Mark Trumbo hit two more home runs Sunday, his second multi-homer game in five games. While Trumbo’s power has always been his calling card, his improvement this season stems from development in his patience and plate discipline.
Although Trumbo’s 29 home runs in 2011 were tied for 25th in the majors, his walk rate (4.4 percent) ranked 129th among 138 qualified hitters. Only 12 hitters swung more often than Trumbo and only four chased a higher rate of pitches out of the zone. Despite finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, Trumbo was criticized as much for his .291 on-base percentage as he was lauded for his power.
"I thought about it [on-base percentage] a lot this offseason," Trumbo told the Orange County Register earlier this spring. "I think I have a better understanding of the value of getting on base. ... It’s hard not to [think about it] when it’s mentioned in connection with your name all the time."
Trumbo took steps in the offseason to improve his patience and plate discipline and it's paid off. He's hitting .326/.380/.632, the sixth-best OPS in the majors, and huge leap from last year's .254/.291/.477 line.
"My concentration shifted from before where it was basically, 'See it and hit it,'" he said. "I’ve transitioned more into 'boxing' a guy up -- looking for a pitch in a specific zone and if it’s not there, check it off."
This is evident in looking at a heat map of Trumbo’s swings. On the left, we can see Trumbo swung at everything in 2011, whether it was in the zone or not. This year, his swings are clustered more in the zone -- in spots he can drive the ball.
The results have been impressive:
Trumbo ranks third in the majors in slugging (.632).
He’s chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone (37.5 percent this season, 41 last season) which is forcing pitchers to come in the zone more often (51 percent this season, 46 percent last season).
His walk rate this season sits at 7.7 percent, essentially one walk every 13 times he comes to bat; last season he walked once every 23 plate appearances.
He already has three games this season -- including Sunday -- where he drew multiple walks; he had four such games all last season.
Although we’ll likely never confuse him for Kevin Youkilis, Trumbo has answered his critics, improved his approach and become a better all-around hitter. He and the Angels are reaping the benefits.