How Jesus Montero Threw Out Mike Trout

I was just down in Arizona with a lot of the rest of the FanGraphs crew, and as such, I found myself involved in a number of baseball conversations, with people from the crew and with others as well. One of the many conversations turned to Jesus Montero as a defensive catcher. One person who covers baseball on a daily basis for a newspaper couldn’t believe that Montero managed to throw out Mike Trout as a would-be base-stealer. One respected baseball talent evaluator referred to Montero as perhaps the very worst defensive catcher in the majors. Immediately, I knew this would be something worth exploring in greater depth.

The newspaper guy actually made the mistake of saying Montero threw Trout out twice. That didn’t happen, but it did happen once; Miguel Olivo managed to throw Trout out twice. One other time, Trout stole successfully off Montero, meaning for the season Trout was 1-for-2 with Montero behind the plate. He was nabbed on October 3, in the final game of the regular season.

First, some background: when Trout stole successfully against Montero, in August, this is how safe he was.

troutsteals

I wouldn’t say he was safe by a mile, but he was safe by such a degree that there was no question about the call. Trout clearly had the base stolen, which is what you’d expect with Trout running against Jesus Montero, what with Mike Trout being Mike Trout, and Jesus Montero being Jesus Montero.

Trout, in the majors, has stolen 53 bases, and he’s been caught five times. That’s a success rate of 91%, making him one of the greatest threats in the league. Some of it is instinct, some of it is ability to read, and some of it is pure foot-speed. It’s no secret that there aren’t many players who’re faster than Mike Trout at full speed, or getting up to full speed. It’s one of his unfairly countless strengths.

Montero has thrown out 12 of 70 would-be base-stealers. That’s a kill rate of 17%, below the league average of 26%. Against average catchers, Trout has been successful 91% of the time. Against Montero, we’d expect that rate to be even higher, since Montero isn’t what one would consider “fundamentally sound” or “adequate”. A lot of stealing is actually against the pitchers, and not against the catchers, but catchers do make a difference, and Montero makes a negative one.

So. On October 3, 2012, Mike Trout led off against Blake Beavan. The fourth pitch hit Trout in the body, and he took off for second shortly thereafter. Jesus Montero was having none of it, and here’s a .gif in case you don’t feel like watching the highlight:

MonteroTrout1.gif.opt

An alternate angle:

MonteroTrout2.gif.opt

Montero’s throw was just about perfect, and Trout was unquestionably out. The play was close, but of course it was close — it was Mike Trout running, and Trout doesn’t get thrown out very easily. Montero was rather pleased with himself in the aftermath:

monterosmiletrout

…as he should’ve been, considering. Said one of the Mariners broadcasters during an instant replay:

“…good jump by Trout…”

According to the Mariners broadcast, Trout got off to a good start, but Montero gunned him down with an excellent throw. Now for selected quotes from the Angels broadcast:

“…little bit of a late start…”

“…didn’t have a very good jump…”

“…and you can see early on it’s always difficult for a base-stealer to get a good jump in that first-base area, the infield itself has been watered down…”

According to the Angels broadcast, Trout got off to a poor start, and Montero gunned him down with an excellent throw. Each side has its biases, but it’s the Angels broadcast that would’ve seen the most of Trout running over the course of the summer. One of the broadcasters pointed out that Trout appeared to stumble as he tried to accelerate, and:

MonteroTrout3.gif.opt

It’s not much, but it’s there — Trout’s foot slipped a little as he turned to sprint to second. The first step isn’t everything for a stolen base, but it’s critically important, and Trout’s first step took up some dirt. That cost him some fractions of a second, which ultimately cost him an out.

But wait! There’s so much more. As noted, this was the final game of the regular season, for both teams, and the Angels had just been eliminated from playoff contention. The Angels wound up losing to the Mariners 12-0, and while players seldom admit to mailing it in, here’s Jered Weaver:

“I wanted to win a World Series,” Weaver said after a 12-0 Mariners rout that instead ended the Angels’ season with a third straight playoff absence. “Once we found out we were out of it, I was kind of out of it, too. […] It’s tough to turn it on for games like this.”

And Mike Trout himself, from the same link:

“These last two games, when Oakland knocked us out, it was tough to stay concentrated,” Trout said, hours after the A’s won their sixth straight game to stunningly take the AL West away from the Rangers. “It’s tough to get motivated. It’s a long year, you work so hard, and all of a sudden you’re out of it, it’s tough.”

Players on the Angels admitted to diminished focus, and regardless of whether that’s right or wrong, it’s what they experienced. Trout would go 2-for-3 on October 3, but in the first he was thrown out stealing, and in the sixth he was thrown out trying to score on a fly ball. It isn’t like Mike Trout to make outs on the basepaths, so one has to consider that something else might have been going on.

