or three different swings.”
Calhoun would sometimes use different bats for different pitchers. While the biggest determiner was the hurler’s handedness, repertoires were also a consideration.
The flexibility paid dividends. Previously unproven and unpolished,the 25-year-old (as of last month) outfielder slashed .269/.323/.524, and went deep 21 times in just 337…