Who does Mike Trout look to when looking to improve as a center fielder?
and his trophy case is a testament to his abilities on the field. Three Most Valuable Player awards, eight All-Star selections, and seven Silver Slugger Awards have already been captured in his first nine seasons.
However, if you talked to Trout today and asked him what the one thing he was missing most of all, it would be a Gold Glove.
Appearing on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney earlier this week, former Angels bench coach Dino Ebel spoke at length about his work with Trout as an outfielder and his desire to get that Gold Glove.
"“The one thing that I still read is that he’s never won a Gold Glove,” said Ebel, “and that’s a chip that Mike has on his shoulder.”"
That’s not to say that Trout is a slouch with the glove, but it is the one area where consistency has escaped him. Over his career, he’s graded out positively in UZR/150 just six times in his nine seasons, and has negative defensive runs saved grades in four seasons. In 2019, he was worth -2 defensive runs saved and -1.2 UZR/150.
So how do the best in the game get better in that one category where he needs improvement? They seek input and those with knowledge look to the best possible examples.
"“We got some stuff upstairs from the analytical department,” said Ebel, “and they were just looking at his first step, and we matched him up with Tampa Bay Kiermaier in centerfield.”"
Kiermaier would be the ideal outfielder to use an example. A three-time Gold Glove winner in center, almost all of Kiermaier’s value as a player is driven by his glove. For his career in center field, he’s been rated with a 14.8 UZR/150 and has 112 defensive runs saved.
Of course, Kiermaier has taken quite a few more bumps and bruises along the way as well, playing with a reckless abandon that the Angels would prefer Mike Trout not to mimic. They’d rather have a healthy, productive hitter in Trout than an injured, highlight-reel grabbing clone of Kiermaier. Still, there are definitely things to glean from his instincts and step in center that Trout could find useful.
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Considering the career path that Trout is already on, the rest of Major League Baseball would likely agree to that as well.