Setting aside how old it makes me feel to hear that a team employee read Tom Tango’s “The Book” “while growing up,” these two stories — here and here — from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post is a fascinating peek into how the Washington Nationals — a team always characterized as “scouting-first” use advanced metrics and analytics in their baseball operations department.
Shock of shocks: they use scouting and sabermetrics. It’s almost as if those two things can work together rather than be the zero-sum game some old school columnists would have you believe.
Sad part, though: the analyst intern Kilgore talks with says that, while they like to see third party predictive analysis and thus look at a lot of websites like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, there is no mention whatsoever of the Nationals reading HardballTalk’s Best Shape of His Life reporting. I mean, what else do you need to know about how a guy is gonna do? Call me, dudes. I’ll totally hip you to that area of analysis.
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.