Mike Trout is better than everyone at everything, even failure.
Sometime soon, Mike Trout will again etch his name atop one of those through age 20-something leaderboards—swallowing up another distinction like baseball prodigy kudzu. This one, though, isn’t going on his eventual Hall of Fame plaque. He’s seven strikeouts away from racking up his 856th K, which would surpass Justin Upton for the most by any hitter through his age-25 season.
Even while posting perhaps the most successful out-of-the-chute baseball career ever, Trout has experienced much failure. The circumstances of his existence—reaching and dominating the majors before his 20th birthday, being the obvious best player on the field, being fast, hitting for power in the 2010s—have conspired in such a way that the strikeouts have piled up despite his rates being below the contemporary league average.
The lion, the fox, the jackal, and the wolf, with the Yankees starring as the lion.
We talk a lot about the fundamental challenges faced by low-payroll or small-market teams trying to compete with the big boys. This goes back to the times of Branch Rickey and Ed Barrow, but it became a fashionable conversation once Moneyballturned baseball inside-out. The A’s might have been the first team to realize that speed was overvalued and that on-base percentage was undervalued, but the Red Sox and Yankees were among the first five, and that closed Oakland’s margin for error fast.
Ever since, MLB has been reenacting the fable of the lion, the fox, the jackal, and the wolf. See, all four animals went hunting together, and they killed a stag. The lion took his place, and he told the others to quarter the kill. They did, cut it up nice and evenly, and then the lion said, “I get one quarter because I’m king, and another because I’m the arbiter, and another because I took part in the chase. Now, who wants to lay a paw on the last quarter?”
Albert Pujols is one of the greatest players of all time, but the Cardinals version and the Angels version have been much different.
As a teenager, I took an annual trip to Arizona with my uncle to watch baseball. It started with going to spring training in March, but later we opted for the Arizona Fall League in November and I came to enjoy those trips even more. There were rarely more than a few hundred people in the stands, and the game results themselves mattered little; it was all about prospects furthering their development. As a young baseball fan who had begun down the path to baseball obsessive, I spent weeks before every trip reading up on prospects so that I’d know who to look for, and could impress my uncle with tidbits about players.
Our last trip to Arizona was in 2000. I was 17 years old and had started reading Baseball Prospectus, Rob Neyer, Baseball America, and old-school Bill James, so I was fully prepared for serious prospect spotting. Three times during our week-long stay we saw Albert Pujols' team. We sat a couple of rows behind the first-base dugout, which gave us an excellent view of the 20-year-old third baseman. I remember my uncle immediately making note of how huge Pujols was for the position. I dumped my prospect notebook, telling him that Pujols was a former 13th-round pick who crushed Single-A to get on the prospect map.
Keynan Middleton vs. Byron Buxton, and the camera angles that showed it.
The Angels and Twins were tied 1-1 after six innings on Thursday night. Jorge Polanco led off the top of the seventh inning with a single, knocking Angels starter (and former Twins prospect) Alex Meyer out of the game. Eddie Rosario greeted rookie reliever Keynan Middleton with a well-struck fly ball to center field, but Shane Robinson made a good read and a rolling catch, sending Polanco back to first base.
On the 10th episode of DFA, Bryan and R.J. reflect on the downgrade in Anaheim from Mike Trout to Eric Young Jr. Across Los Angeles, Brandon Morrow returns to the Dodgers' bullpen, and the guys marvel over the players they didn't know were still in the league. Plus much, much more!
It's Baseball Prospectus's newest podcast: DFA! Host Bryan Grosnick (Baseball Prospectus), co-host R.J. Anderson (CBS Sports), and producer Shawn Brody (Beyond the Box Score, BP Mets) are talking about all the transactions and roster moves that make MLB go. From trades and signings to callups and disabled list stints, DFA is here to provide analysis and commentary on all things baseball.
Consistent greatness in sports is incredibly difficult to achieve. There are off years and injuries and aging and all sorts of other factors conspiring to keep athletes from remaining at the very top of their sport for long stretches. And yet in the rare instances when someone comes along and actually does it, they’re often taken for granted eventually. Michael Jordan won “only” five MVP awards despite most media, fans, and players agreeing that he was the best player for perhaps twice that many seasons, because on some level a fatigue set in. The best player in the world being the best player in the world became monotonous.
Teams have smartened up about sacrifice bunts, but every once in a while managers just can't help themselves.
We don’t really do this kind of thing very much anymore. Saber-slanted baseball writing used to consist largely of criticizing poor strategic choices made by teams, either within games or over the course of a season. We won that war, though. Teams are so much smarter these days that kvetching about a bad sacrifice bunt or intentional walk here or there feels a bit like hosting a Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.
Here’s the thing: it is good to be reminded, now and then, that rabies is still out there. If you pretend the disease has been permanently eliminated, or that it doesn’t pose a real public danger, you end up with anti-vaxxer movements among people who call themselves “dog parents." With that in mind, I want to talk about two bunts laid down last Tuesday night, why they were misguided, and why it matters.
The framing advantage is shrinking, but Martin Maldonado is a perfect fit with the Angels and that isn't an accident.
The en vogue way to play Marco Polo among baseball nerds is to yell “pitch framing!” and listen for “no longer offers a significant edge!”
There isn’t anything wrong with that statement. As a denizen of this generally useful, insightful echo chamber, I’m not disputing the overarching point: The worst (employed) pitch framers are substantially closer to the best pitch framers than they were even three years ago, and the gap might continue to shrink. Gaining a thousand-strike leg up on outwitted competition simply isn’t happening now. It was and is a smart observation, thoroughly borne out by the numbers on a league-wide basis and reinforced by the transparent actions taken when the final bastions of stat-averse talent evaluation fell this offseason.
Is the middle season in a three-year span a baseball sandwich or a baseball hotdog?
For several years now, I have attended a screening of the Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts. This year, the offerings were quite good on the whole―headlined by Pixar’s award-winning Piper―but there was one particularly disappointing nominee, Blind Vaysha. The premise is this: the main character is a girl who sees the past out one eye and the future out the other, but is blind to the present. The film is not subtle, and the ending narration smacks you over the head with the theme while drawing all the conclusions for you.