04 April 2017

Long Distance Salvation: Mark Trumbo Picks Up Where He Left Off

It’s Monday evening. The sun has set and the last bits of Cracker Jack have been swept up from the grounds behind the iron gates of ballparks that, hours before, had stood open for the first time all year.

Meanwhile, it feels like Mark Trumbo’s home run ball is still in orbit, finishing its majestic arc somewhere above Baltimore Country. The 11th-inning shot provided a Hollywood-ending for those who remained from the sellout crowd of more than 45,000.

It was bittersweet revenge for the Orioles, whose last encounter with the bitter-rival Blue Jays brought their 2016 season to an abrupt conclusion (also, it had to be therapeutic seeing postseason-garden gnome, Zach Britton, get into the game for not one, but two whole innings)

This time around, it was Baltimore who prevailed, behind Trumbo’s historic blast (the first, opening day walk-off in club history), which had the added drama of being delivered with two outs and two strikes.

On the play, the catcher, Russell Martin, had set up his target low and away, with the clear intent being, “let’s see if he’ll chase.” However, pitcher Jason Grilli hung his slider and the rest was history.

The pitch obviously didn’t have the intended result, but was born of sound strategy. Pitches with horizontal movement – namely, sliders and cutters – were the biggest bugaboos for the Orioles’ slugger last season.

Not to be a Debbie Downer on the heels of a nice win (and the fact that he was pretty awesome last year), but if we’re going to nitpick, here’s a truncated breakdown of Trumbo’s 2016 results by pitch type:

Fastballs: .278/.349/.639
Change-ups: .253/.313/.419
Curveballs: .286/.359/.641
Splitters: .200/.273/.500
Sliders: .168/.202/.286
Cutters: .176/.208/.297

These numbers are extrapolated only from at-bats that ended with those specific pitches. In other words, they don’t tell the whole story. Perhaps more telling: they accounted for 84 of his 170 strikeouts (49%), making them by far the most potent weapon used against him.

Trumbo in 2016 against cutters & sliders

Location was also a factor. As the graphic shows, Trumbo struggled with outside breaking stuff. The red in the bottom left indicates he was especially prone to expanding the strike zone on pitches down and away.

Ironically, Trumbo HAS, at times, demonstrated the ability to hit those pitches (.251 AVG against sliders in 2014-15). If he could even split the difference between that and his 2016 performance - or just simply lay off those pitches altogether - it would go a long way towards keeping the opposition honest.

If he doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of practice. Expect to see a steady diet of breaking pitches headed his way this season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tied Joe Rudi for 388th place on the all-time home run list with 179!