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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Mike Trout finally steals a base

By David Schoenfield

Mike Trout hit a two-run game-tying home run in the ninth inning on Tuesday night.

A less dramatic play came in the 11th when Trout reached on an infield single and stole second base -- his first steal of the season. After Albert Pujols was intentionally walked -- yes, the A’s put the winning run on base -- Raul Ibanez and Howie Kendrick grounded out and the A’s won 10-9.

Back in spring training, Trout said he wanted to get back to stealing more bases, after he dropped from 49 in 2012 to 33 in 2013. "I thought my stolen bases were down last year," he said. "I have to take advantage of taking that extra base."

Tuesday’s stolen base was his first attempt of the year. While the lack of stolen bases is certainly frustrating to his fantasy owners, Trout’s baserunning has also been a significant part of his value. Over the past two seasons, Baseball-Reference rates his baserunning -- including stolen bases, caught stealing and advancing on hits or fly balls and so on -- as worth 12.9 runs above the average player. Jacoby Ellsbury, at 10.4, was the only other player above 10 runs.

Another way to examine this is by looking at potential stolen base opportunities. In 2012, he had 246 opportunities when he was on first base or second with the base ahead of him open. He attempted 54 steals (22 percent of the time). In 2013, he had 40 attempts out of 326 opportunities (12 percent). This year, he’s one of out 21.

Is Trout’s speed already declining at age 22? I wouldn’t go that far just yet. In 2012, he did take the extra base (more than one base on a single, more than two on double) 65 percent of the time and that was down to 59 percent in 2013. So far in 2014, that number is at 100 percent.

Trout has hit second and Pujols third in all 14 Angels games and I wonder if Trout has seen the stop sign from Mike Scioscia in order to not force Pujols to take pitches and get down in the count. A similar thing happened last year. Trout spent most of April hitting second in front of Pujols and had just one stolen base through his first 16 games. (A quick Google search didn’t find any revealing quotes from Trout on his lack of steals thus far.)

It could just be that Trout doesn’t like to run as much in April. Of course, when you’re hitting doubles (3), triples (1) and home runs (5) there’s not as much need to steal a bag anyway.