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Entries in Los Angeles Angels (46)


Harper, Trout Polar Opposites on the First Pitch

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout turned in epic seasons while taking home Rookie of the Year Honors. In addition to their swift defense and base running savvy, Harper (whose 22 HR trailed only Tony Conigliaro among all teenage hitters) and Trout (whose 171 OPS+ was highest ever for a player qualifying for the batting title during his age-20 season) were historically dangerous in the batter's box. But the two stars destined to be compared to each other for decades to come began their at-bats in markedly different ways. Harper was ultra-aggressive on the first pitch. Trout, by contrast, rarely took the lumber off his shoulder in 0-0 counts.

Check out Harper and Trout's swing rates by pitch location in 0-0 counts:

Harper's first-pitch swing rate by pitch location


Trout' first-pitch swing rate by pitch location

Harper took one of his hellacious cuts about 41% of the time in first-pitch counts, dwarfing the 26% major league average. The only qualified hitters with a higher first-pitch swing rate were Josh Hamilton, Ian Desmond, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman, Yadier Molina, Delmon Young, Danny Espinosa and Chris Davis. Harper's aggression paid off, as he slugged .659 on the first pitch (.579 MLB average).

Trout swung just under 10% of the time in first-pitch situations. Kevin Youkilis, Martin Prado, Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia and J.J. Hardy were the only batters with a more passive approach on the first pitch. While Harper chased 24% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone in 0-0 counts, Trout showed Zen-like patience by going after only 5% of first-pitch offerings (14% MLB average).

Two all-time great rookies, two totally different (and effective) ways of beginning ABs. Harper embraced his inner Josh Hamilton, lunging at first pitches and tallying lots of extra-base knocks. Trout channeled Rickey Henderson, laying off would-be balls and later doing damage in hitter's counts. Sorry, pitchers: whether these guys swing at the first pitch or not, you really don't stand a chance.


Jered Weaver joins the Angels 100-win club

1 Chuck Finley 165 1986 1999 379 14 140 .541 2675.0 1118 2151 3.72
2 Nolan Ryan 138 1972 1979 288 40 121 .533 2181.1 1302 2416 3.07
3 Mike Witt 109 1981 1990 272 10 107 .505 1965.1 656 1283 3.76
4 John Lackey 102 2002 2009 233 8 71 .590 1501.0 441 1201 3.81
5 Frank Tanana 102 1973 1980 218 24 78 .567 1615.1 422 1233 3.08
6 Jered Weaver 100 2006 2012 204 6 51 .662 1306.0 348 1109 3.24
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/19/2012.

 Batters have hit .213 against Jered Weaver this season


Trout Killing Pitchers Softly

When the Angels initially called up Mike Trout last July, the then-19-year-old scuffled against major league heat. Trout batted just .149 against fastballs and slugged .298 in 2011. Those fastball woes seemingly promoted pitchers to challenge Trout with lots of fastballs this season when L.A. called him up from the minors in late April. No batter saw more fastballs than Trout (64 percent) during the month of May.

Trout has proved much more adept against the heat the second time around, batting .317 and slugging .489 against fastballs in 2012. That has led pitchers to change their approach, feeding Trout fastballs just 48 percent of the time in June and so far in July. Unfortunately for them, he's proving to be even more deadly against breaking and off-speed pitches. Check out Trout's slugging percentage against "soft" stuff -- curves, sliders and changeups -- compared to the league average:

Trout's slugging percentage by pitch location vs. curveballs, sliders and changeups

 Average slugging percentage by pitch location vs. curveballs, sliders and changeups in 2012

Trout has been the game's greatest slugger against breaking and off-speed pitches this season:

BatterSlugging Pct. vs. Soft Stuff
Mike Trout .698
Matt Holliday .653
Robinson Cano .651
Josh Hamilton .623
Mark Trumbo .603
Ryan Braun .594
Josh Reddick .591
Joey Votto .569
A. J. Pierzynski .560
Giancarlo Stanton .547
MLB Avg. .376


Trout struggled with big league fastballs at first, and pitchers pounced. He adjusted to handle the heat, and opponents responded by giving him more curves, sliders and changeups. Now that Trout's killing the soft stuff, what's a pitcher to do? Develop a knuckler? Come down with food poisoning during that scheduled started against L.A.? Get traded to the Angels? Stay tuned.

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