I remember reading an article in spring training that referred to Angels first-base prospect Mark Trumbo as the team's "secret weapon." The Angels were a team searching for offense with Kendrys Morales still stuck on the sidelines, and Trumbo's power, the author said, could prove to be useful. Me, I didn't think much of it at the time; Trumbo was powerful, sure, but he was unproven, and there are lots of powerful hitters in the minor leagues. Given his walks and strikeouts, I didn't think Trumbo had a good enough approach to succeed at the highest level, and I figured he'd disappoint, like so many other Angels prospects who went through Triple-A Salt Lake.
It's August, now, and Trumbo hasn't disappointed, making me out like an idiot. Given a regular job from the get-go, Trumbo struggled a little out of the gate, but he turned it on in the second half of May, coinciding almost perfectly with the Angels' acquisition of Russell Branyan. Branyan was brought in to help Trumbo out, but Trumbo hasn't needed it.
The 25-year-old has a team-leading 22 home runs, which ties him with David Ortiz, Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera. He's slugging .495 on a team where everybody else is slugging .371. He has a 122 OPS+, and if good pitchers have identified the holes in his swing, they haven't taken advantage - Trumbo's been hot for a month and a half, and he's knocked dingers against Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, David Price and Rich Harden. Just a few days ago, he took Felix 471 feet to dead center.
What makes Trumbo's success all the more remarkable to me is that he's doing this well without really developing his approach. I wasn't a big fan of Trumbo's approach coming into the season. Well, he has a .301 OBP. He's offered at more pitches out of the strike zone than almost anybody else in the game. The numbers suggest he's still more aggressive than he ought to be. But the numbers also suggest that he's making it work.
Mark Trumbo has 22 home runs, and 19 walks. That says it all in nine words. And that means he's on pace to finish the season with more homers than walks, which doesn't happen very often. Throughout baseball history, there have been only 99 occasions on which a player hit at least 20 home runs, and walked less often than he left the yard.
So it isn't rare. John Buck did it in 2010. Bengie Molina, Jose Lopez and Miguel Olivo did it in 2009. Alexei Ramirez and Marcus Thames did it in 2008. Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells are also on pace to do it in 2011, and Nelson Cruz has 25 of each. It's not like Trumbo is on the verge of making history.
But just because it isn't extraordinarily rare doesn't mean it isn't weird. Also, one must consider that, of Trumbo's 19 walks, six have been intentional. Trumbo's on pace for 31 homers and 27 walks, but he's on pace for just 18 of those walks to be truly drawn.
Right now, Trumbo has nine more homers than unintentional walks, which ties him for the 44th-biggest difference in baseball history. He's on pace for a gap of 13, which would tie him for the 17th-biggest difference in baseball history. Mark Trumbo likes to swing, and swing hard.
We'll see if this keeps up. With Trumbo hitting for so much power, it wouldn't be a surprise to see pitchers start to work away from him, allowing him to boost his walk rate out of fear. There's a good chance he still finishes with more walks than dingers, like almost everybody else. But there's a good chance he doesn't, too, and I'm always rooting for weird. Mark Trumbo's rookie season has been weird. Weird, and more productive than I ever thought it could be.
The three biggest differences between home runs and (total) walks ever posted:
(1) 1995 Dante Bichette, +18
(2) 1987 Andre Dawson, +17
(3) 2002 Alfonso Soriano, +16
Nobody else has been more than +12. Dawson also drew seven intentional walks that year, while Bichette drew five.
Additionally, Juan Gonzalez is the all-time leader with six career seasons of at least 20 home runs, and more homers than walks. Tony Armas had five, while Dave Kingman had four. Alfonso Soriano is currently gunning for his fourth.