Half the time that Mike Trout tried to steal against Jesus Montero, he was thrown out. Montero seldom throws runners out, and Trout seldom gets thrown out, so this was an event of significance. How did it happen, with Trout being an unparalleled talent and with Montero being a defensive catcher who is at least considerably below-average? Montero had to make a nearly perfect throw. And Trout had to stumble out of the block, and Trout had to be less focused than usual with the Angels having recently been eliminated. With reduced investment, a stumble, and a great throw, Mike Trout was gunned down by Jesus Montero. It did prevent Trout from collecting his 50th steal, to go with his 30 home runs. That would’ve been a neat and unusual statistical profile. But as for how much this had to do with Jesus Montero, the answer is: only a little bit. Montero did catch Trout stealing. He might very well never do it again.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Dan Rozenson
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Dan Rozenson
3 years 6 months ago

That was not a good jump by Trout. His speed was the only thing that made it close.

Dave (UK)
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Dave (UK)
3 years 6 months ago

Yep, terrible jump. The pitcher’s knee was already at peak height before he started accelerating.

El Vigilante
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El Vigilante
3 years 6 months ago

“Check out this one time Mike Trout got a terrible jump”
attach .GIF’s
submit article

Scott
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Scott
3 years 6 months ago

Dude, it’s been a long off-season and a long spring training. I thought it was an interesting article, because Mike Trout is awesome and interesting, and I can’t imagine how difficult it is to think of article ideas when there isn’t meaningful baseball. Don’t be a jerk about it in the comments.

steex
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steex
3 years 6 months ago

“Create snarky synopsis”
don’t capitalize or punctuate
submit comment

El Vigilante
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El Vigilante
3 years 6 months ago

Not a synopsis, rather a suggestion. It seems interesting that Miguel Olivo threw out Mike Trout. But it wasn’t. Mike Trout got a bad jump. It happens. This would’ve worked better as a tweet.

TD
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TD
3 years 6 months ago

Are you sure you know what this article is about.

Who ya gonna call?
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Who ya gonna call?
3 years 6 months ago

GHOSTBUSTERS!

Dave
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Dave
3 years 6 months ago

Love the piece. Musings like these are getting me even more ready for the actual season to start. All of the small battles that go on during a game really do make the game so much more interesting.

On an unnecessarily serious note about Trout getting thrown out, the Angles broadcast had it right. Not only did Trout lose a little traction at the get go but it was a terrible jump as well. He didn’t even start breaking to 2nd until Beavan’s leg kick reached it’s full height!

Kenji Hood
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Kenji Hood
3 years 6 months ago

This kind of article is why I will keep following you no matter where you write.

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 6 months ago

I have Jeff Sullivan’s fanfiction.net account info if you want to read that.

tylersnotes
Member
3 years 6 months ago

it’s a lot of mariners slash/fic that ends in everyone feeling unfulfilled and disappointed, plus a series of novellas describing one single at bat between carlos pena and jonathan papelbon titled “The Pace of My Heart”

s_johnson23
Member
s_johnson23
3 years 6 months ago

Not a great jump, but the pitcher also didn’t quick pitch or slide step. So I feel that the bad jump and slower pitch release cancel each other out. I just chalk it up to the stars being aligned for Montero. FB, no swing by batter, great throw.

Hank
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Hank
3 years 6 months ago

I get the bad jump (not terrible, but certainly not good), the slight slip, but this concentration thing seems a bit much. Why can’t this just be bad jump, slight slip and as good a throw as you are going to get from Montero?

If he wasn’t focused why was he trying to steal on the last day of the season when he was by his words “out of it” . He also seemed to be much more focused and was concentrating OK the 2nd to last game of the season when he was able to steal a base the night after his team was eliminated. I guess that narrative for that would be he was “angry” from being eliminated and he had extra motivation that next day?

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard
3 years 6 months ago

49 steals going on 50, mate.

Jason
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Jason
3 years 6 months ago

So out of Trout’s 5 caught steals, Olivo and Montero account for 3 of them? That’s amazing and just weird.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 6 months ago

Well, in MLB, you play each team in your division approximately 47 times. Sometimes the schedule sets it up so all 47 games come in September.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 6 months ago

True. I always equated Olivo with bad catcher defense with all his passed balls, so initially it was surprising.

When I look back on it, his 31% kill rate in 2012 is not bad at all. I suppose with how many times the M’s and Angels played, it’s less surprising now. Still somewhat surprising considering, you know, Olivo/Mariners.

Scott
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Scott
3 years 6 months ago

The A’s threw him out once, but he should have been safe, bad call.

tz
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tz
3 years 6 months ago

Montero did show good arm strength there. His release, on the other hand, can’t come close to Yadi Molina’s.

