Free Mark Trumbo!!! Free him now! So says most any Angel fan you ask about anything even tangentially related to Angels baseball. The way this large subset of Halo fans would tell it, the fact that Mark Trumbo has not started in three games and has a mere 19 plate appearances thus far this season is the greatest injustice the baseball world has seen since A.J. Pierzynski duped that moron umpire into thinking Josh Paul dropped the third strike (not that I am still bitter about that or anything).
The desire to see more of Trumbo in the lineup is not without merit. Despite his limited action, Mark has been very productive, with two homers, a 1.224 OPS and .526 wOBA. More importantly, he has already walked three times and considerably cut down on his free-swinging ways while striking out just twice. That’s all fine and wonderful, but the sample size is so small that we can’t just assume that this is a more patient and disciplined Trumbo. Until he gets enough playing time to prove otherwise, it is not unfair to assume that Mark is still the same guy that posted that ugly .291 OBP while swinging at anything within four feet of the plate last season. Of course, that is a bit of a catch-22 now isn’t it?
Trumbo cannot show that he has made major improvements at the plate unless he can actually play in games on a regular basis. But Mark cannot play in games on a regular basis unless he shows that he can handle the one defensive position on the field that has available at-bats, third base. In case you weren’t paying attention to the first week of the season, Trumbo is somewhere between a Chernobyl-esque disaster and a massive trainwreck at third base. This is the part everyone seems to keep forgetting about.
In order to justify Trumbo’s nightmarish third base defense, Mark will need to continue producing at the tremendous level that he has thus far this season, but again, there is no guarantee that he can do so. Let’s say that Trumbo does get to play everyday, if he reverts back to being an out-machine that hits the ball really far on the rare occasion that he does make solid contact, then his bat doesn’t nearly justify the massive defensive liability he has proven to be.
On the other hand, if he did in fact make strides in his plate discipline, then the defensive liability is most definitely worth it, especially since there is a chance that the regular playing time at the hot corner could allow him to develop into a something approaching a passable defender (which I actually think is possible, believe it or not).
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Trumbo’s offensive production this year, it leave Mike Scioscia in an unenviable position. With the risk of Trumbo essentially being the same player he was last season, Scioscia can’t just forget about Alberto Callaspo who completely and totally fails to excite the fanbase, but was a perfectly decent third baseman for the Halos last season. If Alberto doesn’t play, he’ll just whither away on the bench and be useless in the event that Trumbo fails to improve at all. That’s why Scioscia needs to hedge his bets and keep Trumbo on the bench more than anyone would like, Scioscia included. The fact of the matter is that the Trumbo Scioscia knows is the one that posted a .327 wOBA and the Callaspo that Scioscia knows is the one that posted a .330 wOBA. Even a stat-o-phobe like Scioscia knows that common sense is to play the guy with the higher wOBA that can actually play defense.
This is the part where you are probably screaming at the computer screen to take my wOBA and shove because, but, like, Trumbombs, dude! To that I respond, “yeah, OK, fine.” The only reason why that nonsense is even a remotely valid argument is because the Angels offense is in the crapper right now. Trumbo of 2011 may not actually be of much help in that regard, but the Trumbo that we have seen so far in 2012 most definitely could. So, sure, Scioscia should probably give it more of a shot than he has lately just to see if the Trumbomber can’t give the lineup some life. He just needs to hope that Trumbo doesn’t kill them on defense in the process. That doesn’t mean making Trumbo an everyday player, but definitely not disappearing him to the bench for all but a game or two in a week.