Within the last ten months since graduation, I have developed a terrible affinity for running. Thisrecent obsession is terrible only due to the fact that my normally pathetic chalky white skin turns Hello Kitty pink around mile seven. Couple that with an inordinate amount of sweating (I call it “glistening”) and grunting, and you have an image of the modern day Mona Lisa that is me while running. It turns out that moisture is not the essence of beauty after all. The benefits of increased lung capacity, cardiovascular endurance and overall improvement of health fall short to the downside of my suddenly Chupacabra-like sex appeal after a grueling run. If you’re walking on the beach side of PCH in Huntington Beach and hear a deafening half pant-half groan coming from behind you, please do not let your child see my face. They will never be the same. There are some things that just cannot be unseen.
What I have noticed about long-distance running, however, is that I need a little push tobe able to complete runs of these lengths. In anticipation for the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach onnSuper Bowl Sunday, I would run one long run (between 9-13 miles) per week. When I would begin to tire, I would think of something, see something, or remember something that distracted me from the pain my body was enduring. With the aid of this push, during training, I would be able to finish these runs at a decent clip from start to finish, void of problems (unless you count my face as a problem, which you should).
When Super Bowl Sunday came around, I felt as though I was ready to dominate. I was far from a Kenyan super runner, although I was no longer that lovable-chunky white kid either. I was a kind-of-lean-and-not-so-mean-running-machine. Somewhere in between Mike Trout and Bengie Molina on the speed scale. Wearing my Tim Tebow t-shirt proudly, I stepped up to the starting line looking to impress all the female runners withmy stretching ability. After repeatedly not being able to reach my hands to my toes, and thus my strategy spectacularly failing, I decided to let my running do the talking. Through ten and a half miles, my running wastalking like an excited teenage Joy Behar. I mean that in the most masculine and not-weird way.
It was at that point, that my body gave up. My body felt like Vladimir Guerrero’s looked after swinging and missing. My feet were stinging, my groins were sore, my calves were tight, and my mind was wandering. I thought that finishing this race would be a near impossibility. However, as I said, in distances of this length, I just needed my extra motivational push to kick in. I didn’t know what form this push would come in, be it a person, a thought, or a sudden physical numbness. At mile eleven and a half, with my optimism dwindling, my Ipod headphones suddenly blasted the unmistakable opening words, “I’m just a bachelor/Looking for a partner/Someone who knows how to ride/Without even falling off.” My kick had arrived! It was not in the form of a motivational do-this-for-your-grandma type of manner, but in the form of Ginuwine’s timeless classic, “Pony.” Saying that I am just a “fan” of this song could be the worst insult anyone could ever say to me. For the readers who do not follow me on Twitter, my about me is “I live my life according to the lyrics of Pony by Ginuwine. Also, I write a little bit for LAANGELSINSIDER.com.” It is these two things, in that order, that Iwant my Twitter followers to know about me; probably why I have so few followers.
Once the song came on, I was able to regain my pace, and push all the pain away for the remaining mile and a half until the finish line. With that Chupacabra sex appeal oozing from every ounce of sweat, and yelling “RIDE MY PONY” at the top of my lungs, I crossed the finish line in a straight sprint at 2:06:38. My parents have never been more proud.
There is no smooth transition from the song “Pony” to whom the rest of this article is about, Mark Trumbo. In fact, there is no smooth transition from that song to anything at all ever invented in the entirehistory of the world. That song stands alone on a dirty pedestal all of its own. But as a “writer,” a transition is necessary, so I’ll give it a go. Apart from the obvious physical, Doppleganger-esque resemblance Ginuwine and Mark Trumbo share, there is really only one thing the two have in common. Mark Trumbo knows that his on the job training to become the next power hitting Angel third baseman, at times, may betough. To succeed, however, Trumbo just needs to find his own extra push. Just something to make his success a little more attainable. His own personal “Pony.” In my opinion, Mark Trumbo needs not look anyfarther than Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and CJ Wilson. The Angels starting rotation can be MarkTrumbo’s Ginuwine. The four workhorses of the Angels staff, can become his own personal workponies. That is how a transition is made.
