In appreciation of Mike Trout’s consistent greatness, Mike Trout Monday is For The Win’s weekly roundup of stuff Mike Trout did.
Arbitrary endpoints are fun: Entering play June 9, Mike Trout owned an 1.101 OPS. That’s really good! He earned it by maintaining an excellent .632 slugging with an otherworldly .469 on-base percentage over his first 61 games of 2019.
In 51 games since June 9, Mike Trout has an 1.109 OPS. That’s really good — almost identically good to his performance in the first third of the season. But this time, he’s there thanks to an excellent .404 OBP and an otherworldly .705 slugging.
The difference is subtle, but it’s there: Trout is not lately getting on base quite as frequently as he did earlier in the season, but he’s hitting for more power. Since the start of July, especially, Trout has been on a home-run tear, clubbing 17 over his last 30 games entering play Monday. He’s also striking out a bit more and walking less frequently than he did earlier in the season. Here’s a dinger, his first ever at Fenway Park:
So what gives? Statistically, Trout’s recent performance points to the notion that he could be “selling out for power” — abiding less contact in exchange for more dingers. But baseball’s ridiculous wealth of statistics also allow us to examine that idea in more granular detail, and while there’s no doubt Trout has been swinging — including swinging and missing — more often in the recent part of the season than he was earlier, it’s difficult to distinguish an actual change in approach from the myriad chicken-and-egg scenarios that could make it appear as though Trout’s approach changed.
As one example: Trout’s performance against sinkers during his recent homer binge appears markedly different than it was in the first portion of the season. According to Brooks Baseball, Trout saw 224 sinkers before July 2 of this season and homered on precisely one of them. Since then, he has seen only 53 sinkers and homered on six of them.
That would seem to point to some adjustment on that type of pitch, but wait! Maybe Trout’s swinging at higher percentage of sinkers because he’s made some sort of change to his swing that allows him to do more damage against them, or maybe he just happens to have faced guys with lousier sinkers in this recent stretch — which would explain the uptick in swings against that pitch.
Trout is typically such a model of consistency — in mood, in approach, in performance — that my strong guess is his recent home-run surge (and the associated decrease in walks and increase in strikeouts) doesn’t stem from any major change so much as it does from the natural ebbs and flows of baseball. Everyone’s hitting lots of dingers right now, and Mike Trout, especially, is hitting lots of dingers right now. It’s not the worst.
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