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Entries in Mike Trout (15)


A Patient Trout is a Better Trout

Mike Trout has become best known for several things during his brief tenure in the major leagues, including (but not limited to) the following: Plus bat speed, which has enabled him to hit for a high average and produce screaming line-drive home runs with consistency, and above-average baserunning and defense, which has empowered him to nab bases at a ridiculously high rate and play eye-opening defense in center field. Both of these dexterities have been on display in his first two full seasons, holding true to a .324/.416/.560 slash line, 87.2% stolen base rate and 1.4 defensive WAR rating, according to Baseball Reference. But like just about every professional player, Trout has his deficiencies.

Well, had his deficiencies.

The one knock on Trout coming into his sophomore 2013 campaign -- and it wasn't really a "knock," to be honest -- was his plate discipline. While each of his offensive attributes were considered elite by scouting standards, this aspect of his game was only average at best. Trout struck out at a 21.8% clip as a rookie, which was higher than the league-average mark of 18.1% two seasons ago, and didn't draw too many walks, shown by a 10.5% walk rate that was only slightly above the 8.1% average rate. This left many wondering if a 'sophomore slump' would ensue in 2013 as advanced scouting reports of his game become available.

Boy do those people feel silly.

All Trout did last season was trim his strikeout rate by 2.8% and increase his walk rate to 15.4% -- the highest mark of any qualified right-handed batter in baseball. Sure, his batting average and slugging percentage decreased by inconsequential marks and he stole fewer bases, but his on-base percentage skyrocketed to .432 last season (third-best in baseball behind Miguel Cabrera (.442) and Joey Votto (.435)), and that was the driving force behind his elevated offensive value last season compared to his rookie campaign.

How was he able to get on base more frequently? Let's take a look.

Improved Eye at the Plate

Only 69.3% of Trout's 2012 hacks were on strikes, compared to 71% in 2013. The league average since 2012 is 67.7%.

Along with lowering his chase rate to 20.8% last season (compared to 24.3% in 2012), Trout pulled the trigger less frequently than any other qualified batter in baseball last season, evidenced by a 37.0% swing rate. This puts him in company with some of the most disiplined hitters in the league, including Marco Scutaro (whose 16.9% chase rate was the lowest of any qualified batter in 2013) and Joe Mauer (whose 35.9% swing rate since 2012 is the lowest in baseball).Yes, Trout was slightly less reluctant to offer at non-strikes than those two, but his improvements in that respect last season give reasons to believe he will become even more disciplined in the years to come.

Efficient with his swings

On top of pulling the trigger less frequently (37.0%) than any other qualified batter last season, Trout posted baseball's third-highest on-base percentrage (.432), as previously noted. But why are these two metrics noteworthy? As we see from the graph to the right, Trout -- along with Votto's 38.9% swing rate and .435 OBP -- was essentially the most efficient hitter in baseball last season at getting on base while still hacking less frequently than any other batter. Cabrera posted a league-best .442 OBP last season, but offered at 49.7% of all offerings thrown to him. Thus, Trout was much more efficient at finding ways to get on base than Cabrera, which shows he employs a more refined offensive approach.

Working the count

But improved plate discipline and swing efficiency only go so far. Perhaps the most relevant factor behind Trout's OBP rise stems from the increase in pitches seen per plate appearance.

It's important to establish right off the bat that Trout saw more pitches per plate appearance on average last season (4.21, which was sixth-best among qualified batters) than in 2012 (4.08). So, clearly, Trout has become more patient at the dish with time. As it turns out, this increase contributed to his increase in on-base percentage, shown by the graph above. While Trout's OBP in plate appearances lasting either one or two pitches last season were lower than two seasons ago, his OBP from pitch three and beyond were significantly higher, and continue to increase with each pitch. Interestingly enough, Trout's .454 OBP in plate appearances lasting three or more pitches was the highest mark among any qualified batter last season (along with a .316 BA, which was tops in the league, as well).

