Mark Trumbo is a thinking-man’s power hitter. The Angels’ first baseman went deep 36 times in Triple-A last season, and this week he homered in consecutive games—his fifth and sixth of the 2011 campaign—at Fenway Park. He also sat down to share some wisdom, offering his interpretations of a dozen quotes, primarily on the subject of hitting.
Mark Trumbo: There are a lot of ways to get there. You don’t necessarily have to look the part or have the prettiest swing to get the job done. I don’t think there is any one way to go about it. At a certain point, with most hitters, we all get to the same position, but there are a lot of ways to get to the finish line.
For me, the art of hitting would be the competition aspect of it. At a certain point, mechanics go out the window and it comes time to battle. That’s where the mental side of things come in. You can worry about mechanics all you want, but if you don’t have a desire to get the job done, I don’t think you’re gong to be very successful.
DL: Ted Williams famously said, “Hitting is 50 percent above the shoulders.”
MT: I think it’s even more than that. Your swing has got to be there and you have to have the mechanical aspects down, but you better have a plan and you better have some fortitude. You’re up there against the best pitchers in the game. If you don’t have that willpower, the right mindset and attitude, you’re not going to go very far.
DL: Yogi Berra asked, “How the hell are you going to think and hit at the same time?”
MT: That’s very true. I think that often times, especially when things aren’t going so well, you start to cloud your head with unproductive thoughts. You start worrying about mechanics, and you start worrying about things you can’t control—the external environment, like what the crowd is saying. It seems like the more locked in I am, the more I’m not thinking about anything at all. I’m just going up there and seeing it and hitting it.
DL: The next one is from Baseball America‘s 2011 Prospect Handbook: “[Trumbo] is still a little too tempted by the high fastball.”
MT: Yeah, and I like hitting it, too. I’m not going to stop swinging at it. That’s part of my game. You can ask Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, and a bunch of other guys who like that pitch. I feel like I can handle that pitch a lot better than the pitch down that’s maybe a ball. For instance, the one last night [a home run off Jon Lester]. If I can get on top of it, I can do some damage with it.
DL: Harmon Killebrew once said, “I don’t have evil intentions, but I guess I do have power.”
MT: My interpretation of that would be that he was blessed with a natural talent and wasn’t necessarily trying to hurt anybody, or hurt anybody’s feelings. He was blessed with something and he was going to use it to his best advantage.
Another thing is that you don’t have to hit the ball 700 feet. Sometimes you don’t have to hit it 10 feet to be a productive hitter. Staying within yourself would be another summarization of that one.
DL: Roberto Clemente said, “I’m more valuable to my team hitting .330 than I am swinging for home runs.”
MT: Absolutely. Ichiro Suzuki comes to mind. From what I’ve heard, he’s got some of the best power in the game, but feels that getting over 200 hits a year is far more valuable to his team. Everybody has their role, and I think that for some guys who hit at the top of the order it’s absolutely more valuable to get more hits than it is to try to hit home runs. If they do the latter, they may miss a lot more pitches and not get on nearly as much.
As for me, I’m a power hitter. My value lies in driving the ball and hitting home runs. I’m never going to give away an at-bat, but I also have a longer swing, so I’m probably going to miss more than guys who have higher contact rates. I’ve learned to accept that. I’m working to get better at it, but at the end of the day, it is what it kind of is.
DL: Reggie Jackson said, “A baseball swing is a very finely-tuned instrument.”
MT: As far as keeping it intact… there’s a lot of work that goes into that. Even the smallest, most-minute adjustment or glitch can affect the whole process of the swing itself. That’s why we do a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that everything is where it needs to be. That’s where video comes in, where coaches come in. You do your best to keep that machine running.
DL: Eddie Mathews once said, “It’s only a hitch when you’re in a slump; when you’re hitting the ball it’s called rhythm.”
MT: Slumps come and they go, and sometimes you can’t explain them. A couple of series ago I was 0-for-20 and I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. I don’t think it was mechanical. Maybe I was pulling off, or maybe my mental approach wasn’t where it needed to be. Those things happen, and the quicker you can see them for what they are, and not dwell on them—realize the next day is a new day and you want to be out there and doing some damage—the quicker you‘re probably going to come out of it.
Everybody needs to smooth things out. For me personally, I maybe get a little pull-happy at times, and my front side might go on me, but I think that happens with almost anybody. You just work to get back to where you need to be.
DL: Bob Lemon said, “I never took the game home with me; I always left it in some bar.”
MT: The bar, the clubhouse, wherever you want to leave it. When you play this many games, against this competition, there are going to be a lot of rough nights. If you take them home with you to your family, or your friends, a lot of problems can come about. When I leave the clubhouse, usually I’m able to separate myself enough to be able to socialize and be a pleasant person to be around.
DL: According to Casey Stengel, “Good pitching will always stop good hitting, and vice versa.”
MT: I believe that good pitching will usually shut down good hitting. It’s evident all around the league. It seems like the top pitchers, no matter who they’re facing, seem to have their way for the most part. They have off days, but the guys who know what they’re doing tend to get the job done on a pretty consistent basis.
At times, good hitters come out on top. It can be the best pitcher in the league, but maybe you see something the other guys don’t. Maybe the ball looks a little bigger to you and you’re able to put some good swings together. But the way I’ve always come up is that pitching and defense wins championships. I firmly believe that if those two things are in place, you’re going to come out looking pretty good.
DL: Toby Harrah opined that, “Statistics are like a girl in a bikini; they show a lot, but not everything.”
MT: I tend to agree with that. I have maybe more of an old-school philosophy on the game and don’t get too wrapped up in some of the newer stats that have come about. They have their merit; there’s a time and place for everything, but for me, if you dwell on that too much—if you worry too much about your numbers—it can take you away from what you’re actually trying to do. That’s where I kind of stand on that. The bikinis are OK, though.
DL: According to Roy Campanella, “You’ve got to be a man to play baseball, but you’ve got to have a lot of little boy in you.”
MT: When you come out here and strap it on you’re toeing the line with some of the best players in the world, so you absolutely have to have some fortitude. You have to have guts, but at the same time you have to take the game for what it is—a game. A lot of times when I’m struggling, and starting to get a bad mindset, I revert back to when I was six or seven years old and just going out there to have fun. At that point there was no pressure, and if you’re able to take that type of mindset into this, you can take a lot of the worry and strain off of yourself.
One thing for me is that I always want a fifth at-bat. Even if I’m 0-for-4, with four strikeouts, I want that fifth at-bat. I always want that next one with a chance to drive a guy in. I never shy away from a chance to succeed. A fear of failure can ruin a player, so I always dwell on the positives. On top of that, it’s fun to hit.