Jay - NECC
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Jay - NECC
3 years 6 months ago

It was a .68 release by Montero or 20.5 frames from ball entering glove until the ball left his hand. Yadier Molina is routinely around 19.5-21 frames or .65-.70, so actually Montero’s release time was almost exactly like Yadi’s. This is incredibly simple. It took Trout almost a half a second to break for second base (.40). It normally takes him .15-.20 to make his read and break for 2B.

That 2 tenths of a second behind his norm, combined with an uncharacteristically quick release for Montero is what cost him the base. Trout is usually around 3.25-3.33 to 2B from his break to contact with the base, he was at the high end here and because of the bad break, it took him 3.6 seconds to get to 2B from when the pitcher started his motion. Montero is usually around .78-.82 with his release and 2.0 to 2B. This throw was let go a full tenth faster and with better mechanics, thus increasing the velocity of the release, leading to a 1.87 or 56 frames from glove to glove.

Pitcher took 1.39 to get the ball to the plate, Montero took 1.87 to get the ball to 2B, it took Trout 3.6 seconds to get to 2B from the start of the play. 1.39 + 1.87 = 3.26 which is < 3.6.

Simple. Not some magical, indescribable event.

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
3 years 6 months ago

Trout started his slide too far out, you can see he slowed significantly quite a distance from the base.

kevinthecomic
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kevinthecomic
3 years 6 months ago

kinda weird, but the umpire seems pleased with montero too!!!!!!!

Bryan
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Bryan
3 years 6 months ago

Trout was also thrown out at home plate that game trying to tag home on a fly ball. Doubly weird game.

Northsider
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Northsider
3 years 6 months ago

Add this to the list of fish-related miracles involving Jesus.

Brad
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Brad
3 years 6 months ago

Thank you for that :D made my day

reillocity
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reillocity
3 years 6 months ago

The pitch being a fastball that was up and in a bit and the batter bending away from it allowed Montero to catch and quickly release the ball with his momentum going toward second base. That may well have been the most important thing in the sequence of events that gave Montero a fighting chance at catching Trout.

The Original Marinator
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The Original Marinator
3 years 6 months ago

You know something Jeff, leaving LL was a pretty crappy thing to do. Oh, the rest of your life was more important? Let me tell you something buddy, leaving LL will wind up being the worst thing to ever happen to your life.

From now on, your life will take a steady downturn, and you will forever regret your recent actions. Nothing in your life will ever mean as much. You will get divorced, you will lose your career after relying heavily on various addictions, and your friendships will suffer greatly as a result.

It’s over for you, Jeff Sullivan, and you only have yourself to blame you stupid son of a BlTCH!!!!

Anon21
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Anon21
3 years 6 months ago

Sorry, this isn’t something you’re actually allowed to get mad about. Go away.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
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DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
3 years 6 months ago

lol

ZombieShakespeare
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ZombieShakespeare
3 years 6 months ago

You are a sick, sad person. Please do get help.

Brad
Guest
Brad
3 years 6 months ago

No one can stay in Little League forever. This isn’t Neverland.

Steve
Guest
Steve
3 years 6 months ago

Come on dude, I like Lego Land as much as the next guy, but eventually you have to go back to work.

tylersnotes
Member
3 years 6 months ago

here you can see the troll got a rocky jump, then picked up speed but slid too early and was called out, much like mike trout attempting to steal 2nd on jesus montero.

marc w
Guest
marc w
3 years 6 months ago

The newspaper writer may have been confusing Montero with fellow defensively-challenged catcher Adam Moore, who threw out Trout stealing in April while Trout was with Salt Lake. Adam Moore, he of the 16% career CS%, threw out Trout easily on AAA opening day.

The Original Marinator
Guest
The Original Marinator
3 years 6 months ago

Your entire internet writing career, I’m going to shadow you.

My internet career will be dedicated to bending you over, having sex with your manhole, and creating my humble little Jeff BlTCH.

You really f’d up this time, Sullivan.

Oh, Beepy
Guest
Oh, Beepy
3 years 6 months ago

I look forward to monitoring this situation, and as a result your deteriorating grip on sanity, closely.

Tim
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Tim
3 years 6 months ago

Hopefully someone will be there to make GIFs.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
Guest
DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
3 years 6 months ago

Internet stalkers, the cost of fame!

MrJacutz
Guest
MrJacutz
3 years 6 months ago

Wow. What a sad and contrite idiot. Just admitted to loving manhole, is getting upset that someone would rather watch his favorite team as a fan for the first time in 10+ years, and is taking this way too far. Jeff is still going to write about the Mariners and Baseball in general. I am glad that he is taking time for himself. I cannot imagine having to stay up late every night to put out a re-cap of the game. A lot of the times his articles would come out after midnight. That has to be tough.

As for this set of clown-shoes, HA! Keep proving to the rest of us that you are an idiot. We love seeing you make an ass out of yourself!

