Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig: A Hustle Double Comparison

The most exciting play in baseball, within context, is presumably the walk-off grand slam with two outs and a three-run deficit. Within context, I imagine it’s almost a perfect correlation between play excitement and Win Probability Added. This is why WPA works as both a baseball statistic and emotion statistic. Any immediate reversal of deficit to victory is going to be outstanding. From the other side, perhaps a game-ending and game-preserving strikeout or double play. Context leads to leverage, which leads to excitement, which leads to viewing satisfaction.

The most exciting play in baseball, removed from context, is up for debate. Some people say triples; some more adventurous, aggressive people say inside-the-park home runs. Some people say steals of home. Some people say other things. What a lot of these have in common is maximum hustle, or maximum effort. People respond well to players putting everything they have into a play, because then you’re watching world-class athletes at their most athletic. That’s one of the points of all this.

As it happens, there was particular hustle on display on Wednesday. And hustle from two of baseball’s premier emerging stars, in Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig. On the road in Yankee Stadium, Puig gathered for himself a hustle double. At home in Anaheim, Trout managed a hustle double of his own. To have two hustle doubles on the same day by different half-player/half-phenomenon entities — the two can’t not be compared. So, below, they’ll be compared, somewhat or mostly arbitrarily.

MIKE TROUT

Hustle Double

TroutHustle1.gif.opt

Hustle Double, Alternate View

TroutHustle2.gif.opt

Degree Of Difficulty

We have to acknowledge, first, that all hustle doubles are difficult. They require hustle, and they are unexpected, looking like ordinary singles off the bat. Trout pulled a line drive into left, taking the left fielder toward the line and away from second base. The ball was cut off before it got to the wall, but it was cut off by Raul Ibanez, who has an arm like a leaky faucet you can’t completely turn off. That’s actually not very fair to Raul Ibanez, but Trout wasn’t running on, say, a Yasiel Puig or Jeff Francoeur. This wasn’t easy, and not many players could’ve done it, but this could’ve been more of a challenge. 8/10

Wisdom

Trout was leading off the bottom of the sixth, and the score was 0-0. He had, behind him, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Howie Kendrick, against a left-handed pitcher. Obviously, Trout had himself at least a single, so the break-even calculation is identical to what it would be for an attempted stolen base. The break-even point is about 65%. That is, Trout needed to be about 65% sure he could make it safely to justify trying to stretch. The outfielder was Raul Ibanez. A smart gamble, that paid off. 10/10

Execution

Look how easily Trout makes it. What you might take away from that is that the degree of difficulty wasn’t actually that high. But now look at the second .gif. Trout was busting his ass the entire way, always thinking two bases. His slide was perfect. Trout made this double happen, and like so many things he does, he made it look like he was putting bread in the toaster. 10/10

Overall

Trout gets 28 of a possible 30 points, based on whatever formula it is my brain has been acting on. This is a nothing exercise but this is sports, and we can’t not compare two completely different things in sports, because then what else would we talk about?

YASIEL PUIG

Hustle Double

PuigHustle1.gif.opt

Hustle Double, Alternate View

Puig_Hustle_2.gif.opt

Degree Of Difficulty

Let’s just acknowledge that Puig picked up a double on a grounder up the middle. Most of the time you don’t even consider that possibility, and Brett Gardner‘s momentum was taking him toward the infield when he retrieved the ball. According to Baseball-Reference, this was a groundball double hit to location “6”. There have been eight such doubles hit by righties this season. This is a rare thing, and wait, there’s more! Puig didn’t even have the element of surprise on his side! Here he is, from earlier in the same game:

Puig_Out_1.gif.opt

PuigOut2.gif.opt

Puig earlier tried to do the exact same thing, and he got himself thrown out. So the Yankees’ defense would’ve been somewhat prepared. Puig tried again anyway. Yeah. 10/10

Wisdom

Did I tell you that the Yankees would’ve been at least somewhat prepared? Also, Puig was leading off the top of the eighth, and the Dodgers were trailing 6-2. The break-even point for Puig trying to stretch was about 84%, much higher than with the Trout double above. The extra base didn’t do the Dodgers a whole lot of good, because they were behind by four, and they needed baserunners instead of potential outs. There was little to gain from this, but there was a lot to lose, relatively speaking. Behind Puig were Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier. 3/10

Execution

One more time, Puig didn’t take anyone by surprise. He didn’t seem to be running at full speed the entire way, although it’s possible his full speed is just impossibly graceful. The slide was dangerous, in that Puig could’ve hurt himself or come off the bag. At the end of the day, though, Puig turned a grounder up the middle into two bases, and that’s the most important thing. Flaws and all, that’s highly unusual. 8/10

Overall

Puig gets 21 out of a possible 30 points. When I started this exercise I didn’t expect the numbers to come out so different, but then Trout’s double was a lot smarter than Puig’s was, and the execution was better. Puig is just a higher-risk player in general, in so many senses, and that can be a lot of fun when it’s working, and incredibly frustrating and wasteful when it’s not. So far, it’s been working, but we’ll see how people respond when Puig hits a slump, should that ever happen. When you watch him, a slump seems impossible, but slumps always seem impossible for players on hot streaks, because streaking players look positively unbeatable.

