In 2012 Mike Trout had 30 homers and 49 steals. One more steal and he would’ve joined the 30/50 club, a group that is more exclusive than Triple Crown winners. In 2013 he regressed, yet still had 27 homers and 33 steals. In 2014 he has declared his intent to steal more bases. Can he do it?
What do the other Crackerjacks think about his chances?
I like Trout. I like him a lot. He is physically beyond what everyone in baseball could dream of in size and speed. But as we kick around the idea that he could potentially be even a 30/50—which would be an impressive feat to say the least—I have to take the under on both 30 homeruns and 40 steals.
I think that he will be close, like 29/39 close, but I think that the game is catching up to him, slowly. His ridiculous production in a short 2012 season was one of the most impressive runs by any player in history and he was bound to take a step back in pace.
So I think now he begins to gradually regain his production to eventually exceed his 2012 before declining in steals as players do with age. But he’s just 22, so let’s not get carried away with that talk just yet.
I think in 2014 Trout has over 30 homers and has over 40 steals.
Baseball is a game of constant adjustments between pitchers and hitters. Pitchers are looking to exploit holes in hitter’s swings and hitters are looking to feast off pitcher’s mistakes. We know this.
Barely in his 20’s, Trout has already won this adjustment war. Pitchers have tried everything but an eephus pitch against Trout and in every location – sinkers, cutters, sliders, you name it – and Trout has hit them all.
The closest thing to a pitching adjustment that has stuck is that pitchers have begun to throw him more first pitch curveballs. Do you know what this means? Pitchers have realized they can’t come at Trout from a position of strength – their best pitch – instead they’ve compromised and have been trying to sneak a first pitch curveball by. No pitcher wants to throw a first pitch curveball. But with Trout, they have to try something.
Normally at this point I’d share numbers like HR/FB, FB% and batted ball distance because as a stats guy I use those numbers to make reasoned projections. But it’s different with Trout.
Trout is already in pitcher’s heads. He’s made pitchers abandon their best pitches. In 2014 he’s going to make it rain. I’ve taking the over on 30 home runs.
Listen, I realize I’ve already given you the statistical rigor of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, but it’s about to get worse. I think Trout will have over 40 stolen bases simply on the word that Trout wants to have over 40 stolen bases.
“I thought my stolen bases were down last year,” Trout said. “I have to take advantage of taking that extra base.”
I’ll simply take Trout’s word for it and give him the over on 40 steals.
I LOVE Mike Trout. What of it?
I can’t help my conservative nature. I will go under on both, but I think home runs will be the closer of the two. Look at Trout’s HR components the last two years:
|2012 (1st Half)||17.6||33.5%|
|2012 (2nd Half)||25.4||32.6%|
|2013 (1st Half)||15.0||32.8%|
|2013 (2nd Half)||18.8||41.0%|
If I remove the outliers and plug a 33% fly ball rate and an 18.0 HR/FB ratio in for Trout, the projection comes back with 27 HR. It remains to be seen if that 41% FB rate in the second half of last season is a true change in approach. Being over 40% fly balls puts him in the company of guys like Adrian Beltre, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Chris Davis. He doesn’t seem to belong there. So I’m sticking with a 33% FB rate and the under.
I feel comfortable taking the under on the steals for a couple reasons. First, Trout batted leadoff for all of 2012, allowing him more of an opportunity to run. His move to second during 2013 makes the decision to run a little more difficult, with Pujols and Hamilton behind him. Secondly, his stolen bases per game have dropped each half season in the last two years:
Stolen Base / Game
|2012 (1st Half)||.41 SB/game|
|2012 (2nd Half)||.31 SB/game|
|2013 (1st Half)||.23 SB/game|
|2013 (2nd Half)||.18 SB/game|
When we’re talking about the hitting prowess of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, we’re talking about two dominant players. Cabrera is probably the more complete hitter at this point, but Trout’s the better overall player. How is that relevant to this question? Simple.
Trout doesn’t need a homer to be an effective player. Just about any time he hits the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield, Trout has a chance of reaching base. Once he reaches base, he can do things like steal, and consistently apply pressure on the defense. On the other hand, a guy like Miggy is pretty much a clog on the bases, so he’s a lot more dependent on driving the ball to be effective.
It’s for this reason that I’m taking the under on Mike Trout hitting 30 homers. He just doesn’t need to do that to be effective. So if he falls behind in the count, he’s a little more likely to just try to make contact with the ball and get around the bases with his legs. When you consider the capabilities of the hitters behind him (Albert Pujols/Josh Hamilton), it just stands to reason that he’ll focus more on getting on base than hitting it over the fence, especially playing in Anaheim.
Steals is a lot simpler. I just went over why I think Trout will fall short of 30 homers – because he’s too good of an overall player to worry about the long ball. More importantly here, because he can get on base in a number of different ways and inflict damage once there.
One of the ways he inflicts damage to opponents? Stealing bases. Because of that, I’m going over here.
The one thing that does worry me is Pujols and Hamilton being good enough hitters that stealing would take the bats out of their hands. That’s a concern, but not much of one. For one thing, one will be there to protect the other, even if Trout steals. For another, neither have been good enough over the last few years to keep a guy as dynamic as Trout station-to-station.
With Trout’s legs and base stealing prowess, I’m not only expecting him to go over 40 but by the end of the year, I think he’ll be closer to 50 than 40 swipes.