Andre Ethier is undisputed king of walk-off hits

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As Craig noted in his morning roundup, last night Andre Ethier hit a game-winning grand slam against the Brewers for his 11th walk-off hit since 2008.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index, here’s the walk-off leaderboard during that time:

Andre Ethier     11
Kurt Suzuki       5
Miguel Tejada     5
Alfonso Soriano   4
Jorge Cantu       4
Jose Lopez        4
Kevin Youkilis    4
Mark Ellis        4
Prince Fielder    4
Robinson Cano     4



That’s pretty stunning. Ethier has more walk-off hits than any other two players combined since 2008. He had six last season alone, which is more than anyone else has from 2008-2010, and also had three in 2008 with two already this year.
Ethier is a very good player and off to a spectacular start this season, but obviously much of that walk-off success is due to opportunity. Last night, for instance, Ethier came up in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game. He basically had a walk-off hit served to him on a silver platter and, to his credit, took advantage with a grand slam to dead center.
“I don’t know what it is, for some damn reason I keep getting up there in that situation,” Ethier told the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t figure it out. I don’t know who else has that many opportunities to win games like that. The hairs stand up on your neck a little because you can feel the energy, you can feel the excitement in those situations.”
However, he hasn’t been particularly great in “close and late” situations in general since 2008, hitting .279 with a .486 slugging percentage compared to .294 with a .526 slugging percentage overall. All of which, in a way, makes what Ethier has done even more amazing. “I’ve managed some pretty good players, but the opportunities he’s had and as many times as he’s done it, I don’t remember anybody being as heroic as he’s been,” manager Joe Torre said.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.