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Entries in Hitting (2)


Striking Out on Balls

Strikeouts are the worst.

They are better than double plays, in that, they only account for a single out.  But there is something deflating about strikeouts.

Something very, I don't know, "Charlie Brown getting fooled by Lucy while trying to kick a field goal" about it. And, of course, there can't just be one way to strike out. There has to be numerous ways to get rung up by the home plate umpire. The worst of which, has to be striking out looking. 

I have analogies and puns for days with regards to the ol' "backwards 'K'," but let's just agree that striking out looking makes you, probably, want to crawl under home plate and disappear. Then we can skip all the nonsense.

But what if a hitter strikes out looking, and, it's not his fault? 

Granted, if a hitter has two strikes on him, he should be protecting the plate. You are taught this as a young player. "Anything close. Swing." But that doesn't change the fact that the pitch was a ball. Or the fact that it was probably Angel Hernandez behind the plate

So far this season, there have been 2,045 strikeouts that have been both "looking," and on a pitch that is considered out of the strike zone. Which pitcher has the most?

Out of Zone Punch Outs

David Price (TB) 23
Max Scherzer (DET) 19
Cliff Lee (PHI) 18
Mike Minor (ATL) 17
Jeff Locke (PIT) 17
James Shields (KC) 17
Hyun-jin Ryu (LAD) 17
Eric Stults (SD) 17
Adam Wainwright (STL) 17
Matt Cain (SF) 16


David Price, come on down.

You are the winner of the "Your check's in the mail, Mr. Ump" award. 

All of these pitchers, except for Jeff Locke, are considered "strike-throwers."

Does that mean that they are getting the benefit of the doubt from the umpire?

Maybe. But when you are facing Cliff Lee and his 70.8% strike-rate, expect the ball to be over the plate. 

But Jeff Locke? Really?

On the flip-side of this coin, which hitters are falling prey to this phenomenon occurence the most?

Out of Zone Punched Out

Matt Carpenter (STL) 15
Ian Desmond (WSH) 15
James Loney (TB) 15
Chris Davis (BAL) 14
Shin-Soo Choo (CIN) 13
Nick Swisher (CLE) 12
Evan Longoria (TB) 12
Chris Carter (HOU) 12
Trevor Plouffe (MIN) 11
Prince Fielder (DET) 11


Looks like Matt Carpenter and Ian Desmond should probably start walking up to the plate with egifts for the men in blue. And no one should be surprised to see Chris Carter on this list. He just strikes out a lot with his  K-Rate of 37.4% this season.

But, Joey Votto has struck out looking on a pitch off the plate eight times this season. Who do these umpires think they are?

All told, those 2,045 strikeouts, account for 6.6% of 30,770 strikeouts this season. Not exactly an overwhelming percentage, and something that umpires should point to and say: "We're right 93.4% of the time."

But with replay getting expanded next year, and the constant cry for an automated strike zone, 93.4% of the time, might not be good enough for baseball fans. 


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?


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 this 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.