Let’s talk about the narrative. Are we over the use of the word “narrative”? Let’s talk about the narrative. We can worry about our term usage later. Mike Trout remains, to this day, an amazing baseball player. But he seems to be something of a changing baseball player. And the theory that I’ve heard seems to be that Trout has focused on trying to develop his power, and he’s lost some of his athleticism. Basically, he’s gotten bigger, and we can see some supporting evidence. He’s dramatically increased his rate of fly balls, and he’s pulling the ball more than ever. He isn’t stealing very many bases anymore, and his baserunning value is down, and his defensive value is way down. That last bit troubles some people. In Trout’s first full season, batting runs were responsible for 52% of his runs above replacement. This year, that’s shot up to 77%. The numbers indicate that Trout is morphing into someone who’s bat-first, and this seems early for a guy who just turned 23 a couple weeks ago.
But what’s really happened to Trout’s foot speed? To what extent can we blame reduced baserunning and allegedly worse defense on just no longer running as fast? We have a lot of information here, but when it comes to speed, the information serves as a set of proxies. Best to go into the games themselves and try to figure out how quickly Trout still moves around.