The Angels starting rotation is so strong, that it makes a first-to-third transition like Trumbo’s easier than a Ginuwine-to-Trumbo transition. I doubt any potential concern of this position switch has to do with how Trumbo can circle under a pop up. Rather, doubters will cite his lack of traditional side to side agility while fielding a ground ball. As the ground ball rate for these starters dictate, especially those of Weaver, Santana, and Haren, this argument is almost completely nullified. A baseball fan would assume that an ideal Trumbo-to-third situation would include him playing the field for the first six or seven innings, with a defensive replacement coming in during late and close games. This is the ideal defensive platoon situation because, including CJ Wilson, Angels starting pitchers on the active roster had a groundball rate of only 41.4%, good for second lowest in the majors in 2011. Stratifying that sample size even further, between the Big Four, Angels pitching have induced ground balls only 41% of the time since 2010, when Wilson became a full time starter. Keep in mind this number is greatly affected by CJ Wilson’s 49.2% clip over that span, as Dan Haren is the next highest at 41.5%. For every 27 hitters, only eleven hitters will hit ground balls. Moreover, if Scioscia elects one of the other third base options to man the hot corner during Wilson’s starts, a ground ball will be struck only ten times per 27 batters. In fact, these four Angels starting pitchers are the only pitchers since 2010 (minimum of 200 innings pitched) to give up more fly balls than ground balls.
Digging deeper into last year’s performances by the Big Four, one can look at how many times a ball was hit to the left side of the infield thanks to the amazing website baseballreference.com. Only 5% of left handed batters Dan Haren faced this year hit a ball the opposite way, while only 10.5% of right handers pulled the ball. These statistics do not differentiate between fly balls, line drives or ground balls, so the percentage of ground balls tothe left side is even lower. For Jered Weaver, the left handed/right handed ratio of balls hit to the left side is13:10. Given Weaver’s extreme fly ball splits, you can expect these percentages to be lower. For Ervin Santana, the ratio is 20/12.5. Once again, because this particular stat from baseballreference.com does not differentiate between the type of ball hit and combining that with the already given fact that Santana does not induce all that many ground balls, that 20% to left handed batters can be misleading. For Wilson, the ratio is 27:16. In conclusion, of the eighty percent of the batters the Angels foursome does not strike out, only about fifteen percent of those batters will hit the ball to the left side of the field. Of those fifteen percent, less than half of those balls will be on the ground. Like I said, these guys are workponies.
Luckily for both the Angels’ offense and Mark Trumbo, these four pitchers have combined for an average of 906 innings pitched over the last two seasons. We will assume that a season is 1458 innings (162 games multiplied by 9 innings) long. Disclaimer: given the events of rain outs and extra-inning games, a season is rarely exactly that length, but for the purposes of this article that will be the number referenced. The potential bullpen of Walden, Downs, Hawkins, Thompson, Isringhausen, Takahashi and Cassevah/Jepsen only need to logabout 552 innings between them. Between them, Takahashi, Walden, Thompson and Isringhausen accrued a ground ball rate below fifty percent last year. Combining their low ground ball rates with their nearly 24% strikeout percentage could potentially mean that Trumbo can take the field during their innings aswell. Last year, those four relievers combined for 229 innings last year, leaving only about 323 innings for apitcher with a higher ground ball to fly ball ratio to take the hill; where Scioscia can elect to play defense over offense.
At the beginning of the offseason, I asked well-respected scout Kevin Goldstein if Trumbo would be able to man the hot corner for the Angels at a “passable” rate. Mr. Goldstein responded with an emphatic “NO” about four times. Valuing his opinion as much as I do, I immediately became skeptical when this Trumbo-to-third movement happened. Being a scout, his opinion is probably stemming from a complete evaluation of Trumbo’s physical “tools” while in the minor leagues. Upon further review of the stats from last year, however, I stand by my statement that CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and Dan Haren can be the 2012 Angels’ Ginuwine to Mark Trumbo. The next time he takes a bad hop off the top of his dome in Spring Training, all he has to do is remember that with his pitching staff, those balls coming his way will be few and far between. Mark Trumbo’s face can rest easy, and I would recommend him thanking his pitching staff by using theexact quote “My saddle’s waiting, come and jump on it.”