It’s easy to blame the Angels’ woes on the underperformance of the pitching staff, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols, but there’s always more to the story. ESPN.com’s Mark Simon wrote yesterday about Mike Trout’s poor defensive numbers.
Mark doesn’t draw conclusions from the numbers largely because of the small sample, and notes a few possible reasons for the poorer defensive numbers.
- Jered Weaver’s absence lead to fewer fly balls that stayed in the air long.
- Joe Blanton’s fly balls aren’t in the air for very long. (Insert joke about how they instantly go into the rock pile.)
- Playing with Josh Hamilton in right is very different than playing with Torii Hunter, and Trout may be positioning himself differently to compensate for Hamilton’s inferior/superior defense.
Most defensive metrics have an element of subjectivity to them. While that isn’t ideal, these metrics still have value. It means something that Trout’s numbers are so significantly worse this season.
To paraphrase Bill James, the game we see is not the same game that statistics show us. One scout that Mark talked to wasn’t concerned about Trout’s poor numbers. Conversely, I’ve noted this season that he’s looked uncomfortable a couple times on balls near the wall.
As Mark notes, Trout has yet to rob an opposing hitter of a home run this season; last season he did so four times. I can only remember one play this season that was “close” to robbery. Expecting home runs to be caught is a mistake, but maybe we gave Trout too much credit last season for what turned out to be a small sample size of amazing defense.
This isn’t something we can comfortably draw conclusions about, but it’s worth putting on the table and monitoring. Trout may shift back to left field next week when Peter Bourjos returns, so we may not get another chance to evaluate Trout in center for a while. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on him in left field.