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2022 in review: Willie Calhoun

A disappointing end to Calhoun’s time with Texas

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images

With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.

Today, we look at outfielder/DH Willie Calhoun.

There’s not much to look at, though.

Willie Calhoun began the 2022 season as the team’s DH. He didn’t hit, and in early May, he was sent down, having put up a .136/.283/.273 slash line in 53 plate appearances. He struggled in Round Rock, was waived, cleared waivers, was outrighted, and then was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Steven Duggar. Calhoun had put up a .217/.264/.410 slash line in 91 plate appearances for Round Rock at the time of the trade.

Things got a little better with the Giants. He slashed .291/.377/.453 in 170 plate appearances for Sacramento, and spent a few days in the bigs with San Fran in mid-September, though he went 1 for 8 with a walk for them. Calhoun became a free agent after the season, and currently is in camp with the New York Yankees.

When Calhoun was sent down, Chris Woodward mentioned issues with Calhoun, process-wise, specifically noting that he was hitting the ball on the ground hard to the right side. There was a certain amount of derision and mockery from some quarters over Woodward’s comments — “Oh noes, he’s hitting the ball hard on the ground, how awful!” type stuff — but as we talked about in last year’s review of Calhoun, that’s something that has been an ongoing problem for Calhoun. His hard hit balls tend to be pulled grounders, and his not hard hit balls tend to be fly balls. That’s a problem.

When Calhoun was sent down he talked about how the problem was that the Rangers were trying to change him, that they wanted him to hit homers, and that that’s not the type of hitter he is, he’s a line drive hitter, and he was going to go back to that style. That’s all well and good, but when you are a LF/DH with no speed, it is really hard to be a line drive hitter who hits enough to have value.

Willie Calhoun has spent parts of six seasons in the major leagues. He has accumulated a -1.7 bWAR in that stretch. The one season he has had a positive bWAR was in 2019, when he slashed .269/.323/.524 in 337 plate appearances...and even then, that was good for just a 0.6 bWAR, due to his subpar defense and overall positional adjustments for playing left field and DH.

The ironic thing, given Calhoun’s complaints about the Rangers trying to make him a home run hitter, is that in 2019, he hit home runs. He had 21 homers in those 337 plate appearances — that’s what drove his offensive success that year. Over the rest of his major league career, Calhoun has accumulated just 11 home runs in 599 plate appearances. For a guy with no defensive value and no speed, unless you’re getting on base 40% of the time, that’s not going to play.

Unfortunately for Calhoun, even the 2019 home run total has a bit of an asterisk. That was the year when they were using those balls that went farther, and home runs exploded around the league, with MLB as a whole having 3478 homers in the season, compared to 2900 the year before, and just 2557 in 2022. That was a season where a number of players saw spikes in the home run totals that were not sustainable.

And so the Rangers have moved on. Willie Rakes has moved on.

Baseball is hard.


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