Dirk Hayhurst walks a fine line

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I’m an unabashed Dirk Hayhurst fanboy, based on “The Bullpen Gospels.” Of course, the dude still pitches and I couldn’t help but wonder as I was reading his book how his writing goes over with teammates.  Seems it’s a tad touchy, but Hayhurst makes it clear that he isn’t out to burn anyone and everyone pretty much understands one another:

“We talked to him about our concerns and he totally ameliorated our concerns by telling us basically how he was going to go about it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And it’s not about getting anybody, not about writing about anybody in a nonfiction way or being specific.”

Instead, Hayhurst uses an interesting style: making up most names, blurring details and blending characters to create composites (or alleged composites) to provide amusing, entertaining and revealing anecdotes about life in the minors, using them to tell the story of his life (including some deeply personal passages) rather than the team.

Hayhurst is writing a second book and has a contract for a third. Now that he has some major league time under his belt — and hopefully will get more this year — it’s going to be a bit harder for him to blur the lines.  Bill James and Rob Neyer launched a fun little pastime among the baseball geek set with their concept of “tracers” (i.e. going back and fact-checking baseball anecdotes) — and it will be fun to run some tracers on Hayhurst’s future work. At some point he’ll have some fun story about “Donald Prince” that everyone will know is about David Price because Prince/Price had the same line against the Red Sox that evening before the bar brawl, and the game will be up. Which is part of the territory given his increasingly high profile.

I just hope that players today are a little more reasonable than they were back in Jim Bouton’s day, some of whom are still mad at the guy. Which seems nuts given how benign some of Bouton’s revelations seem given the passage of time, but that’s how these things go.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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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.