Vernon Wells returned to Toronto over the weekend for the first time since being traded to the Angels this offseason and took the opportunity to study the Blue Jays’ video library for footage of his prime.
Wells told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that “2006 is the year I’m concentrating on” because “that was the year my average and power were where they should be.”
That season he hit .303 with 32 homers and a .900 OPS. This year Wells is batting .205 with a .611 OPS for by far the worst production of his career, making the Angels’ decision to trade for the 32-year-old and the $81 million remaining on his contract look even worse than it did at the time.
Wells explained that his “mechanics have been out of whack at different times” and was very productive last season, but it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time his performance has declined sharply. He followed up that excellent 2006 season by hitting just .245 with a .706 OPS and then hit .260 with a .711 OPS in 2009.
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.