What we're learning is that when Trout goes deeper into counts (i.e. three or more pitches into a plate appearance), he is a much more effective hitter in that he gets on base at a rate no other professional batter can. Knowing this, opposing pitchers will likley try to get ahead of him early in the count by throwing over the plate -- which could also spell for disaster, as Trout boasts a .702 slugging percentage (third-best in baseball last season) in plate appearances lasting three or less pitches.

It seems opposing managers will have to pick their posion against Trout, especially when he comes to the plate. Do you try to pound the edge of the zone and go deep into counts against him and run the risk of him getting on base at a league-best rate, or do you throw over the plate early and thus leave open the possibility of him battering your pitcher with extra-base hits?

Either way, you're in trouble.


Mike Trout Tightens His Strike Zone, Gets Even Better

(All stats through Friday's games)

In 2012, Mike Trout enjoyed what many consider the greatest age 20 season ever for a hitter, posting a 169 OPS+ that bested the likes of Ty Cobb (167 OPS+ in 1907), Mel Ott (165 OPS+ in 1929), Al Kaline (162 OPS+ in 1955) and Mickey Mantle (162 OPS+ in 1952). What has the Millville Meteor done for an encore?

He has gotten even better...naturally

Still hitting for average and power, Trout has boosted his on-base percentage (from .399 to .425) and sports a 181 OPS+, trailing only AL MVP nemesis Miguel Cabrera (200 OPS+) among qualified hitters this season. He's once again smoking the competition among hitters in his age bracket, beating luminaries including Jimmie Foxx (173 OPS+ during his age-21 season in 1929), Eddie Mathews (171 OPS+ in 1953) Rogers Hornsby (169 OPS+ in 1917) and Cobb (169 OPS+ in 1908).

Trout has improved his already historic hitting this season by tightening his strike zone and making more contact, leading to more free passes and fewer punch outs (his walk-to-strikeout ratio has improved from 0.48 as a rookie to 0.78 in 2013).

Here's a closer look at Trout's more refined approach at the plate.

  • Trout already had a pretty good eye at the plate, chasing just 24.9% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone as a rookie. His plate approach is even more refined in 2013, with his chase rate falling to 22.1%. For comparison's sake, the big league average is around 27%.
  • He's doing a particularly good job of laying off fastballs out of the zone. Trout's fastball chase rate (16.8%) is ninth-lowest among MLB hitters and well below his 2012 clip (21.6%). Showing more restraint against fastballs thrown off the plate has helped Trout lift his batting average against fastballs from .306 to .345 this season. 
  • Trout isn't just chasing fewer pitches out of the zone -- he's also swinging at more strikes. His swing rate against pitches thrown over the plate has increased from 54.2% in 2012 to 55.8% in 2013.
  • Trout has also cut his miss rate from 20.4% in 2012 to 18.8% in 2013, which has helped him punch out less often (21.8% in '12, 16.9% in '13). Once again, Trout has made the most progress against the heat: his miss rate versus fastballs has declined from 19.9% to 13.4% (the MLB average fastball miss rate is about 16%). 

He's connecting far more often on fastballs thrown in the upper third of the strike zone

    Trout's fastball contact rate by pitch location, 2012


    Trout's fastball contact rate by pitch location, 2013




    Mike Trout Adjusted, Again

    There are a contingent of Angels' fans who believe that Mike Trout is not human. That he gets his powers from our yellow sun, and should have been fitted for his first cape a long time ago.

    Some of us knew this when he was tearing apart A-Ball at the age of 18 to the tune of a .341/.428/.490 slash line. He was so good then, that my friend drafted him in his Fantasy Keeper Leaegue.

    At 18. In A-Ball. That's ludicrous.

    Others needed to be reassured of his coming greatness and waited until he tore up the Texas League in AA with a .326/.414/.544 slash line. More power in a league where he was three years younger than the average player in that league, and one of the five youngest players in the league to boot. And for those of you who are unaware, a .544 slugging while playing most of your games at Dickey Stephens Park, is no small shakes. That stadium is death to hitters.

