Such a proposition should not need much explaining — and even attempting to explain it should not be interesting — but I’ll be darned if an article from Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explaining that very proposition isn’t both illuminating and interesting.
Not so much because of the two players themselves — you know how I feel about both Heyward and Francoeur — but because of what it says about the differences between the baseball mindset (Heyward) and the football mindset (Francoeur). I’ve never really thought too hard about Jeff Francoeur as a football player, but I can’t help but think that my distaste for him as a player has just as much to do with my perceptions of his mentality than they do his performance for my team.
Indeed, Francoeur now plays — badly — for a team I don’t much care for. This should make me happy on some shallow level. It doesn’t though. I’m still just as frustrated at him now as I was when he played for the Braves. And I think it has to do with the temperament issues Bradley hits on in his piece more than anything else.
Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.
But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.
To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).
According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.