We have all seen the movie Jurassic Park a gabillion times and can all probably recite the dialog of the scene where Drs. Grant, Sadler and Malcom are taken to the Raptor pen. And Muldoon comes walking up to meet them and gives them the background on what they know about the Velociraptor species.
It begins with -
Muldoon: "They should all be destroyed."
This is, I predict, what Oakland and Seattle and Texas fans will be saying about Mike Trout for years to come.
Then a little bit later we get (paraphrasing as necessary) -
Muldoon: "Originally we bred eight but when [he] came [he] killed all but 2..."
Yes, Trout will eventually force the LA Angels to clear up the outfield logjam permanently.
But, finally to my point, we get to this part -
Ellie Sadler: "The fences are electrified, right?"
Muldoon: "That's right. But [he] never attack the same place twice. [He was] testing the fences for weaknesses, systematically. [He] remembered."
Yes...Mike Trout is testing the fences for weaknesses, and he remembers!
Just get a load of this Splits chart from Baseball Reference:
(This data was collected prior to the 6/8/2012 game.)
It's fuzzy here due to the way SBN is sizing the image upload, but you can click the link directly above the chart to get back to the real data. Basically, this is the chart of data concerning how Trout fares as he contends with the same starting pitcher from his first plate appearance through the next within the same game. I broke the chart into three, more meaningful, sections. The first section (1) is a good collection of similar data against the same pitcher. Section two (2) is the same pitcher still, but the numbers are still far too small to take seriously. Section three (3) is against whomever comes in as a reliever, and Trout would, in this context, pretty much be starting all over with a new pitcher.
Let's just focus on Section one (1):
Notice how, in the green boxed area, that Trout's Plate Appearances and At Bats remain relatively the same between his first, second and third appearances per game. I agree that we are still dealing with smallish numbers by this point in time, but the trend I am going to be pointing to, which is already in progress, MUST mandate a comment!
So move to the blue boxed area. As Trout goes through the game against the same pitcher, his understanding of what the pitcher is throwing, and what the umpire is calling, improves and he tends to draw more walks and strike out less frequently. He remembers!
Look at what this mastering of the pitcher/umpire do to his slash line, in the red boxed area! Every one of those values climbs into the stratosphere!! Compare that to, say, Torii Hunter, somebody who has enjoyed a very good career in baseball. Arguably one of Hunter's finest seasons was 2002. In 2002 Hunter would see his BA run from .290 to .342 in PA's 1 through 3, and his OPS would run from .803 to 1.064. And that Hunter's 4th full season in the majors. Trout has a trending trajectory to trump Torii.
And take a look at what the hell happens in the more Advanced Metrics section, boxed in magenta. Holy crapola. He has an OPS+ that goes from 43 out to 212!
Versus The Masters:
For sake of comparison, let's look at how that trajectory stacks up against some of the best complete years of some of the best hitters in the modern era (where we have such stats):
Take Pete Rose. Please. Rose's best year might have been 1969, and that year saw Rose run his BA from .329 to .381 and his OPS from .842 to 1.008 in PA's 1 through 3.
Rod Carew's best year could have been 1977. He went from .420 to .486 for BA, and from 1.068 to 1.272 for OPS. Interestingly, Carew's numbers for his second appearance relatively tanked (relative for his 1st and 2nd PA, anyway).
Wade Boggs' best year might have been 1987. In that year his run was .364 to .394 for BA and from 1.037 to 1.159 in OPS.
Alex Rodriguez? In 1996, one of his best years, he ran his BA from .364 down to .346, and his OPS went from .950 to 1.077
Ken Griffey, Jr.? In 1997 he would run from .282 up to .371 BA, and from 1.034 up to 1.284 for OPS
Ichiro Suzuki? In 2004 he would run from .347 up to .370 BA, and from .868 down to .842 in OPS. Of these that I am listing, Ichiro is the batter who is relatively the most consistent between PA's.
Manny Ramirez? In 2002 he would run from .340 to .359 BA, and from 1.045 to 1.092 OPS.
These are some of the most fearsome hitters in the recent decades, and using their better offensive seasons. Let's summarize:
Batting Average from 1st Appearance through 3rd Appearance Against Same Pitcher:
|Player||1st AB||3rd AB||+/-|
What jumps right out is the fact that, among all these famous hitters, Trout has the lowest BA in his initial Plate Appearance. He ends up extremely successful later in the game, hence the result of Trout having the greatest improvement factor among these guys. To me, that says that Trout takes a different approach. He doesn't start off completely focused only on hitting the ball. Instead, he is willing to start off testing the fences. He seems to be willing to sacrifice an early PA to study what is happening in order to maximize subsequent success. And, the best part, he ends up remembering! Certainly better than any of these guys.
Now lets look at that same summary approach, but of OPS:
Yes, pretty much the same observation applies here for OPS that applied for BA. However, notice that none of the other players came close to that 1.486 OPS in their 3rd PA! That is monstrous!! The huge part of that growth is in Trout's SLG numbers, going from .303 to 1.000. Not only is Trout making a lot more contact after he has seen the pitcher, but the contact he makes results in far more bases reached. He goes from 1 double to 5, from 0 triples to 2, and from 0 home runs to 3.
Ok, ok, ok. I get it. It is still VERY early in Trout's season to claim anything mathematically conclusive about this information. We are talking about a little over 100 PA's so far. Not completely insignificant but nowhere close to what we need. And we still have a long way to go in 2012 alone. Heaven only knows what happens after that. But I am not trying to project these numbers against a full year, or a full career, or a career best. What I am trying to demonstrate is that Mike Trout, still pretty much an absolute newbie, owns an approach to his offensive opportunities that is markedly different, and far superior, to most of the approaches we have seen from many of the very best hitters of our era.
To date, Mike Trout has taken the approach of the Alpha Velociraptor. He tests the fences for weaknesses. And he remembers! This will be a phenomenon that warrants following from here on out. And think about this: throughout his career Trout will start dealing with the same pitchers over and over again, and the same umpires over and over again. He is already learning that his approach is working very, very well. So he should expect to continue using this approach. If his application of learned experience and applied behavior continue on the trajectory that he has assumed to this point, Mike Trout is going to be a monster! Much more threatening than any mere "six foot turkey".