It didn't seem possible for a player to have a breakout season and a concerning decline all in the same year, yet Mark Trumbo found a way to pull it off. Will the Trumbo of 2013 be more like the Trumbo of the first half that made the All-Star Game or the Trumbo of the second half that lost playing time to Vernon Wells?
2012 Stats: 586 PA, .268 AVG, .317 OBP, .491 SLG, 66 R, 32 HR, 95 RBI, 4 SB, 5 CS, 153 K, .346 wOBA, 126 OPS+, 2.4 fWAR
2013 ZiPS Projections: 596 PA, .263 AVG, .310 OBP, .481 SLG, 67 R, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 6 SB, 5 CS, 144 K, .337 wOBA, 119 OPS+, 1.8 fWAR
2013 Bill James Projections: 584 PA, .266 AVG, .315 OBP, .495 SLG, 71 R, 31 HR, 98 RBI, 5 SB, 3 CS, 130 K, .344 wOBA
2013 CAIRO Projections: 586 PA, .258 AVG, .312 OBP, .467 SLG, 66 R, 28 HR, 95 RBI, 6 SB, 4 CS, 135 K, .335 wOBA
2013 MWAH Projections*: 580 PA, .262 AVG, .314 OBP, .484 SLG, 70 R, 31 HR, 84 RBI, 5 SB, 3 CS, 140 K, .345 wOBA
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate)
2012 in Objective Review:
For the first half of the 2012 season, Mark Trumbo looked like he was going to blossom into a legitimate star in the league. Despite initially starting the season as a part-time utility player, Trumbo simply hit too well for Mike Scioscia (or Jerry Dipoto, depending on which rumors you believe) to justify not having him in the lineup everyday. His experiment as a third baseman was an epic failure, but the Angels managed to find room for him in the outfield and were rewarded with a .965 OPS in the first half from Mark who in turn was rewarded with an All-Star Game selection and a spot in the Home Run Derby.
The second half was a completely different story, however. Be it the post-Derby slump so many experience or a side effect of a dislocated rib suffered in July, Trumbo bottomed out. His much improved plate discipline went out the window and he began striking out at an alarming rate while posting a horrific .552 OPS the final two months of the season. Things got so bad by the end of the year that Trumbo found himself back where he started, in a part-time role ceding at-bats to Vernon Wells of all people.
2012 in Revisionist History:
Trumbo was amazing in the first half of the season, but a big part of that was a totally unsustainable first two months of the season where his BABIP was nearly .400. His .260/.313/.587 slash line in June though seemed like a much more representative sample of the level of performance he could sustain, which I think everyone can live with.
His 22 first half dingers got him the most attention but the most impressive part of his evolution was the plate discipline that he magically developed over the off-season. Trumbo was an out machine in 2011, but he worked hard to be more selective at the plate last season and propped his walk rate to 7.0% in the first half, which is nothing special, but enough for him to carry an acceptable OBP and move into the middle of the order.
The problem is that almost all of his good work went out the window the final two months of the season for some reason. It all seemed to start with his rib/back injury and then just snowballed from there. His walk rate in the second half was 5.1%, which is still better than his 2011 number, but he began striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances having apparently fallen back into his bad habits of swinging at everything and struggling to identify breaking balls.
Three Lingering Questions for 2013:
1) How much of Trumbo's second half struggles were related to the rib/back injury he suffered?
That's the million dollar question, isn't it? His decline seemed to coincide exactly with his injury, but it lasted so long, beyond a point where the team was claiming the injury was an issue, that it is possible that it never did affect him. It is also possible that Trumbo is just a gamer and didn't mention the injury anymore because he didn't want to have an excuse, even though it would be a perfectly valid one.
2) Can he adjust to being a full-time DH?
Well, kind of full-time. The odds are that he will probably play the field once or twice a week to give guys a semi-day off by letting them DH instead. I personally don't get why moving to DH is considered to be a big deal, but the Angels beat reporters and Trumbo have talked about it enough to lead me to believe that it is at least something that Mark is worried about. The good news is that he seems to be planning ahead for this move and doing a lot of prep work to get acclimated to his new role.
3) Was his temporarily improved plate discipline a mirage?
Trumbo got a lot of credit for improving his plate discipline last season, but it seems like a lot of that stemmed from one good month. April was the only month of the season where his walk rate was over 7%, once you remove intentional walks. What he did do though was swing a lot less, especially at pitches outside of the zone. The caveat there though is that his swinging strike rate actually went up, while his contact rate was down a whopping 6% overall and down 11% out of the zone. So, basically he swung at less bad pitches, but missed more of the ones he did swing at, which is progress of some sort I suppose.
Three Irrelevant Questions for 2013:
1) How embarrassed am I that I actually though Trumbo was going to pull off the move to third last season?
Incredibly embarrassed, but not so embarrassed that I won't remind everyone of what an idiotic prediction that was.
2) How embarrassed are the Angels that the even tried to move Trumbo to third last season?
I suppose they deserve some points for creativity, but that really was an incredibly dumb idea in retrospect. There is a reason that they didn't even think about revisiting that plan this off-season.
3) Can we have the Mark Trumbo parody account on Twitter erased from the planet
Because if we can, that would be great. Death to parody accounts.
2013 in Subjective Projection:
I was a the number on proponent of trading Trumbo last off-season, but I take all that back now. I have been converted to the Trumbo camp after seeing how he is able to dedicate himself to refining his craft like he did with his improved plate discipline. It is perhaps for that reason that I think his second half slump was an anomaly caused by his injury.
I'm no hitting coach, but Trumbo looked to me like a guy who was trying to compensate for the pain in his side by cheating. He swung at everything because he was guessing at the plate instead of reacting, which he couldn't do because of the injury. That would also explain why he didn't drive the ball much either since his impaired swing just wasn't able to generate his normal power in the event he did guess right. He never owned up to this being the case, nor did the team, so I'm taking this one on faith.
What I really like though is that it looks like Mark's plate coverage vastly improved with his new approach. To demonstrate, here is his 2011 heat chart by True Average:
And now here is his 2012 heat chart:
You'll notice that there is a hell of a lot more red inside the zone in 2012 as opposed to a smattering of purple all over like in 2011. Mark was hitting pitches well inside and outside in 2012 whereas most of his success came on the inner half in 2011. That is a huge step forward for him and one that should serve him well if he could maintain it. That, of course is the question. For the sake of not having another giant chart, I will exclude the heat map for the second of 2012, but basically everything on that map is blue except for the are below the belt and on the inner half. Again, I'm taking it on faith that his second half was tainted by his injury.
If I'm right, Trumbo probably won't quite approach All-Star level again, but he should be pretty good and capable of holding down the fifth spot in the order. If I'm wrong, well, get ready for a whole lot more Vernon Wells.