Mark Trumbo and Timing


I am not a Major League scout. I am not a Minor League scout. I am not a scout of any kind, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And since that qualifies me as a genius, I am going to weigh in on Mark Trumbo‘s slump, again. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about where Mark Trumbo was not hitting the baseball and opined that he was back to swinging at anything and everything, a habit that hindered him through much of last year. What I hadn’t looked at was, can you see if his timing is off? Thank the heavens we have the internet and search tools right?

This post was born out of a twitter conversation combined with a Fangraphs article that showed Trumbo using two different timing mechanisms during the load up phase of his swing. first; the toe tap. Mark has used the toe tap almost exclusively all year and was his main timing mechanism last year as well. Second; the high leg lift. Mark used this during the Home Run Derby as well as for a short time in August, probably as a way of trying to break this horrid slump he has been in. I think the problem is not which mechanism he is using, it’s when he starts it.

Exhibit A: Mark Trumbo homering against Matt Cain on June 18th.

That’s pretty isn’t it? Matt Cain made a mistake middle-in, and Trumbo wrecked it to right center field.

Exhibit B: Mark Trumbo homering against Aaron Cook on August 21st.

What. A. Bomb. At the time, I was so impressed by it that I wrote a piece just about that home run. Looking at it now, I may have been a little naive in being so head over heels about it.

Let’s break this down. First; here’s the pitch FX for those two pitches.

To the left is the pitch that Trumbo sent into orbit against Aaron Cook. It shows as a slider, but it registered at 91 MPH on the radar. If Aaron Cook throws a 91MPH slider, he should be a lot better than Aaron Cook.

Next is the line drive home run that Mark hit off of Matt Cain. This pitch was a 92 MPH fastball, a rare mistake from Cain that Mark didn’t miss.

Not a lot of difference between the two right? Cain’s pitch is roughly six inches higher, but other than that it is basically the same pitch, in the same spot, with the same result. That should close this case right? Two mistake pitches that Mark Trumbo hit a very very long way. But then of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if that was it.

To the right is the point of contact on the Aaron Cook pitch.

Next is the point of contact on the Matt Cain pitch.
(click on the images to enlarge)

Notice anything yet? Look at his back leg and how much more bent it is on the Aaron Cook pitch than on the Matt Cain pitch. I see that as a sure fire sign that a hitter is lunging instead of keeping his weight back so he can get better leverage with his swing. It could be that the difference in the camera angel is enough to make his knee look more bent, but his slumping suggests otherwise.

The way Trumbo finished differently was the selling point for me. Against Cook he has that tell-tale tilt that a hitter is way out in front of a pitch. Against Cain, he finishes tall, with his torso tilted slightly back. Indicating that he let the ball get deep in the zone. If this had been a swing on a curveball against a fastball, there would be no discussion. But, these pitches only had a difference of one MPH, and were in nearly the exact same location.

His does Mark fix this? When I played, if I found myself getting out in from of pitches, I would whisper a word to myself. Something short. It would give me that small bit of time to wait that fraction of a second longer before loading up. Does the Home Run Derby have something to do with this? Very very possible. Mark went from the toe tap to the high leg lift for the Derby and could've very easily thrown off his timing.

How Trumbo and hitting coach Jim Eppard have missed this is a mystery to me. But to be fair, it's been a month and a half and none of us really caught it either.