Mark Trumbo moved into the starting lineup at first base for the Angels in his rookie season when Kendrys Morales was lost for the season after his second surgery on a broken ankle. Trumbo’s rookie season had plenty of highs, as he led the team in home runs and RBIs, swatting 29 homers and bringing in 89 runs. However, the biggest hole in Trumbo’s game was his ability to get on base. His batting average last season was a pedestrian .254 and his on-base percentage was an anemic .291. The free-swinging Trumbo was high reward, but just as high in failure. Luckily, the Angels have seen this kind of issue before and they have a plan to tighten up their young slugger’s loose swinging ways.
In 2005, the Angels decided Chone Figgins was going to become their full-time leadoff hitter. The only problem was that Figgins’ on-base percentage wasn’t quite where they wanted it to be from their number one spot in the order. So hitting coach Mickey Hatcher came up with a new strategy for Figgins: lay off the soft stuff…and he meant all of it. Hatcher’s plan was to have Figgins let any off-speed pitches pass by, swinging only at fastballs. The result was Figgins’ on-base percentage rising nearly 50 points from 2005 to 2009. Since leaving the Angels and signing with Seattle, Figgins has seen his OBP drop back down, last season seeing it plummet to .241 (he was at .395 his last season with the Angels).
The coaching staff is hoping they can capture lightning in a bottle once again by using the same strategy with Trumbo this spring. The goal is to tighten up his swing boundaries, letting anything too far outside or off-speed pass by. Hatcher is hoping to make Trumbo more selective at the plate, improving on his 25 walks in 573 plate appearances last season and making pitchers throw strikes that he can hit. As Trumbo has shown, if he can hit it, he can jack it. We will begin to see if the lessons are sticking once the Cactus League schedule starts on March 5, and if he can patch this major hole in his game, Trumbo will become an even more dangerous asset for the Angels in 2012.