How Trout is surging, Hamilton is slumping

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
9:32
AM ET

Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Mike Trout could join the small group of players to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season: Fred Lynn in 1975 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Since Mike Trout made his debut on April 28th, the Angels are 49-33 – tied with the Yankees for the best record in the AL - and lead the league with a .274 batting average.

Trout is on pace for a historic season, regardless of age:
• If he plays in every game the rest of the season, he’ll play in 139 games. If you project his current totals to 139 games, he would have 54 stolen bases, 28 HR and a .350 BA
• No player in MLB history has finished a season with those numbers
• Even if he regresses slightly or misses some time, no player in MLB history has hit .340 with 20 HR and 40 SB in a single season

Trout has 31 stolen bases, 49 RBI and 112 hits in his first 79 games of the season. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that since RBI became an official stat in 1920, only one other player has reached those numbers in his first 79 games of a season - George Sisler in 1922.

A next-level look at his strengths
What makes Trout stand out as a rookie is his ability to get on base in two-strike counts. His on-base percentage of .346 with two strikes ranks second in the AL behind Elvis Andrus (.361).

Trout’s power comes mostly from his ability to mash off-speed pitches: his .752 slugging percentage against off-speed pitches leads MLB.

Another unique aspect of Trout’s hitting is his ability to hit pitches at his knees or lower. Trout is hitting .407 on pitches located in the bottom third of the zone or lower, which ranks first in the majors. The MLB average is .241 this season.

JOSH HAMILTON'S STRUGGLES
Josh Hamilton is batting just .141 with three HR in July after entering the month batting .319 with 25 HR. His four straight games played without a hit matches the second-longest such streak of his career.
Josh Hamilton
Hamilton

What has changed for Hamilton?

Struggles with pitches away
Hamilton's average and slugging percentage on pitches on the outer third of the plate have seen steep drops since the first two months of the season. He's also missing more of those pitches and striking out more often on them.

Pitchers have noticed, too, based on where they're pitching him.

In April and May, 23 percent of his pitches seen were on the inner third of the zone or further inside, but that has dropped to 17 percent since. 62 percent of his pitches seen in the first two months were on outer third, but that has increased to 66 percent since.

Falling behind in count
Rangers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an article from June 23, "To me, it's what he does after the first strike. His at-bats have not been efficient after one strike in the last couple of weeks. They're quick outs, and consequently you're seeing the strikeouts."

The numbers back up Coolbaugh's observations. After an 0-1 count the last two months, Hamilton is batting .134 and slugging .256. Compare those to his rates in the same situation in the season's first two months: a .272 average and .679 slugging percentage.

Less aggressive early in count
Hamilton’s overall swing rate hasn’t changed, but he is swinging at the first pitch less often. In April and May, he swung at the first pitch 52.7 percent of the time. That number is down to 44.2 in June and July.

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