Brad
Guest
Brad
3 years 6 months ago

Can you please teach me how to have sex with manholes on the internet? All these years I’ve been wasting my time watching porn.

tylersnotes
Member
3 years 6 months ago

i had no idea mariners fans were capable of any emotion other than malaise

maguro
Guest
maguro
3 years 6 months ago

They are also prone to ennui. Mariners fans have pretty much all of the French emotions covered.

Mike E
Guest
Mike E
3 years 6 months ago

I remember crying out from seat along the 1st base line in disappointment. I’m a Mariner’s fan, but seeing Trout hit the somewhat arbitrary milestone of 50 SB would’ve been a treat. I even went so far as to tell my friend next to me “watch this, Trout is about to steal #50. No shot Montero can throw Trout out.” Montero turned that pitch around so fast, I thought it was someone else.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 6 months ago

“and Trout was unquestionably out.”

See, it didn’t look like that to me. It looked like the ball clearly beat Trout to the base, but it looks to me like the hand is on the bag before he slides into the glove. That being said, its almost always called an out when that happens…. still one of the irritating things about baseball. The umpire is in a position where its impossible for him to see both the tag and the hand hitting the bag.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
Guest
DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
3 years 6 months ago

Looked safe to me as well

MrJacutz
Guest
MrJacutz
3 years 6 months ago

The best part of Montero throwing him out was the look of disbelief and laughter on Trout’s face as he was walking off the field. Classic!

MGL
Guest
MGL
3 years 6 months ago

First of all, almost any ML catcher can throw out even the best and fastest base stealer every once in a while when they get a perfect storm of a pitcher with a quick move to home (and the base runner still decides to go), a high and/or wide fastball, and a perfect transfer, release, and throw. After all, even the worst defensive catchers ARE major league catchers with a major league quality arm. If you saw even the worst arm behind the plate up close and personal and you weren’t a scout, you would probably think, “Man that guy has a gun!”

Secondly, yes Trout got a terrible jump, besides the slight stumble. It is hard to see in the GIF, but as several people have mentioned or implied, he didn’t start running until the pitcher’s leg was well in the air. When stealing off a RHP, you start at the split second that the pitcher lifts his left leg just slightly off the ground. Some good base stealers can even start a fraction earlier (by picking up some other cue from the pitcher that he is just about to start his motion home).

It is almost as if Trout thought, as the pitcher was well into his motion, “Oh yeah, I was going to steal. Ooops. I better start now.” Occasionally even a great base stealer has a brain cramp, hesitation, sort of like when you are pulling out from a side street in your care, you see another car coming down the main road, you have plenty of time to turn, but you hesitate, wait, and then turn right in front of the car!

Eric Garcia McKinley
Member
3 years 6 months ago

“Trout clearly had the base stolen, which is what you’d expect with Trout running against Jesus Montero, what with Mike Trout being Mike Trout, and Jesus Montero being Jesus Montero.”

Anyone else think that Jeff Sullivan is the Kurt Vonnegut of baseball analysis? If KV wrote about the nature of baseball and baseball players I could see him writing the above sentence.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
3 years 6 months ago

He unquestionably slipped at the jump, but it also seemed like he started his slide wayyyyy early. Perhaps that was because he saw Montero ready to throw “early” on account of the slip at the start, and wanted to try to get under the tag. But it really just seems like he slid way to early and lost a lot of speed.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
3 years 6 months ago

Out of curiosity, I looked at some retrosheet data for catchers and base runners.

I grabbed each, min 100 attempts for either group, sorted by percent. I took the top 10 from each to represent the best catchers and fastest base-stealers. I took as many from the bottom of the list to get a similar number of total attempts and then did the same in the middle.

Some SQL later, I had CS% for good, bad and average catchers by fast, medium and slow runners:

C/R Fast Medium Slow
Good 24% 36% 53%
Avg 13% 28% 39%
Bad 5% 16% 34%

C/R

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
3 years 6 months ago

Not sure if this is just noise– but the fast runners [as determined by SB%] had a little higher percent of their attempts against the poor catchers than the good ones [36%, vs 32% for the other two catcher buckets]. Makes sense– but, I figured it would be a bigger disparity. IE, fast players taking advantage of lousy catchers.

The Medium and Slow runners were at a combined 40% of their attempts vs the best catchers, 32% against the average ones and 28% against the bad ones…!!??

Is maybe a big factor in the slower players SB% that they don’t pick their spots well [with something as simple as staying put against the best catchers]?

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
3 years 6 months ago

Flipped around the other way– the best catchers SB attempts were 29% from fast players. The worst catchers saw 39% of their attempts from the fastest players.

The whole thing seems backwards to me.

maguro
Guest
maguro
3 years 6 months ago

Meh. Call me when Trout gets thown out by Rod Barajas.

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