4.03.2013

The Bi-Polar At-Bats of Mark Trumbo

Since Mark Trumbo became a full-time Angels starter in 2011, I've had very different and somewhat flippant opinions about Mark Trumbo as a batter. They usually go somewhat like this:

1. Mark Trumbo looks lost and this is the beginning of the end. : (

2. Mark Trumbo is a good hitter!

3. Mark Trumbo is a guess hitter who gets lucky a lot. : /

4. Mark Trumbo is really improving at the plate!

This year, instead of applying any of these statements to Mark Trumbo as a hitter, I will apply each one of Mark Trumbo's at-bat with one of these statements. Consider it a type of rating for how Trumbo's at-bat went. I've come to determine that it's an apt rating system considering Trumbo's at-bats seem to vary so greatly from plate appearance to plate appearance.

Let's take a look at opening day last Monday as a perfect example of Mark Trumbo's bi-polar batting approach.

At-Bat #1


Credit to Trumbo for swinging at a pitch in the strike-zone. No credit for swinging at the next pitch which was almost a foot out of the strike-zone. In fact, that pitch was the farthest pitch out of the strike-zone swung at against Johnny Cueto.


Rating: Mark Trumbo looks lost and this is the beginning of the end. : (

At-Bat #2

Trumbo sees five straight sliders, swings at three of them, strikes out again. The pitch Trumbo strikes out swinging on is a borderline pitch. And he did swing at another pitch in the strike-zone. Improvement? A bit.

Rating:  Mark Trumbo is really improving at the plate!

At-Bat #3


Trumbo watches a pitch sail right through the strike-zone then on the fifth pitch breaks his bat and muscles a ball on the inner corner of the plate into left-field.

Rating: Mark Trumbo is a guess hitter who gets lucky sometimes. : /

At-bat 4:

Against the tough Aroldis Chapman, Trumbo earns a base on balls. Three of the pitches Pitch F/X has as strikes but are called balls for being low and out of the zone. Trumbo takes all of them. This is strange considering just three at-bats before, Trumbo was flailing at pitches nearly a foot low and out of the zone. More guesswork or did he make an in-game adjustment? Let's give him some credit here.

Result: Trumbo is a good hitter!

At-bat #5


Out of fives pitches, Trumbo sees two in the strike-zone and swings at both of them. Which is good. But then he also swings at a pitch almost 6 inches above the strike-zone. Sounds like guesswork to me. I take back my previous comment.

Rating: Mark Trumbo is a guess hitter who gets lucky sometimes. :\

At-bat 6



Trumbo swings at the first pitch, a high fastball, and grounds out. This was similar to the same pitch he swung at in the Chapman at-bat. Clearly, Trumbo likes his pitches up in the strike-zone. Points for consistently. Improvement!

Rating: Mark Trumbo is really improving at the plate!


Conclusion? Pass the Prozac, please.

4.02.2013

Changing Speeds with Jered Weaver: A Quick Investigation

Jered Weaver was inconsistent at times yesterday against the Cincinnati Reds. He seemed to be having trouble commanding his fastball and was leaving some of his breaking balls up in the zone. Even then, Weaver was able to hold the Reds to just 2 hits and a single run in six innings of work.

One thing Weaver did have going for him was his ability to change speeds.


Weaver's slowest pitch of the day clocked in at 69 mph while his fastest was clocked at 89 for a 20 mph difference. Or for those National Geographic fans out there, that's the difference between a lion's running speed and a cheetah's.

Weaver's ability to change speed's is one of the keys to his success. And on a day where he began the game struggling with his location, it proved helpful.

One of the most extreme cases came in the 3rd inning to Jay Bruce. Weaver had already given up a run and there were runners on first and third. On his fourth pitch, Weaver threw Bruce an 89 mile an hour cutter then followed it up with a 69 mph curveball. He then came back with an 86 mph fastball, followed by 69 mph breaking ball. Weaver continued this trend of extreme speed change throughout the at-bat.



Bruce continued fouling off pitches and eventually popped up on a 77 mph changeup. Clearly, Weaver's ability to change speeds was toying with Bruce's timing and the end result was a much needed out in a critical situation.

