Mark Trumbo Makes a Name for Himself

Mark Trumbo was the least recognizable player in the Home Run Derby. Sure, Trumbo finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting last season, but he lacked the star power of a true superstar like Prince Fielder or Matt Kemp. But Trumbo impressed in the Derby, nearly making the finals while hitting some of the longest home runs of the night. And while the Home Run Derby doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it’s an opportunity for players to display their talents in front of a national audience. Casual fans may not realize how good Trumbo has been this season. After last night, fans will start to take notice of his breakout.

Trumbo has been exceptional with the bat this season. He’s hitting .306/.358/.608, with 22 home runs. Trumbo’s .405 wOBA ranks seventh among all outfielders. There was no doubt Trumbo would hit for power. He clubbed 29 home runs as a rookie last season. The question was whether Trumbo would be able to get on base enough to make his skill-set useful. Trumbo may have finished second in the ROY voting, but he received a lot of scorn for ending the season with a .291 on-base percentage. It’s hard for any player to accrue a lot of value when they make outs that frequently, even if the club 29 home runs.

Trumbo heard those concerns this past off-season, and he’s made some adjustments.

Year BB%
2011 4.4%
Mar/Apr 2012 9.8%
May 2012 5.9%
June 2012 6.3%
July 2012 9.4%

While Trumbo has improved his walk rate, the gains aren’t as drastic as they initially appear. Trumbo walked in 9.8% of his plate appearances through the first month of the season, but he was unable to maintain that level. And while his overall performance improved in May — he hit .367/.407/.670 — his walk rate dropped to 5.9%. He managed to make a slight improvement in June, and it’s probably too early to fully rely on his July rebound.

But there is some reason for optimism. Last season, Trumbo’s walk rate was just 4.4%. He’s managed to surpass that number in every month of this year. That could be a sign that Trumbo can sustain a slightly higher walk rate. At the same time, much of Trumbo’s gain this season is due to a good first month. A look at Trumbo’s monthly splits from last season reveals that he has seen his walk rate spike before.

Last May, Trumbo walked in 9.5% of his plate appearances. After that month, he dropped back down to 3.4%, and never came close to reaching the heights of his May the rest of the year. Again, though, there’s reason to rejoice. Trumbo’s worst performance this year — his 5.9% walk rate in May — is better than his walk rate in every month other than May last season. In other words, his worst month this season would rate as his second highest month last season. That’s promising. And since we know that walk rate stabilizes at about 200 plate appearances, we can confidently say that Trumbo has improved his weakest area.

The real question is whether his improvement is enough. Because even though he’s made improvements, it would be foolish to think of him as a patient hitter. ZiPS seems to think some of the gains will last, projecting Trumbo to have a 5.8% walk rate the rest of the season. If that holds true, Trumbo would finish the season with a 6.4% clip. That’s a nice improvement, and could be a sign that Trumbo will work to improve his rate in the future. But even if this most recent gain is all that Trumbo is capable of, he’s going to have some productive seasons.



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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


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Slats
Guest
Slats
4 years 1 month ago

This guy has as much raw power as anyone in the game.

He’s only going to improve which is downright scary!

hitbullwinsteak
Guest
hitbullwinsteak
4 years 1 month ago

The excised “loose bodies” of Mike Stanton’s knee have more power than Trumbo.

TheJoeFrom1993
Guest
TheJoeFrom1993
4 years 1 month ago

Trumbo’s average home run distance this year: 419.5 feet
Stanton’s average home run distance this year: 406.4 feet

Stanton HR distance stats:
http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2012_1200&type=hitter

Trumbo HR distance stats:
http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2012_2050&type=hitter

hitbullwinsteak
Guest
hitbullwinsteak
4 years 1 month ago

We’re talking about RAW power. Just because Trumbo has hit some balls a long way doesn’t mean he’s got MORE of it, it might just mean he’s tapping into it a little better. Trumbo is almost 4 years older than Stanton, so we perhaps we should expect this. Big Mike is only 22 and mashing balls in the majors. At the same age, Trumbo had a .161 ISO and 15 double-A HRs in a full season. Just saying. RAW.

ppabich
Guest
ppabich
4 years 1 month ago

I think it’s a little silly to say that one has more raw power than the other. It’s completely subjective and both of them can hit a ball a mile.

