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Delving deeper into Mark Trumbo at third base

2/29/2012

Angels manager Mike Scioscia had an interesting answer when he was asked how much Mark Trumbo figures to play third base this season, provided Trumbo picks up the position adequately enough this spring not to embarrass himself or hurt the team.

"We're not going to be afraid to put him there, but if you had a guy who was not adequate at a position, you could still play him there if the spray chart gave you a probability that there's not enough action there to cause anything," Scioscia said.

Based on crude analytics, that seems to mean Trumbo is quite likely to play third when Jered Weaver is pitching and doubtful for starts made by Jerome Williams or C.J. Wilson. Especially Wilson.

Two seasons ago, Weaver led the majors in strikeouts and, when batters put the ball in play, it tends to go in the air. Last season, his groundball rate, 32.5 percent, was among the lowest in baseball. It always is, especially for an elite pitcher.

Williams, who throws a sinker and cutter, is reliant on groundballs, 50 percent last season. For Wilson, 49.3 percent of balls put in play were groundballs last season and he has a career high of 59 percent. Ervin Santana and Dan Haren are somewhere in between.

Obviously, that's only half the equation. Are those groundballs going to the left side or the right side of the infield?

It's reasonable to think Santana, who throws the hardest of the Angels starters and will tend to face more left-handed hitters, would get fewer balls hit to third base. Since Wilson is left-handed, he'll face more righties and would figure to get more balls hit to third.

In other words, about the only thing we've established with any certainty is that Trumbo can probably leave his third baseman's mitt on the bench when Wilson pitches, but he'd better have it handy on Weaver's days.