Kudos to Puig for the exciting, daring, unusual double. Kudos to Trout for the better double that’ll get less attention. In this way, there is a player people like to talk about more than Mike Trout, and that’s nuts. And it’s nuts that it’s understandable. We’re all nuts.




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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.


47 Responses to “Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig: A Hustle Double Comparison”

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  1. Flipped Off By Antonio Alfonseca says:

    …though Mike Lowell is half as nuts as the rest of us.

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  2. atoms says:

    It’s entertainment. Let’s take wisdom out of the equation here.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. 65Kyle08 says:

    Dear mr,Sullivan
    Who will have the better career?
    Thanks guy

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    • RU Sirius says:

      Is this even a question? Puig is an exciting, talented player – but he’s played all of 16 games in the majors and will most certainly go through struggles and adjustments. We simply don’t know how good he’ll be.

      Trout, on the other hand, has played in 252 games which is arguably one of the best 252 game careers in baseball history. Puig may have superstar potential Trout IS a superstar with a good chance of a Hall of Fame career, even a decent chance of being one of the all-time greats.

      I’m not saying Trout will definitely be better, but in terms of probability its like Bryce Harper vs. Wil Myers.

      +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Shlum says:

        You’re missing the point. Mike Trout will never have the unrivaled majesty of Puig’s first 16 MLB games. Mike Trout will never have captured the nation’s attention so immediately, so thrillingly, so completely, on one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. No, Mike Trout did not cross an ocean to become both a political enemy of his homeland and a superstar in his adoptive home. Puig’s peak will forever be unknown to Mike Trout, no matter how short that peak may ultimately be.

        -25 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. khead says:

    I think they are both a testament to what both guys can do. Trout’s was hit way harder and got to the fielder quicker, even if it pulled the fielder toward the line. Puig’s wasn’t hit has hard and Gardner had to run in quite a bit to get there, but considering it was to CF, its amazing he got there in time. Puig is a reckless guy who hasn’t learned how to play major league ball yet, but when he settles in, he will be a force.

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  5. Neil says:

    Play at the plate is the most exciting play in baseball.

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  6. Mike Redmond says:

    Yasiel Puig does not have a Francouer-type arm and does not belong in the discussion among best OF arms. OFs with better arm strength include: Jeff Francouer, Bryce Harper, Aaron Hicks, Rick Ankiel, and (a healthy) Jason Heyward. A number of others are arguably better and around the same as Puig. Just because hes the next shiny new toy in the majors doesn’t mean he has better raw tools than the mlb veterans whose talent has become mundane.

    -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Reggie says:

      Dude. You need to watch more of his throws. He has the best arm in the MLB no question. Every outfielder takes a step and winds up to throw. Puig instantly throws the ball and throws like a catcher would throw to 2nd base.

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      • Mike Redmond says:

        I disagree. I haven’t heard a single scout say he has even close to 80 arm strength. I have heard some scouts say that of the others I mentioned. While scouting is inexact, I trust them more so than casual fans regarding the evaluation of arm strength.

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        • josh says:

          all you have to do is actually watch him play to see that he has one of the best arms out there right now. you obviously don’t/haven’t actually dedicated even 10 minutes to watch what he does in the field. quit commenting.

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        • longbeachyo says:

          So what HAVE you heard scouts say about Puig?
          Why was it so insane for the Dodgers to give him so much money??? Oh, I remember… because he “hasn’t been scouted”!

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        • Mike Redmond says:

          I have seen him play and I do concede he has a great arm. But I was wondering whether you have seen most other outfielders throw. I’m guessing not. I haven’t either. But scouts are paid to evaluate the tools of hundreds of players. I trust them more than a casual fan who is taking offense to my comments for some reason. I’ve heard scouts say he has a 60/65 arm, maybe even a 70. I haven’t heard he has a 80 arm, but I forgot, I should trust whoever comments because they have seen a few good replays of him showing off his arm strength. Why don’t you ask Newman or Hulet or any other scouts what they think of his arm strength. Then you won’t have to believe me, even though I haven’t made any opinion of my own.

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    • guy who knows where the beds are says:

      better raw tools than the mlb veterans whose talent has become mundane.

      Vets have raw tools?

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      • Mike Redmond says:

        Raw tools refers to the physical tools outside of non-physical aspects such as in-game awareness or plate discipline, etc. And yes, every player has raw tools, condescending prick.

        -18 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • FirstCasualtyofWAR says:

          Some might suggest that the condescending prick would be the one who tacks on “condescending prick” to the end of his reply, when no such label was thrown at him.

          In fact, I might suggest that.

          In fact, I just did.

          +18 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Mike Redmond says:

          Did you miss what I perceived as blatant sarcasm with “Vets have raw tools?” Or do you think he is serious? I think he is being sarcastic and and a jacka** by implying veterans don’t have raw tools since the word veteran would imply they are not raw. However, the true meaning of raw tools refers to what I had mentioned earlier; nothing to do with the non-physical aspects of an individual’s game. I responded by calling him a prick for pointing out what he perceived as a mistake in a condescending way despite being wrong.

