Monday, June 11, 2012

Trumbo! You're flying!

There is a lot of baseball watched in this household. Fortunately, the lady of the house does not mind and cheers just as hard for a specific team as this writer does. And certain in-family jokes occur all the time. For example, when the Mets' Duda comes to the plate or is mentioned in highlight packages, Foghorn Leghorn's rendition of Camptown Races is sung with gusto (and in character - DOODAH!). Another popular event is a mention of Mark Trumbo. Whenever his name is mentioned, you would hear: "Trumbo! Look at dose ears!" Mark Trumbo does not have big ears, but like the Disney character, he sure is flying.

Mike Trout is getting all the accolades and that is understandable. The Angels finally allowed the young player to get in the lineup every day and has become the most exciting young player in baseball today. Trout has more "tools" that Mark Trumbo. Heck, Trout has more tools than most human beings. But Trumbo is a big part of the resurgence of the Angels along with a more normal Pujols and the return this year of Morales. And the funny thing is, Trumbo does not have a regular spot in that lineup. What's up with that?

The trouble for the Angels is that they have a lot of money invested in Wells and Hunter. Callaspo is considered their third baseman. Pujols took over first base. Morales is the DH. So Trumbo does not have a permanent home. Even lists him as a utility player. Standing at 6'4" Trumbo is probably the largest utility player ever. Trumbo has played a few games at first, eight games at third, nine games as DH, twenty games in right field and ten games in left. He has played in 51 of the Angels' 61 games. In this humble observer's estimation, that is not enough.

Mark Trumbo leads the Angels in hits, homers, runs batted in, slugging percentage and OPS. He is third on the team in runs scored and is second to Trout on the team in on-base percentage and batting average. That seems to be the kind of guy you need in the lineup every day.

In the month of May, which just so happened to coincide with the Angels' return to prominence, Trumbo had a triple slash line of: .367/.407/.670 with seven homers, ten doubles, a triple and eighteen runs driven in. He has had a tougher time of it in June as the month has bit him for a BABIP of .211. But he hit two homers in the game last night and has seven runs batted in for the month in the month's eleven days. So even an unlucky and struggling Mark Trumbo is someone worth having in the lineup.

There are some weaknesses in Trumbo's game. Although he is swinging at less pitches out of the strike zone this season, his O-swing rate is still up there in the 36 percent range and of his swings, he still swings and misses some 13 percent of the time. For a classic power hitter, Trumbo is not an on-base machine. His walk rate is 7.7 percent, which is not enough. But it is better than his 4.4 percent of last season. So there is improvement. And there are other signs that regression is possible. For example, his home run per fly ball rate has risen higher than last year when he hit 28 homers. That can either be interpreted that he is improving as a power hitter or has been a bit lucky thus far. Take it how you will.

There is also a huge split between his OPS at home and on the road. He is some 400 points higher at home. The comforting thing there is that he has hit just as many homers on the road as he has at home. And his defense is a liability. But some of that is not being allowed to settle into one position. His fielding was fine last year when he played mostly first base. Wells, Hunter and Callaspo are probably all stronger defenders.

And while all three just mentioned are better defenders, they are not more valuable players than Mark Trumbo has been for the Angels this season. If this guy ran the Angels, Trumbo would be placed in left field and left there for every game for the rest of the season.

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