I listen to Rihanna.  I’m just going to throw that out there.  It’s cool though, I have sisters—and I’m using them as my excuse.  They are also my excuses for why I think insects are icky (umm GROSS) and why my eyebrows are perfect.  But that’s beside the point.  I listen to Rihanna and I’ve comfortable enough saying that behind a computer screen to you. 

                I shamelessly confess my love for Ri Ri to introduce an audience of, from what I’ve gathered, non-Rihanna-ers my favorite song of hers, called Complicated.  I apologize for the expletive, but her filthy verbage is just something us members of the Rihanna-Navy have come to accept. 

                Now, I have never been one to judge a book by its cover, but Mark Daniel Trumbo does not appear to be a guy who voluntarily listens to Rihanna.  While he spends his time banging his head to Thrice and the likes, my beloved Barbadian beauty probably goes ignored.  TRAVESTY, I tell you.  

                But, in my head, and thankfully my head only, is where Rihanna and Mark Trumbo’s worlds collide.  Mark Trumbo as a baseball player is complicated.  For this reason, I have entitled the rest of this poorly related blog:

“Dammit Mark Trumbo, Rihanna Wants To Know Why You Are So Complicated”

                A twelve word title and it’s not a syllable too long. It is impossible to evaluate Mark Trumbo without realizing how truly of a frustrating and complicated individual he is.  He’s just “not easy to love.”

“Sometimes I wanna hug you, sometimes I wanna push you away.”  After a huggable .306/.358/.608 first 77 games, he followed it up with a clunker of a second half posting just a .227/.271/.359 in his final 67.  Just when we thought we had found a 35 homerun, .300 hitting slugger shuffled away in our minor leagues, he pulls the plug and struggles to Mathisian proportions. 

A team can tolerate and withstand a prolonged slump from a big time slugger if he is contributing in other ways.  When Pujols initially struggled at the dish in his transition to the Angels, he was still playing superb, Gold Glove caliber defense at first base.  Here lies another problem with Trumbo.  On defense, he takes the line, “Sometimes I catch you, sometimes you get away,” too literally in regards to the baseball.  In 2012, Scioscia tried Trumbo at third base, left field, and right field—even with overwhelmingly negative results.  In 63 innings at third, Trumbo posted a UZR of -2.6, and in 761 outfield innings, Trumbo posted a UZR of -4.3.  The only position Trumbo posted a positive UZR (2.0) was at first base, which is the position where the utilization of UZR is least indicative of actual defensive ability.  Dammit Mark Trumbo, now I want to know why you are so complicated too.

“I’ma stick around just a little while longer, just to make sure that you’re really sure, you like sleeping alone.”  Now, I have no idea about Trumbo’s sleeping habits.  Maybe he likes to sleep alone, maybe he’s a cuddler, or maybe he’s a body pillow type of guy.  If I had the inside scoop on that piece of information I would be jailed on multiple counts of general creepiness.  The Angels, however, have decided to keep him around a little while longer. The Angels made a commitment to Trumbo’s bat when they shipped Kendrys Morales to the hitter’s purgatory that is Safeco Field.  They made a commitment to keep Trumbo out of the field when they didn’t trade Peter Bourjos and signed megastar Josh Hamilton to replace Torii Hunter in right field.  Trumbo is now the unquestioned, full time designated hitter coming into 2013, so what can the Angels expect?

“Sometimes I wish we could be together forever, but you’re so complicated my heart knows better.” The fan in me, of course, hopes for a resurgent pre-All Star break Trumbo for the entirety of 2013.  Having Trumbo’s mammoth moonballs complementing Trout, Pujols and Hamilton in front of him would be an unfathomably awful experience for opposing pitchers; and an unfathomably ridiculous amount of fangirl drool from one Angels blogger (this guy).  However, because Trumbo makes everything so complicated, it is probable that the bliss we experienced in the first half shall never be duplicated over the long, grueling haul of an entire 162 game season.  We know better than that, we lived through the good times, rode the Trumbo wave as long as we could, but we know better than to expect that consistently.

                Sometimes I read you, other times where are you on the page.” Replace the word “read” with “see” and “page” with “plate” and you will discover Trumbo’s problem in the second half of 2013: strikeouts.  He’s never going to be a Jamey Carroll type of low strikeout guy, and expecting a player with his power to be so is unreasonable.  Throughout all of 2011 and the first part of 2012, when Trumbo was crushing the ball and hitting lasers all over the field, he controlled his strikeout rate (20.7%).  For comparison, the Human Can of Red Bull himself, Hunter Pence, struck out in 21.1% of plate appearances in 2012.  In terms of strikeouts, the good Mark Trumbo is Hunter Pence plus prodigious power and less all around...ummm…quirkiness.  During his disgusting second half slump, that rate raised up to a gigantic 32%.  That’s Adam “Big Donkey” Dunn territory.  When Trumbo’s bad, he’s a right handed Adam Dunn with significantly less plate discipline without one of the coolest nicknames in the sport.  If he can keep his strikeout rate at that 20.7% that he showed for his first season and a half, he would be an extremely rare hitter.  Of the 148 players who had more than 500 plate appearances last year, only 11 had a strikeout rate of 20.7% or less and an isolated power greater than this (.222).  (Actually, there was 12 players, but AJ stupidface Pierzynski was one of them and I refuse to acknowledge his existence.)  Like Matthew James’ saying for his MLB FanCave video submission, “Save Baseball Save the World,” Mark Trumbo’s success at the plate comes down to this phrase: “Save the Strikeouts Save the Lineup.”

                “Then I say I’m through with you, take my heart from you, and you come running after me and baby I’m back with you.”  I’ll be the first to admit, I wrote Trumbo off after his rookie season.  His sub-.300 OBP and low walk rate in 2011 scared the beejeezus out of me.  I’ve been one of Trumbo’s biggest critics since he became a regular, and probably unfairly critical. It’s been a rocky road.   But the thing that always drives me back to Mark Trumbo, the thing that always makes his game so tantalizing to me, is that enormous power.  I’ve all but given up hope he can demonstrate a significantly improved approach at the plate and draw more walks.  I’m conceding the fact he’s just not that guy and that’s okay.  (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT IN 3…2…1…) I'm not Ryan Gosling either.  But one person he has shown us he can be is a player who can control his strikeouts. 

                Mark Trumbo is a slugger; he can hit the ball 450 feet while snuggling with his body pillow.  He’s not a defender anymore, and that’s only a plus for the Angels.  This is a strange case where Trumbo’s real life value as a non-defender  is more important to his team than his individual value is.  He can be a monster if he controls his whiffs.  An absolute straight-from-that-dark-lagoon monster. 

 Please, Mark Trumbo, don’t be so complicated in 2012.  Do it for me.  Do it for Rihanna.