In the off-season, there was much discussion about Weaver's declining velocity as a possible warning sign of a trouble ahead for the Angels starter. Monday's opening day game against the Reds did nothing to quiet those fears with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs averaging just 86 mph for the game. However, it did showcase how Weaver can continue to still be successful, even against a good hitting team like the Reds, despite his declining velocity. One key to that continued success will undoubtedly be his ability to change speeds as showcased yesterday.

4.01.2013

Angels vs. Reds April 1st Game Recap: Chris Iannetta's Day in the Sun

How often does the first game of the season feel like a playoff game? MLB billed the game as a potential World Series match-up and while such headlines are a bit hyperbolic, the game certainly felt like it had more weight than just number 1 of 162. The Reds proved to be a well-matched team to the Los Angeles Angels and as a result the game played out like a extended match of tug of war.

The Good

The Angels bullpen put up 7 scoreless innings and gave up a single hit while recording nine strikeouts. If this was last year, it would have seemed almost certain that someone was going to blow it but today they held strong. It's only one game but it certainly a promising start.

Besides the bullpen, Chris Iannetta was clearly the player of the game offensively. Having a catcher on the Angels that can actually hit is still a surprise.

Finally, while Weaver struggled with his command all game, it's a testament to how good of a pitcher he is that he could hold a team like the Reds to a single run despite not having his best stuff. 

The Bad

Angels batters struck out 17 times tonight. The worst probably being Mike Trout's one-out strikeout with Peter Bourjos on third in the top of the 12th. That being said, credit should go to the Reds pitching staff. They have a solid bullpen and Cueto was on fire for most of the game.


The Ugly

The Angels had three errors that all should have been routine outs. Luckily, they didn't prove costly but there is still no excuse for any of them. Props to Alberto Callaspo for being the only member of the Angels infield to not make an error today. The Angels defense was solid last year and it remains largely the same infield so one can likely write off this poor defense performance as largely an outlier.

3.14.2013

A Collection of Commentary on Fernando's Rodney's Baseball Cap

Judging by the below comments, there seems to be no other player that incites more ire in baseball fans than Fernando Rodney and his hat.



Some may say that the comments contain subtle hints of racism, which is often how it manifests in modern American society: subtlety. It's less overt, implied, more complex and maybe even unintentional. It's polarizing nature also makes it rarely discussed in any sort of constructive manner.

That shouldn't change us recognizing that there is indeed an underlying discrimination in some of the following comments that go beyond Rodney's hat but reveal some seemingly deep-seeded negative sentiments about everything from basketball to urban street style. The lines they strew that connect a tilted hat with being a thug and something "disgraceful" are made up of discriminatory judgements and destructive cliches.

The conversation should not be whether these statements are racist in nature or not. Even if you are inclined to say they are not, you could at least agree that they are thoughtless and flippant. The conversation should be about why something seemingly so harmless can incite such angry sentiment. And for what? A crooked hat worn by a player on a baseball field as an ode to his father.

this isn't basketball...ur not a thug, your a baseball player. wear the hat correctly like everybody else..its not just him tho, there are a few other pitchers who can't seem to figure out how to wear it right....and the excuse about doing it for his dad is BS..
-- David Bervig

what's next pants sagging below his ass. - John Reardon

It's called a uniform...not a fashion statement...disgraceful! - Eric Emet

It is a disgrace to the game, he looks like a idiot.
-- Larry Cale

MLB should not allow this. - Jeffrey Hein

I hope MLB makes him straighten that up. Doesn't matter if he uses his father as an excuse to do it. It's not professional and looks stupid. - Dale McCoy

Looks Stupid..team game that's why they wear uniforms.
- John Lord

He should respect the game. He looks like a thug. - Shane Schirmer

He needs to put that hat on right.I bet his pants are hanging off his ass also.Its pretty childish if u ask me.C.C. does it still with yankees asweel.Although that extreme.There's a handful of guys who do it and its pathetic.Mlb needs to install a rule here on players and their hip hop bs.Nba did it when allen iverson was on the benchj looking like tupac.a foot note also.you wont see any crackers disrespecting the game like that.Only steriod use lol. - Mike Glesner

