If this post took the word “anatomy” used in the headline to its illogical conclusion, it would describe the “anatomy” in terms of the 200-or-so pounds of American male from the great state of New Jersey, consisting mainly of very fast twitch muscle fibers. How sinewy legs fired like pistons as the featured participant of the play in question from yesterday’s Reds/Angels game – a game the Reds went on to win 5-4 – put his team in position to score with his heart, his head, and his physical gifts.
This post won’t really do that. It will instead detail the manner in which Mike Trout, by force of sheer athletic will, stole second base from Shin-Soo Choo in the seventh inning. It will also detail the manner in which Emilio Bonifacio sensed an opportunity and exploited Michael Bourn so badly you’d think Bourn worked at Foxconn, not Progressive Field.
With his team trailing by two runs in the seventh inning, Mike Trout hit a hard line drive single to left-center field. The Reds ersatz center fielder was shaded slightly towards right and had a bit of a run to field the liner as it skipped through the outfield grass. That’s all it took – a split-second you cannot afford to lose against a player like Mike Trout. Simple, really.
The ball was a low rocket to center field, over shortstop with a good amount of oomph behind it. Sam Miller created two lovely gifs when he used this very play to ponder on the effect of Trout’s speed on his power numbers for Baseball Prospectus.
From the moment Shin-Soo Choo appears on screen, chasing down the rolling baseball, he looks like a man against the odds. This screen shot represents, give or take a few frames, when it became clear to everybody except Mike Trout and Shin-Soo Choo that this was an extra base hit in the making – Trout and Choo both realized what was going to happen not long after the crack of the bat.
“The crack of the bat” his hard to pinpoint when using the clumsy MLB.tv dvr slider but the next screen shot shows just how fast the ball travels compared to human beings. It was basically out of the infield before Trout had even left the batters box.
After the ball touches down in the outfield, it was a foot race. If you go back and watch the game (no MLB.com highlight available, sadly) you can see the play from a variety of angles. Pick one of the gifs and watch it over and over and when you are done I need you to tell me if you can find a single thing Shin-Soo Choo did wrong.
He approached it aggressively, spun, and fired a two-hop strike to Brandon Phillips at second base – where Mike Trout stood waiting, well ahead of the tag.
One could argue he was on the wrong side of second base in the first place but I have a hard time finding fault in anything Choo did. While his routes and range in center leave some to be desired, Shin-Soo Choo looked exactly like the fundamentally sound outfielder with the strong throwing arm he is known to be. Mike Trout simply outran the baseball. He ran faster to first base than Choo could chase the ball and Trout ran faster to second than Choo could throw it.
Mike Trout is crazy, stupid fast. When you consider the size of Trout (very large) and his power hitting proclivities, it kind of makes you shake your head.
Emilio Bonifacio is more of the type to stretch a single into a double, to make a daring turn around first base, placing the onus squarely on the shoulders of the outfielder to do something about his advancing an extra 90 feet. His speed is his meal ticket, he doesn’t have 30 home run power to fall back on.
In the sixth inning of a tight game between Bonifacio’s Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Clevelands, Toronto’s second baseman step to the plate. His Jays just regaining the lead through a Colby Rasmus home run, Bonifacio slapped a single up the middle off Cleveland reliever Cody Allen.
Unlike Trout, Bonifacio didn’t have designs on second base from the get-go (though he claims otherwise). Like Trout, Bonifacio never stopped running.
He ran hard out of the box and hard around first base. When he saw a) who was fielding the ball and b) how he fielded it, Bonifacio made an executive decision to try for second base.
Judging by the flat-footed manner in which Michael Bourn played this ball in center field, he wasn’t too concerned with Bonifacio going to second at any time.
The moment the highly-paid outfielder realizes what is going on, it is already too late. Not exactly known for his hose, Bourn has no momentum and is in no position to make a strong throw to second base. So he doesn’t. Michael Bourn throws the ball to the cut-off man, after fielding a soft single to center.
Even though the Jays utility man is not yet in the frame of the second image, he dashed into second base long before Jason Kipnis could catch the throw from Bourn, turn around completely, and throw accurately to second base.
Kipnis didn’t even bother with the last two elements of that chain reaction. Emilio Bonifacio stretched a soft single up the middle into a hustle double without a throw. You don’t see that every day.
Mike Trout outran near-perfect defensive footwork and an on-the-money throw. Not many other players could have pulled that off in that situation. Not many other players would try because Shin-Soo Choo and his highly-regarded throwing arm would have thrown them the hell out.
A good throw has Bonifacio dead to rights. Emilio Bonifacio knew Michael Bourn wasn’t about to supply such a throw, a savvy decision indeed. Two very exciting plays made under similar circumstances by very different players. In both cases, the extra real estate made a difference as both men came around to score, Trout’s run cashing on two straight ground outs and Bonifacio on an error. Pressure on the defense – it isn’t so bad after all.