OAKLAND — Mike Trout still ranked seventh in the American League in on-base percentage, still sported the third-highest slugging percentage in the Junior Circuit and still managed to rank second among AL position players in Wins Above Replacement heading into Sunday’s series finale against the A’s, numbers that are making him a premium AL MVP Award candidate for a third straight season.
But the strikeouts are high, even higher than they were over the last two seasons, and it makes you wonder how productive the Angels’ superstar center fielder would be if he could find a way to cut them down.
It’s something Don Baylor has wondered himself.
“If his strikeouts were cut in half, he’d be leading the league in hitting, no doubt,” the Angels’ hitting coach said. “Hopefully he’ll learn from that.”
Trout’s slash line stood at a very solid .287/.373/.555 entering play Sunday, despite a .229 batting average in the second half and a three-strikeout performance on Saturday. But the 23-year-old had already struck out a career-high 143 times, which is second only to Orioles first baseman Chris Davis for the AL lead and is already seven more than last season’s total.
Baylor called the strikeouts “really alarming.”
“I played with Bobby Bonds over the years; he struck out a lot,” Baylor said. “I played with [Dave] Kingman over here, he struck out a lot. But they were different guys. They hit 40 homers.”
Trout may very well hit 40 homers one day — he’s got 28 with 34 games left this year — but he also has a lot of speed, and a short, compact swing that doesn’t require much maintenance and is prone to contact. Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought up deep counts when asked about Trout’s strikeout total, alluding to the fact Trout has the third-most plate appearances with two strikes in the Majors.
“Mike works counts,” Scioscia said. “When you’re working counts, it’s going to lead to more walks and it’s going to lead, very likely, to the other side, where you’re going to have more strikeouts.”
Scioscia would simply “like for Mike to just play the game he’s played the last three years” because, of course, “he’s doing really well.” Trout is on pace to drive in more than 100 runs and score more than 100 runs, two numbers that are of critical importance to Scioscia.
Does he need to shorten up with two strikes?
“Mike isn’t up there just with a blindfold on, with his head buried in the sand swinging from his butt,” Scioscia said. “He’s trying some things.”
Baylor believes the punchouts are “pitch selection, more than anything.”
“The pitches go up in the strike zone, he goes right up with them, chasing up,” Baylor added. “We’ve been talking about it. We’re going to get it squared away. Hopefully going into the next six weeks, he can change that.”
For some Halos, quake experience was a first
OAKLAND — Angels bench coach Dino Ebel grew up in Barstow, Calif., and experienced countless earthquakes. But few like the one that woke him up at the team hotel in San Francisco at 3:20 a.m. PT on Sunday morning. Ebel, situated in the 22nd floor, felt the building sway, looked out his window, saw other structures rocking and “almost got seasick.”
“It was a bad feeling,” Ebel said. “It was a bad feeling inside me.”
The earthquake that struck the area was a magnitude 6.0, making it the largest in the Bay Area since the one that shook the 1989 World Series, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was six miles southwest of Napa Valley, with a depth of seven miles, and it lasted between 10 and 20 seconds, leaving at least 120 injured.
A handful of Angels slept through it.
Mike Trout was not one of them.
“It woke me up,” Trout said. “I thought it was a lot of wind outside, just messing with the hotel. But then when I looked out, it was pretty calm, and it started shaking a little more.
“I didn’t know what it was. I almost put some jeans on, ran to the lobby.”
But Trout, like all of the Angels players and coaches, was on a high floor, and just had to ride it out. Growing up in the Midwest, third baseman David Freese and setup man Joe Smith experienced several tornadoes. Never an earthquake.
“It was weird,” said Freese, who immediately hopped on Google to find out what happened.
“The building was swaying,” Smith said. “We were going back and forth, I was like, ‘What the [heck]?'”