Literally the first thing I was taught in my high school career is how to properly put on a hat and that you need to look like a professional on the field and off. You don't go into your desk job wearing flip flops and shorts. You don't tilt your cap to the side in baseball. I wont go as far as saying its "disgraceful" but it is unprofessional, if I were a manager I would not allow it. - Chris Nyman

Respect the lid and face it forward. - Chris Knasinksi

respect the game, this ain't the hood. -- WM Richard Campbell

Wear it right or don't wear it at all. You are playing baseball, not hanging with your homies.
- Bryan Walz

get rid of this! this is DUMB BACKWARD HAT... GET A LIFE. - Jay Stanton

He looks like a thug idiot. -- Paula R Hoffman

I guarantee if I was writing his paycheck weekly, he would"nt be getting it UNTIL he straightened it up and looked like a professional.......
- Doug Jurasevich

this looks F'ing retarded and is a disgrace to the game!
- Michael Danes

Yikes.

Read all of the comments on MLB.com.

3.07.2013

Can Bryce Harper Have A Better Age-20 Season Than Mike Trout?

Two things we know:

1. Mike Trout had arguably one of the best age-20 seasons ever. Maybe the best.

2. Bryce Harper had one of the best age-19 seasons ever too. He had the highest OPS+ of any 19-year-old to ever play the majors.

Question: Could Harper have an even bigger age-20 season than Trout?

First let's compare Harper's age-19 season to other age-19 seasons that comes close his 2012.

PA Year G R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS ▾
Mel Ott 500 1928 124 69 140 26 4 18 77 52 36 3 .322 .397 .524 .921
Tony Conigliaro 444 1964 111 69 117 21 2 24 52 35 78 2 4 .290 .354 .530 .883
Bryce Harper 597 2012 139 98 144 26 9 22 59 56 120 18 6 .270 .340 .477 .817
Edgar Renteria 471 1996 106 68 133 18 3 5 31 33 68 16 2 .309 .358 .399 .757
Ken Griffey 506 1989 127 61 120 23 0 16 61 44 83 16 7 .264 .329 .420 .748
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/6/2013.

While Tony Conigliaro and Mel Ott each had monstrous age-19 seasons respectively, it was a different game back then. So let's ignore them for this brief exercise. Let's also drop Renteria. While in almost 100 less plate appearances, his batting average was well above Harper, it was a bit of an empty average when looking at the rest of his stats.

Instead, let's focus on Griffey whose age-19 season was nearly as good as Harper's and likely would have been even better if he had 91 more plate appearances to match Harper's total. Griffey is also a good comparison for a couple other reasons. Both Harper and Griffey are 6'3". Harper weighs in at 215 lbs while Baseball-Reference lists Griffey's weight at 195 lbs (Griffey definitely put on more weight quickly into his career). They are also both outfielders and bat left-handed.

So let's see how much Griffey improved in his next season at age 20?

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
155 666 597 91 179 28 7 22 80 16 63 81 .300 .366 .481 .847 136
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2013.

Griffey improved his slash line but his counting stats showcase only a small, gradual improvement. It's reasonable to assume that Harper could put up similar numbers in his age-20 season. And if he did, then his age-20 season would be good, but still no where near Mike Trout's.

When looking at the various projection systems over at Fangraphs, it is predicted that Bryce Harper will have a similar improvement. He'll get better but it will be somewhat incremental with the most generous projection system have him posting the following batting slash: 274/.348/.486.

The biggest problem in this investigation is that Harper's season was so historic for his age that there isn't much to compare it with as shown above. In addition, if Harper's 2013 season proves to be better than Trout's age-20 season, it wouldn't be quite as historic since Harper will have had 500+ major league plate appearances under his belt while Trout had just 135 before 2012.

But since we don't have much to work with, let's take a quick look at how Bryce Harper did in his first 135 plate appearances at age 19 versus Trout's first 135 in 2011.

Harper: .922 OPS
Trout: .672 OPS

It's a small sample size but it's also a huge difference. Perhaps, it says very little. Or perhaps it's a sign of things to come in 2013 from the 20-year-old Harper.