Mike Trout has achieved a lot for someone who has had only two full seasons in the Major Leagues. He’s led the league in runs twice, and led once each in stolen bases and walks while lapping his competition in terms of WAR. But on Saturday afternoon against the Tigers, Trout achieved something he had never done in 352 career games.
He struck out four times, earning the golden sombrero. Tigers starter Max Scherzer struck out Trout three times and closer Joe Nathan notched the fourth in the top of the ninth. Entering the afternoon, Trout had struck out thrice in a single game 15 times, accounting for a paltry 4.3 percent of his games played.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus isn’t going to get excited about it:
With the 0-for-4 performance, Trout lost his AL lead in OPS, sliding behind Alexei Ramirez, 1.044 to 1.019. Trout, however, still leads the league in slugging percentage, .639 to Ramirez’s .621.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.