In a futile attempt to stem the tide of hatred coursing through this particular branch of the internet, it is important we, the hardcore baseball nerd, remember what makes the game interesting beyond entrenched partisan bickering: great players doing great things.
Mike Trout hit a really sweet home run last night. The kind of home run that makes scouts drool and fanbases dream about a bright, bright future – to say nothing of the present.
I worry I’m growing obsessed with home runs. Not just the home runs in general, the great spectacle that they are. The ways in which players hit them fascinates me forever. Watching hitters take good pitches and hit them out of the park makes me shake my head in amazement.
Last night in Anaheim, Mike Trout hit his third home run of the year. The pitch from Bartolo Colon was not a good one, it was a 90 mph fastball above the belt. The pitch was on the inner half of the plate, not a bad pitch to pull for power.
But Mike Trout did not pull this pitch. Mike Trout kept his hands inside the ball and drove it over the fence to the right-field side of straight away center. He hit it a long way with a textbook swing.
Not a lot of major league hitters can “inside out” a pitch up in the zone out to center field. Do you know who does that? Derek Jeter. By no means am I comparing Mike Trout to Derek Jeter but the short follow-through and way that Trout rode this pitch out to other side of center field, that is who I thought of first.
That Mike Trout was able to take this pitch and hit it to that place is very, very impressive. Using ESPN Stats & Info’s Heat Maps, we can see compare how the rest of the league fares with pitches up in the zone hit to center field.
To contrast Trout’s ability to drive out that pitch up in the zone, consider a home run from earlier this year. Trout’s first tater tot of the year, a shot to left center off Kyle Drabek of the Blue Jays came off a pitch thrown well down-and-in, a 93 mph fastball that Drabek placed pretty much right where catcher J.P. Arencibia called for it, unlike the Colon offering that missed so badly.
Maybe I make too much of these displays of power, the ability to hit pitcher’s pitches a long way that I believe separates the mistake crushers from the elite hitters. Perhaps I put too much stock in these displays of incidental skill, assigning more value and believing in how this ability will translate in the future. With Trout (and Bryce Harper earlier this week), suggesting he has the skills to be one of the best players in the league isn’t exactly a stretch, Mike Trout is one of the top prospects in baseball for a reason.
Tools, makeup, all the scouting buzzwords don’t mean much until a player puts it together on the field. I can’t think of a better example of “putting it together on the field” than hitting home runs that immediately bring the name of a 3000 hit sure-fire Hall of Famer to mind.