10 July 2018

Trumbo, Designated Hitter: Definition of Insanity

Same Thing Year After Year
Mark Trumbo fascinates me.  As he stands out in right field, I sit on the edge of my seat knowing anything can happen.  And, what can happen typically is never anything good.  The possibilities seem endless.  It may take him a whole second to figure out where he should be running.  Where a decent route might be a distance of 50 feet on the ground to cover, he may take a whole 60 or 70 to finally make it to where the balls lands.  If he actually gets to where the ball is, invisible forces sometimes appear to tug at him, leaving him a clear foot or two away from where the ball lands even though he had set up underneath where he thought it would land.

What is clear is that Trumbo is terrible out there.  He may well be one of the worst right fielders in recent play who has appeared out there on a semi-regular basis.  It is something that often defies explanation.  It is something that led to me look deeper into the subject years ago and what I found surprised me. Nay, shocked me.  Indeed Trumbo was terrible in right field, but he was even worse as a designated hitter.  I have revisited this often.

Last Friday, I tweeted an update. Not much has changed since.

You might look at this and think it to be an anomaly.  You might look at this and think, well, maybe that really only captures that excellent 2016 season.  You might look at this and think that there is no way he is actually that worse of a hitter when he sits on the bench for most of the game.

Well, lets look at it season by season since 2015 when he began DHing a decent amount of the time.
as DH as RF
wOBA wRC+ wOBA wRC+
2015 .285 81 .317 98
2016 .335 109 .373 135
2017 .275 66 .374 134
2018 .308 93 .389 149
As a population, players tend to decrease about .014 points in wOBA between the field and designated hitter.  Trumbo's difference of .077 is quite the outlier, but seasonal differences of .032, .038, .099, and .081 begin to shift this from being a wild idea to one where we must consider that Trumbo is on the far end of the designated hitter penalty.  Whatever the field offers him, maybe improved concentration or warmed up muscles, that it enables him to be effectively a completely different player in the field, a player any team would be excited to have on their team.

That said, to the best of my knowledge, teams do not want Mark Trumbo.  He may be a boon in RF, but the idea of such an extreme designated hitter penalty may seem too fantastic to be believed.  Or maybe teams are concerned about what a wretched right fielder would meant to their pitching staff as an extra few pitches here or there and an extra run here or there might cause some cratering, I do not know.

What we do know is that if the field means also first base, that Trumbo would be an All Star quality player.  With Chris Davis exploring the depths of the worst season in the history of baseball, it seems that maybe there is an opportunity to provide Trumbo with more time at first.  However, the Orioles have not done that.  When Davis sits, Trey Mancini takes over first base.

It is somewhat inexplicable.  Trumbo has repeatedly shown that he is unable to be a productive designated hitter.  The team has newfound opportunity with another player's collapse to see if Trumbo could be valuable, which could then translate to shedding salary and welcoming a useful prospect into the franchise.  The Orioles have not taken advantage of this.  They stick to their old ways.

Maybe this repetition of performance is misleading, but generally a repeated line of performance indicates underlying skill.  Similarly, a repeated approach that results in failure is the definition of--well, maybe not insanity--incompetence.

1 comment:

Benjamin Stoehr said...

"The Orioles have not taken advantage of this.  They stick to their old ways."

The story of the franchise in two sentences.