    Still, some were not convinced. He was still a prospect. Do you know who else was a highly touted prospect? 

    Brien Taylor.

    Brien Taylor was the first overall selection in the 1991 First Year Player Draft. Brien Taylor signed for $1.55 million, besting Todd Van Poppel's record bonus in 1990. In 1992, Brien Taylor was ranked the number one prospect in all of baseball. Ahead of nobody's like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez. In 1993, Brien Taylor tore his labrum in fight in a mobile home. By 1999 he was out of baseball, and in 2012 he was sentenced to 38 months in prison for narcotics trafficking. He never appeared in a major league game.

    Back to Mike Trout.

    Trout earned himself a cup of coffee in 2011, and was rather uninspiring, hitting .220/.281/.390. So, going into the 2012 season, the Angels did what they thought was best and started him in AAA, effectively spotting the rest of the league a month to get out in front of the greatness that was to come. 

    "What greatness is that?" You ask. "Were you not alive last year?" I ask.

    125 runs. 45+ stolen bases. 30 home runs. A batting average of .325 or better. 85+ RBI.

    Those numbers had never before been combined in a season until Mike Trout did it last year. His 10.7 bWAR (Baseball-Reference WAR) was the highest ever for an age-20 season, and the highest since some guy named Barry Bonds had a bWAR of 10.6 in 2004. It was the greatest rookie season ever.

    But there was still a hole in Trout's game, and that was on pitches in and under his hands








    Pitcher's tried to expose this hole in Trout's swing, but Mikey (Don't worry, he's OK with me calling him that) is so patient that he laid off of most of them, not allowing them to lower his production.

    Mike Trout is also very good at making adjustments. And not just on a month to month, or week to week, or even day to day basis. But, from at bat to at bat.

    How good is Mike Trout at making adjustments?


    Split OPS
    vs. SP, 1st .860
    vs. SP, 2nd 1.042
    vs. SP, 3rd 1.198
    vs. SP, 4th+ 1.244
    Provided by View Original Table
    Generated 6/28/2013.


    That would be Trout's OPS for each at bat against a starting pitcher. I would get more into the detials of this, but Halos Heaven already has the goods on this subject (Part 1 and Part 2).

    So how does The Chosen One Mike Trout handle this hole in his game?

    He adjusts.

    And adjust he did








    Hole. Closed.

    On belt-high pitches in and off the plate last year, Trout slugged a meager .200. Bronson Arroyo's SLG% last season was .206. Essentially, Mike Trout was Bronson Arroyo on pitches belt-high and in off the plate. At no time should a person ever want to hit like Bronson Arroyo. 

    This year, Mike Trout is slugging .842 on those same pitches. in 1921, Babe Ruth slugged .846. Essentially, Mike Trout has been Babe Ruth on pitches belt-high and in off the plate this season. You should always want to be like Babe Ruth. Except of course when you are out to eat, or at a social function, or...

    On a baseball diamond, you should always want to be like Ruth on a baseball diamond.

    On Thursday, Trout added another feather in his cap in a game against the Detroit Tigers. Mike Trout went and had himself a four-hit game, which doesn't seem all that exciting, until you actually research four-hit games. Only two other players over the last two season's have had as many four-hit games as Trout does (8), and those two players are Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen

    ESPN Stats and Info tweeted yesterday about how Mike Trout needs only one more four-hit game before his 22nd birthday to tie Al Kaline's record of nine before turning 22.

    Peter Gammons tweeted this, giving a hat tip to Angels beat reporter Alden Gonzalez about Trout's numbers through 79 games last year compared to this year.



    Mike Trout was expected to regress this year

    If he has regressed, it's been marginal.

    In other words, the moral to this story is: Kids, when you grow up, don't be like Brien Taylor. Be like Mike Trout. 

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