Sunday afternoon, 20-year-old outfielder Mike Trout played a baseball game in Petco Park, which relatively few people have ever done. Sunday afternoon, Trout hit a home run in Petco Park, which nobody has ever done. The ball came off Trout's bat at upwards of 107 miles per hour and it settled in the left-center second deck. This post isn't about Mike Trout's Sunday-afternoon home run. This post is about one of Mike Trout's Sunday afternoon ground balls.
Leading off the top of the tenth, Trout got into a 1-and-2 count against Brad Brach, a Padres reliever you've never heard of who's averaging better than a strikeout an inning. Brach jammed Trout with an inside fastball, and Trout sent a roller to shortstop Everth Cabrera. It was a slow roller, but not too slow a roller -- when the camera switches from the pitch to the defense, your assumption is an out. Here, see for yourself. Trout didn't hit a routine grounder, but he all but hit a routine grounder, and that routine grounder was a single.
Brach didn't do anything wrong; he threw an inside fastball in a good spot and generated a good result. Cabrera didn't do anything wrong; he charged the ball, he transferred it to his throwing hand without a problem and he made a strong and reasonably accurate throw on the move. First baseman Yonder Alonso didn't do anything wrong; he scooped the ball and kept his foot on the base. No Padres player did anything wrong in this sequence, and Mike Trout singled, and shortly stole second.
If you'd like to just stare at Mike Trout the whole time, and really, why wouldn't you:
Keep in mind that Mike Trout is right-handed. We've seen things like this from Ichiro, but Ichiro's left-handed, and he gets himself a running start out of the box. Trout stands in the other box, and where Ichiro's momentum often pulls him toward first, Trout's momentum often pulls him toward third. Here, Trout gets jammed inside and doesn't get moving until the ball's well in play. He singles. In case you were wondering if they made Angels faster than Peter Bourjos, they experimented once. This is the result. They'll never experiment again, because what they made is too powerful to control.
This is a classic case of a guy ignoring a big thing to focus on a little thing. The big thing is a dinger, the little thing is an infield single, and the guy is me. But think about what we have here. Mike Trout is going to hit home runs, and in fact he's slugging .605. Mike Trout is also going to hit infield singles and steal a lot of bases. Mike Trout makes an above-average amount of contact. Mike Trout's wielding a skillset without a weakness. Mike Trout is a video game boss with no spot glowing orange, so you shoot and you shoot and you shoot until it kills you.
I have some fun facts for you. In 2009, Trout spent a good deal of time in the rookie-ball Arizona League. Trout split his 2010 between the Midwest League and the California League. In 2011, Trout moved up to the Texas League. Here are the batting averages on balls in play for those leagues:
Arizona League, 2009: .339 BABIP
Midwest League, 2010: .315
California League, 2010: .328
Texas League, 2010: .310
Trout's also spent a little time in the Pacific Coast League. Over more than 1,300 minor-league trips to the plate, Trout posted a BABIP of .402.
Generally, when a player posts a BABIP so far above the norm, you assume he's gotten lucky. And there's probably a small element of luck in there for Trout. But this is a guy who's always hit the ball really hard, and who's sprinted to first when he hasn't. Trout's minor-league numbers were some parts power and some parts speed. It's a rare combination, and it's carried over into the majors.
Trout's sitting on an .809 OPS in the bigs, and so far this season, he's in the quadruple digits. So, so much has gone wrong for the Angels as a team, but Mike Trout couldn't be going any righter. He's been an absolute terror at the plate, and in the field, he's shown Bourjos' grace, without Bryce Harper's roughness around the edges. Last week, somebody asked me why I wrote about Bryce Harper instead of Mike Trout. The answer was because I'd identified something of statistical interest with Bryce Harper, and not Mike Trout. But here's something of statistical interest with Mike Trout: he's statistically perfect. Not perfect perfect - he's still made outs more than half the time he's batted - but good luck finding a flaw.
Imagine, if you will, a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg. It shouldn't be hard -- a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg exists. Now imagine a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg with greatly reduced injury concerns. Mike Trout has Strasburg-level talent, and with Trout you don't have to worry every two minutes that he might have torn his UCL or damaged his labrum. Two different Angels outfielders injured themselves on Sunday and you never know when Trout might collide with a fence in pursuit of a fly, but Trout runs with such speed that he could go through the fence and the stadium and look up and wonder how he got outside. Trout's an absurdly talented position player, which is sometimes less sexy than an absurdly talented pitcher, but it's a hell of a lot more reliable.
If this were the NHL, the Angels would've signed Trout to a 15-year contract by now. This isn't the NHL, and at the moment, the Angels might be a little leery of contracts extending up to and beyond a decade, but if anyone were worth that kind of contract, it'd be Trout. And Harper. But also Trout. Trout might be less likely than Harper to end up with a baseball embedded in his brains. The reasons one used to worry about Trout had to do with how he was an untested prospect, and you never know with prospects. He isn't a prospect anymore. He's a baseball supervolcano, shaking the shell of the world.
They say that speed never slumps. Mike Trout's got speed. They say that defense never slumps. Mike Trout's got defense. Mike Trout's also got contact, and Mike Trout's also got power. What more could you ask for out of a player? There is, quite literally, nothing else.