Turks Teeth
Guest
Turks Teeth
4 years 1 month ago

Dickey-Stephens, the park where Trumbo played in AA, arguably is the most pitcher’s friendly park in the minor leagues, at any level. It’s HR multiplier last season was 0.74. Pitchers thrive there, and sluggers don’t. Note that Trumbo’s ISO was .270 in high-A and .276 in AAA, so focusing on that AA anomaly is cherry picking,

The age argument is moot if the question is who has greater power *now*. In any case, Stanton and Trumbo had completely different development arcs. Trumbo was drafted as a high school pitcher. It look a few years to develop him into a hitter.

Nik
Guest
Nik
4 years 1 month ago

Watch that BABIP fall in the 2nd half, walking doesn’t make hits fall in anymore than they should.

Turks Teeth
Guest
Turks Teeth
4 years 1 month ago

His current BABIP of .327 is almost identical to his BABIP at AA and AAA in 2009 and 2010. He put up a BABIP of .329 at both levels, one an extreme pitchers park, and one an extreme hitters park.

The BABIP comments are only as clever as the context allows. This is the fifth year in his pro career that Trumbo has maintained a BABIP in the .310-.330 range, that’s where ZIPS pegs him, and there’s nothing unsustainable about it.

phoenix2042
Guest
phoenix2042
4 years 1 month ago

I agree that it won’t fall that much, but minor league BABIP is not the greatest thing to go off of because minor leaguer’s BABIP is mostly higher anyway due to there being poorer defense all around. I go to a ton of minor league games, and you see way way more misplayed balls that are called hits than in the majors. They are learning to field as much as they are to hit and to pitch. But I do agree that he can probably maintain .300+ BABIPs because of how hard he hits the ball all over the field.

Nate
Guest
Nate
4 years 1 month ago

As an Angels fan, I’d love to see Trumbo maintain this production. As a person with access to BABIP numbers, I’m less than confident that he will.

Mark Trumbo
Guest
Mark Trumbo
4 years 1 month ago

I beg to differ meat bull man.

I actually avg 13 more feet per home run.

http://hittrackeronline.com/index.php

And I don’t look like Erik Spoelstra.

BKJones
Guest
BKJones
4 years 1 month ago

I traded Trumbo for CJ Wilson back in May, and though widely scorned at the time, it was the best move I have made all year.

I’m still in last place, but only by a little now!

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 1 month ago

Sorry your last place lead has shrunk, but we’re all rooting for you to hang in there.

rdt
Member
rdt
4 years 1 month ago

Firstly, thanks for the article Chris.

Assuming you are trying to discern Trumbo’s plate discipline, would it not be better to leave out his IBB numbers? Trumbo has been intentionally walked 3 out of 22 times this year; without them, his BB% is 5.7% This is still an improvement over the (BB-IBB)% of 3.3% from last year, but I feel that the improvements are not as great as they initially looked in the article.

RollTribe
Member
RollTribe
4 years 1 month ago

Great post. I think the improvement in the walk rate this year (however small it is) provides optimism that he will work on his patience in the future. If he can keep improving on that…watch out.

Bigmouth
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

Trout gets all the attention — and for good reason — but this kid Trumbo flat out rakes.

JeffMathisCera
Member
JeffMathisCera
4 years 1 month ago

Trumbo’s BABIP is definitely a little high and has room to regress, but I believe he may be able to sustain something much closer to it than his current XBABIP forecasts.

His speed is underrated, probably because he is such a big guy. Also, it seems as though he has really learned to use his raw power so that even his ground balls are hit so much harder that they get through the infield more often than the average player.

Bigmouth
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

I’ve noticed the hard ground balls, too. Subjectively, it seems like Trumbo just mashes the ball even when he makes outs.

Turks Teeth
Guest
Turks Teeth
4 years 1 month ago

See my comment above. His BABIP is in the same range it’s been at during four different seasons in the minors.

It’s peculiar that folks focus in on BABIP while responding to an article that is largely about power and walk rate. Is a 10-15 point regression in batting average going to lessen Trumbo’s value if he’s raising his BB rate and continuing to develop elite power? No. A Trumbo with an OBP of .340-.350 and a SLG of .570-.600 is still going to be a very hot commodity, even if his batting average is .280-.290. The guy still projects to hit for average and deliver 35-40 HRs seasonally. There’s not a team in the majors that wouldn’t want such an inexpensive bat in middle of the order somewhere.

