Sign in to follow this

OC Register: Angels’ Kole Calhoun still improving one year into his new batting stance

4 posts in this topic

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kole Calhoun is about to celebrate a birthday, of sorts.

More accurately, a re-birthday.

On June 18, 2018, Calhoun strode up the plate at Angel Stadium while the scoreboard showed his average at .145. He stepped into the box, and bent at the waist in a way Angels fans had never seen.

With this totally rebuilt stance, Calhoun proceeded to whack the first pitch he saw into right field for a single. He added another hit later in the game.

Calhoun has been a different player ever since. Although he had a rough stretch in September, and for a couple weeks in April, Calhoun has mostly been a consistent, productive, big league hitter ever since Calhoun 2.0 debuted nearly one year ago.

Over 150 games and 631 plate appearances since he came back 12 months ago, Calhoun has hit 32 homers with an .813 OPS.

In the first two and a half months of this season, he has 14 homers with an .832 OPS. The major league average out of right field is a .785 OPS.

“I feel great,” Calhoun said this week. “There have been some things that have changed along the way, but the principles of my swing have remained the same. It’s been a lot more consistent than what it was in years past. I am definitely happy with where it’s at and how it’s played out this year.”

Calhoun discovered this new swing with the help of hitting coaches Jeremy Reed and Shawn Wooten, who were minor league instructors last June when Calhoun worked with them while on the disabled list with a strained oblique.

Prior to that two weeks he spent rebuilding his swing with Reed and Wooten, Calhoun had a career .731 OPS, but it was a bumpy ride. He’d have great months and awful months.

The swing changes he made prior to the 2018 season were intended to help him smooth out the bumps. They had the opposite effect.

In a failed attempt to hit more balls in the air, Calhoun actually hit more balls on the ground. As a dead pull hitter, who often sees three infielders on the right side of second base, that is a recipe for failure.

“I know a ground ball to second right now is not good,” Calhoun said. ”I’m trying not to do that.”

The resurgence last year was sparked mostly by a new stance that freed up his swing to get more balls in the air. It worked magnificently for a couple months, before he hit a snag in September.

After a winter of continued work with Reed and Wooten, Calhoun has taken his improvement to a new level this season. He’s not only getting the ball in the air regularly, but he’s actually managing not to pull it so much.

Calhoun said he discovered a new key to his swing in late April, and since early May the results have been dramatic.

Calhoun has pulled the ball only 33.7 percent of the time since May 7, a span in which he’s hit .274 with an .897 OPS over 127 plate appearances. Prior to that, he’d had only one calendar month in his career in which he pulled the ball less than 36 percent of the time. For his career, he pulled it 42.8 percent of the time prior to May 7.

The result is that the shifts against him have changed slightly. While the second baseman is still usually in shallow right field, the shortstop is now closer to second or even up the middle, which leaves a bigger hole when he does pull the ball.

“I am trying to get myself in a good position over the last month, and I think I’ve done so,” Calhoun said. “Obviously, it’s something that’s shown up … The routine I started (in late April) is something I’ve continued to do every day and keep perfecting. Feelings come and go. It’s about trying to do that same thing every day.”

Having a swing that focuses on going up the middle has also helped significantly against lefties. Calhoun has hit .282 with a 1.044 OPS against lefties since May 7. He has hit six of his seven homers against lefties in that time. Calhoun is tied with Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich for the most homers by left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers this season.

Wooten, who is now on the major league staff as an assistant hitting coach, said he can see a difference not only in Calhoun’s mechanics at the plate, but in the way he works to maintain those mechanics.

“If you go back through his career, he’s had a lot of different setups and changes to his swing,” Wooten said. “I think at times it becomes whatever the flavor of the week is … It’s been like night and day. We keep educating him as to what will work. …

“I think he has a better feel, better than at any point since I’ve seen him last year and this year.”

Calhoun has maintained the same stance that debuted nearly 12 months ago. As a result, he’s not only been effective, but he’s been much more consistent. Even when he started this season slowly, it was more a matter of line drives finding gloves than poor hitting.

Now, and especially over the past five weeks, Calhoun has been at his best.

Manager Brad Ausmus thinks enough of Calhoun’s new approach that he’s moved him to the middle of the order instead of the leadoff spot. Calhoun was likely miscast as a leadoff hitter, but he got the job by default.

“He’s been outstanding offensively really since he came off the DL last year, minus maybe September when he maybe struggled a little,” Ausmus said. “He’s back to being that left-handed power threat that’s capable of hitting in the middle of the lineup.”


Angels (LHP Tyler Skaggs, 4-6, 4.97) at Rays (TBA), 4 p.m., Fox Sports West)

View the full article

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fletch already rolled some of the stats into the article, but to further compare how consistent he's been...

  • 2018: .242/.328/.472/.800 with 17 doubles, 1 triple, 18 HR in 367 PA with 42 BB, 90 K (after his reboot)
  • 2019: .242/.338/.493/.832 with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 14 HR in 264 PA with 31 BB, 56 K

Kudos to Kole. And to the hitting coaches.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

BBs and power are up some, and K's are down some this season from June-September 2018.

With his emerging hitting vs LHP, I wonder if someone may overpay to acquire him in late July, should the Halos be too far in back of the 2nd WC spot.

As solid as he has become, he is also age 32 this season with just the option year left on his contract.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Ad-free Membership Options