          I don’t see that as being a prick.

          -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jason B says:

          “I don’t see that as being a prick.”

          I think you saw that wrong. Check again.

          +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Shlum says:

          What a loser you are.

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        • kevinguy says:

          When I hear raw tools, I think of power, speed, bat speed, etc. Not necessarily in-game awareness or plate discipline. It’s a little bit splitting hairs, but I consider those to be attributes that you develop with the raw tools that you have. If talking about a polished veteran player and referring to their natural hitting ability you can say they are a great pure hitter, not raw. The word raw is typically used in the context of talking about attributes that are not yet fully developed or polished yet. That’s all on the field talk. Talking about a players natural attitude or leadership, I’d consider those intangibles.

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        • josh says:

          just quit already

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        • Mike Redmond says:

          Great responses, everyone. You really made a strong argument.

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        • mike redmond is not a crook says:

          sarcasm and cynicism are both welcome on the comment boards (generally speaking). name calling is not.
          that’s not that hard, is it?

          also, I’m thinking that if you polled most people if veteran players had “raw tools,” a significant number would say no.

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  7. Dylan says:

    “He didn’t seem to be running at full speed the entire way, although it’s possible his full speed is just impossibly graceful.”

    Puig will face a career of criticism for not running hard, like Carlos Beltran before him, simply because he looks so smooth running.

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    • Bab says:

      Indeed. Wasted movement while running is far more noticeable than a gliding, efficient gait. You see this in football too, particularly with taller wide receivers.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Ok guys, Puig clearly kicks up to another gear after he passes first. As long as the result is the same, its just quibbling really, but still he wasn’t out of the box thinking double. Its what a scout would call 70-80 for baserunning — he gets out of the box fast, backs off a touch to see the field & judge how the fielders are moving, then makes a split second decision he’s got a window and hits the after burners.

      I’d view it more as solid baserunning skill and situational awareness vs. blazing speed and max hustle.

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  8. The most exciting play in baseball WAS the fake to third, look to first pickoff move.

    This has now changed for me to the appealed third strike, with the umpire & catcher both pointing at the third base umpire.

    Followed closely after are the intentional balk, and the foul home-run.

    +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bill says:

      I kind of like lob over to first base to hold a slow runner with a small lead.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      Wrong, all wrong. It’s the step-out-adjust-batting-gloves-put-one-foot-in-the-box-finally-stand-in-step-back-out-readjust-gloves-hey-I’m-finally-ready-maybe-nope-this-is-taking-too-long-time-for-another-readjustment-because-my-batting-gloves-inexplicably-moved-in-the-last-three-seconds.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Success says:

    …and here are us Mets fans yelling angrily into an empty box in the corner of the room.

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  10. mario mendoza says:

    For fantasy purposes, the wisdom is always 10/10!

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  11. Mike Green says:

    Has Puig run up an outfield wall yet to make a catch? I didn’t think so. Piker!

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  12. chri521 says:

    Is this a new trend started by Puig because MLB network talked about Howie Kendrick’s awful attempt last night at a “hustle” double. As always Harold Reynolds talked himself in circles and had the rest of the crew just kind of shaking their head at him.

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  13. Dirck says:

    The intentional walk ,changing pitchers 3 or 4 times in an inning,arguing calls until getting ejected from the game and continuing to argue for another 5 to 10 minutes after that ,the pitcher shaking off 5 signs in a row and then the catcher going to the mound for a conference ,throwing over to first base 4 times for every actual pitch thrown when a runner is on first,and the sacrifice bunt all give me palpitations of excitement . Such excitement can only be rivalled by golfers waiting for an umpire’s ruling on a ball that might be slightly inconvenient to hit .

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  14. Mike says:

    I wrote a post about this very play — and put in a link to your fine article.

    http://nuckolball.com/2013/06/21/angelic-baseball/

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Jackson says:

    As fast as Puig is, he is not even in the same class as Trout. Puig is routinely clocked at 4 – 4.1 seconds to first base.

    Trout’s fastest time is a 3.53, which is among the fastest times ever recorded for a right hander

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  16. Natty Bunto says:

    Could we seriously be having this conversation without mentioning the ORIGINATOR of the “hustle double”, one Peter Edward Rose?

    Any other Cincy fans from the 70s know what I’m talking about?

    Guy wasn’t even fast, in scouting-speak, but he just manufactured these. He came out of the box full tilt, and the outfielders never knew what hit them.

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  17. TheUncool says:

    I love Trout, but I don’t know about his wisdom of sliding in headfirst like that. Also, the videos of successful doubles really don’t look to me like Trout hustled anymore than Puig out of the box. I can see that Puig didn’t hustle as much out of the box in the failed attempt, but not really in the successful one, which suggests he learned from his first failure — he even slid in more wisely the 2nd time.

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  18. James says:

    It looks to my eyes like Puig was clearly out at second.

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