Angels DH Raul Ibanez joined the 2,000-hit club in a big way in Saturday night’s game against the Mets. With closer Jose Valverde on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning to protect a 6-3 Mets lead, the Angels mounted a two-out rally. David Freese singled, then Erick Aybar walked to bring up the 41-year-old Ibanez. Ibanez took a ball, then took Valverde deep to right-field for a game-tying three-run home run to tie the game at six apiece.
In case you think the scene sounds familiar, you’re right. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS, Valverde (then with the Tigers) served up a game-tying two-run home run to Ibanez (then with the Yankees) to tie the game at four-all. History seems to have repeated itself.
With nine more runs batted in, Ibanez will become the 88th player in baseball history with 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, and 1,200 RBI in his career.
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.