Nate
Guest
Nate
4 years 1 month ago

His BABIP is in that range NOW. Earlier in the season, when he was really hitting, it was hovering around .400. Since the beginning of June, his BABIP is .242, which is why it’s dropped down to where it is now, and along with his drop in BABIP his triple slash fell too: .256/.313/.579 also since the beginning of June, with 7 non-intent walks and 30 K’s.

Turks Teeth
Guest
Turks Teeth
4 years 1 month ago

And your point? Averages are averages — they subsume hills and valleys. Your comment seemed to imply Trumbo was in for serious further regression, whereas he’ll likely have hot and cold streaks to come. The record doesn’t support that.

Angelsjunky
Guest
Angelsjunky
4 years 1 month ago

This article seems to imply that either he’s going to be the mediocre 2011 version or the superstar 2012 version. Why not a happy medium? If, through his peak years, he can hit .270 with a .330 OBP, he’ll hit 35+ HR and manage a .550+ SLG, which I’ll be more than happy with. That’s not a superstar but that’s a star, and more than many thought he would be.

Brazen Reader
Guest
Brazen Reader
4 years 1 month ago

I give some credit to Jerry Dipoto. Hear me out:

Hatcher often expostulated that hitters should swing at the first strike they see, put the ball in play, pressure defenses and move runners. (This worked a bit circa 2002, the age of muscled mashers & inept defense, but recent league wide emphasis on defense makes it less useful.)

Take ‘n’ rake Angel farmhands (Napoli, Glaus, McPherson, Wood) matriculated into Micky Hatcher hell and all publicly complained that Hatcher (with Scoscia’s backing) wanted them to abandon the approach that got them there. Napoli and Glaus, the better players, refused to change, had public throw-downs and were let go on the cheap.

In his first interviews after being hired, Jerry Dipoto explicitly demanded that his hitters adopt Abreu’s approach: prioritize walks, not ball-in-play, work counts (which I take to mean, wait for a strike that can be crushed, and accept the walks or strikeouts that come with deep counts). He did make allowances for contact guys like Aybar.

When he fired Hatcher, over Scoscia’s consternation, Dipoto explained that he had repeatedly told Hatcher to adopt and teach the new philosophy, but it didn’t take and he was forced to replace Hatcher with someone who would; that was especially urgent, Dipoto said, to help young players (he surely meant Delicious Trout, Trumbo Mutombo and Gorgeous Bourjas).

I would not be surprised if Dipoto explained to Trumbo early on that 300 obp was not good enough and instructed him to ignore Hatcher’s workplace sabotage. Maybe it helped.

Someone writing about Tom Kelly once said that managers like the players who resemble the manager in his playing days. Scoscia cherished his reputation as defensive genius and Hatcher as a gutsy hacker, and that cost the Angels Mike Napoli and Vernon Wells, among other sins.

complainer
Guest
complainer
4 years 1 month ago

Streak of consecutive Fangraphs articles read with obvious grammatical error/typo — 62

Good read though! Thanks. As someone who doesn’t keep up with AL players as thoroughly as I do those in the NL, I was enlightened.

bushe
Guest
bushe
4 years 1 month ago

I thought he already was named Rusty?

Atari
Guest
Atari
4 years 1 month ago

Trumbo walked in 9.8% of his plate appearances through the first month of the season, but he was unable to maintain that level. And while his overall performance improved in May — he hit .367/.407/.670 — his walk rate dropped to 5.9%.

Too much nit-picking – the guy had a .407 OBP and .670 SLG for the month to feel disappointed in a walk rate of 5.9%. C’mon Trumbo, throw some gold glove defense out there, you slacker!

deadpool
Guest
deadpool
4 years 1 month ago

This kind of thinking has annoyed me before. When Heyward lit it up in June everyone was complaining his walk rate dropped, what’s he supposed to do, get on base at a .500 clip?

Nate
Guest
Nate
4 years 1 month ago

It’s all about sustaining that pace, which a good walk rate could help them do.

MK
Guest
MK
4 years 1 month ago

@Nate: Walk rate in a month where the man hits for a 1.077 OPS IS nitpicking. What do you want him to do: NOT swing at pitches he can hammer just so he can prove his walk rate is sustainable?

People seem to forget that walk rate is also correlated with the quality of pitch that the batter sees…

Jordan
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

Love how Trumbo went out there and proved himself. He should everyone what he has been doing all year long and now people are starting to realize he is for real and so are the Angels.

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