In all of 2017, Mike Trout went four or more consecutive games without taking a walk three times. Two of those three times were exactly four-game stretches. Yet, four games into this new season, Mike Trout of the unreal 18.5% walk rate last season has yet to draw a single free pass. The same can be said of current table-setter Zack Cozart, who just last season almost doubled his career high for a single season walk rate. In fact, only four walks have been collected by Angels hitters this season.
Obviously, some team has to be leading the league in walks not taken. And obviously, this sample size is too tiny to even be considered small. But despite the Angels having the third most plate appearances so far, they have a 2.5% walk rate. It’s not even as though the team just sucks as their strikeout rate of 14.2% is the second-best in the game.
No, an early look at this new lineup suggests that the philosophy has evolved to put the bat on everything.
The sheer number of hits the Angels have had (tops in the majors at 44) as well as the high average (5th with .282) are evidence enough, but plate discipline statistics make this philosophy even more apparent. The Angels are the third of only four teams with a swing rate of 50% or higher while also being fourth in overall contact rate.
Interestingly, the Giants and Reds, who happen to be the two teams above the Angels in swing rate are 19th and 28th in contact rate. Meanwhile the Royals, Mets, and Pirates, who are the 3 above the Angels in contact rate, are 24th, 15th, and 28th in swing rate. What this means is that nobody has been putting the bat on the ball with anywhere near the frequency that the Angels have been.
You wouldn’t be faulted for believing that this said more about Oakland’s newfound ability to pound the zone... until you noticed that the Angels were also outliers in both contact and swing rate outside the zone.
It’s been working out for the team though. With the seventh highest line drive rate — thanks, Cozart — and some actual power (9th highest SLG), the series ended on a positive note despite concerns over the bullpen. Perhaps the management has decided that the offense is loaded enough that runs will score if the lineup just puts the ball in play; after all, there have been a high number of green lights on 3-ball, non-full counts.
In any case, small sample size or organizational paradigm shift, Oakland pitcher hittability or Angel twitchiness, it’s rather surreal seeing Trout’s OBP not be between 125 and 150 points higher than his batting average.