What Should the Angels Do with Mark Trumbo?


Mark Trumbo is an enigma. A right-handed power hitter who lacks patience and regularly swings wildly at balls outside the strike-zone isn’t the strangest thing that baseball has seen. Yet, that’s just part of it. It’s the way he’s found success being just that type of hitter that is what makes Trumbo sort of an unique conundrum of a baseball player.

Trumbo has hit 61 home runs since the beginning of the 2011 season but has posted a career OBP of just .301. And despite his hacking tendencies, Trumbo has still proven to be valuable. According to Baseball-Reference, Trumbo has been worth just over 7 wins above replacement during that tenure.

The majors have taken notice of this value as well. He’s been an all-star, was the AL rookie of the year runner-up in 2011 and the playoff-bound Pirates were even rumored to be making a move before the trade deadline to try and obtain Trumbo. Not bad for an 18th round draft pick who was described in the 2010 Baseball Prospectus annual as being “slow” and “unathletic” and “lacking in plate discipline.”

Yet despite Trumbo’s success, the descriptions from the 2010 BP annual are still mostly applicable. And even though a recent article described Trumbo’s constant adjustments as a key to him getting better, the numbers don’t necessarily agree.

The only other right-handed hitter since 1912 to hit 61 home runs with an on-base percentage lower than .305 through their age 25 to age 26 season is Ron Kittle. In the following six years Kittle played in the majors, he hit 108 home runs but with a slash of .242/.306/.471. Look familiar?

Trumbo is in just his third full-season in the majors but he seems to be quickly becoming the next Ron Kittle. Trumbo, like Kittle did, strikes out almost 25% of the time (24.5% in his career) and walks little (8.4% career rate). And just like Kittle, Trumbo is a hacker with a strike-zone that rivals the grand canyon.

I mean just look at this:

On top of that, Trumbo’s contact rate has been declining since his break out 2011 season (77.4% in ’11 to 70.9% in ’13). And that’s despite the fact that he’s swinging at a few percentage points less at balls outside the strike-zone (36% this year, 38.1% in ’12).

And then there are those slumps he goes through. Slumps that you have to wonder if he’ll ever get out of.

In the last 65 games (June 1st to August 16th) Mark Trumbo is batting .202/.262/.403. By comparison, Josh Hamilton, who has been getting most of the “slumping” headlines, has posted a similar slash line in that time: .231/.277/.419.

But that’s Trumbo. He will never be the patient and consistent hitter with a spot-on strike-zone that many of us want him to be. He’s a hacker and in his hacking, he’s found success. And it’s important to accept hitters what they are, especially if they succeed with their approach. The question is: do the Angels want that type of player whose prone to prolonged slumps and can’t lay-off a breaking ball nearly a foot off the plate?

Thus far, the Angels have made every indication that they are not willing to part Trumbo. They traded Kendrys Morales in the off-season and put the lumbering Trumbo in the outfield and at the DH spot just to get his plus-power potential into the lineup. When the Pirates reportedly came calling this trade deadline, the Angels held onto him.

The Angels decision to hold onto Trumbo may not be rooted in a belief that he can continue to succeed beyond the odds, though. Trumbo is cheap and becomes arbitration eligible next season for only the first time. He is also under team control through 2017. And currently, the Angels have no one who fits the DH/1B/RF profile in the system to really replace him. Kole Calhoun has only 34 games of minor league ball at first (31 of them coming in Single-A) and in three games at first this year  in the majors, he has already committed 2 errors. While first-base prospect C.J. Cron, the last first-round draft pick the Angels had, is struggling to showcase the hit-tool he was drafted for in Double-A with just 10 home runs and a wOBA of .325.

Which puts the Angels in a tough position: to hold onto Trumbo this off-season and continue to deal with his multi-month slumps, strike-outs and the strike-zone discipline that he lacks or try and trade him. Trumbo has value, but for a team is full of hackers (three Angels are in the top 20 lowest BB% in the MLB), the Angels might be better off shopping the young slugger around and see if they can obtain similar value in a different form.

Otherwise, the Angels and their fans will have to learn to love the Trumbomb.

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Tags: Los Angeles Angels Mark Trumbo MLB Ron Kittle

  • Mkat2

    I love Trumbo & keep wishing/hoping he’d accomplish the effectiveness he so greatly wants. I often make the ‘sign of the cross’ over him (on my TV) when he comes up to Bat. Yesterday, it WORKED & he got one of his powerful home Runs!
    He’s a good, clean cut, serious minded kid!

  • barstowbarney

    For an article driven by statistical analysis, it’s unfortunate that this one starts out with an obsolete statistic. Trumbo’s 61 homers were in 2011 and 2012. He has hit 28 more since then, and is on a pace to hit at least 35 by season’s end. I also find it curious that Mr. Baird totally ignores RBI in his statisically-based commentary. As long as the object of baseball is to score more runs than one’s opponent, there can be no more important stat than RBI. For the third consecutive season, Trumbo is leading the team in RBI, as well as home runs. He’s on pace to exceed 100 this year. When the Angels have someone else on the roster at Trumbo’s pay grade who exceeds him in these categories, maybe then it will be time to ask what they should do with Trumbo. Unless and until that day comes, the answer is obvious: play him every day and count your blessings.

    • Saxon Baird

      RBI is a limited stat that is largely based around things like your position in the lineup and whether other players were able to get into scoring position. The work of RBI is largely done by other players.

    • Saxon Baird
  • losersnotwelcome

    just give him a job at first all season. he will no doubt show everyone how good he can be!

  • http://Beltwayboysports.com BeltwayBoy Sports

    I think Trumbo gets a bad rap from many people and is a better player than he’s made out to be.

    • Saxon Baird

      How so?