Apparently, the MLB has hacked my computer for their article topics. Right as I was finishing up my first draft on why Mike Trout needs to be at the #2 spot in the lineup for the Angels, this article popped up. Come on guys! I’m just getting started! I liked Lyle’s article, but I’m not sure if I agree with comparing Mike Trout to Jennifer Lawrence. I’m pretty sure Trout would’ve dominated in The Hunger Games with no help whatsoever. Either way, the following is an expansion on my Best Angels Lineup article.
Coming off of an MVP-caliber season, there is no denying Mike Trout’s ability. However, his consideration for the award took a different path than Miguel Cabrera. Trout did it in a way that was more complete than Cabrera’s… with power, average, AND speed. His ability to steal and beat out routine ground balls make’s Mike Trout a more diverse threat than any other player in the league. For this reason, he should bat in the 2 spot for the Angels this year.
I’m basing this argument off of the assumption that we all agree that setting a lineup is purely a situational endeavor. If it wasn’t, every team would just bat their best pure hitters first and work down the line from there. There would be no concept of a clean-up hitter because nobody would assume that anyone could be on base in the first place. Get it?
Now that we all agree, I present to you that putting Trout in the leadoff spot is a waste of the complete threat set that Mike Trout brings to the table almost anywhere at the beginning of the order. Here are the scenarios if Peter Bourjos bats 9, Aybar at 1, Trout at 2, and Pujols at 3.
Potential Inning Lineup #1
Mike Trout’s Advantage: Average, Power and Speed
First Batter: #1 Aybar
Second Batter: #2 Trout
Third Batter: #3: Pujols
I know that Aybar is not the best leadoff guy in baseball, but he’s been getting steadily better since the drop-off after the 2009 season. He hit .312 then but recovered to be close to .300 in 2012. He’ll get on base enough to allow Trout to be effective. Aybar on 1st or 2nd plays in to all of Mike Trout’s abilities.
If Aybar isn’t already at 2nd base via the steal, Trout can hurt opponents in three ways. First, he’s going to hit a decent number of home runs this year, so why not try and have a few more guys on base than last year (Power)? Second, Trout’s short, compact swing is going to translate in to a lot of first-to-thirds for Aybar and maybe even some triples (Average). Third, even if Trout hits a ball to the middle infield, they’ve still got to execute a perfect double play to get him (Speed). Don’t forget Trout can just bunt and challenge the infield as well. Call me sick…I LOVE speed in baseball. Watching Trout leg out a routine grounder is more exciting than a shot to the gap. If this situation happens, then it’s just another guy on base for Albert. Trout can steal from there and away we go.
Another key advantage to Mike Trout batting second is protection. If he hits leadoff with Aybar or Howie behind him, he loses protection. If he hits in front of Albert, you have a protected lineup that runs from 2-5. When on an island, Trout had to make it work all by himself. In this spot, he will see more fastballs. It could be 2013’s Murderer’s Row.
Potential Inning Lineup #2
Mike Trout’s Advantage: Average and Power
First Batter: #9 Bourjos
Second Batter: #1 Aybar
Third Batter: #2 Trout
Most teams don’t have the stacked lineup that the Angels do in 2013. The Angels have at least three guys that could be considered leadoff guys. I’m assuming that Scioscia will put PBJ in the 9 spot as the season goes on. Considering that he’s probably going to be the starting in center field for at least a good portion of the beginning of the season, Peter will get enough AB’s to get in a groove. In situations where he is on base and Aybar is up, it really opens things up from a speed perspective. Both Aybar and Bourjos have batted leadoff enough to be effective, and Trout is not that far off of being a great #3 hitter. He’s got the average and will have a good bit of power as he develops, even if he doesn’t duplicate last year’s totals. Trout will get a lot of RBI’s from this inning lineup. If he is hitting behind a speed guy or two instead of being the speed guy, he’ll get a few more fastballs to tee off on.
Potential Inning Lineup #3
Mike Trout’s Advantage: Speed and Average
First Batter: #2 Trout
Second Batter: #3 Pujols
Third Batter: #4 Hamilton
This inning lineup will feel like the top of the order in many other teams. Trout can use his speed and his solid ball contact to get on base, steal, and allow Albert to do his thing. If Pujols gets on base, the opponent now needs to worry about the Hamilton/Trumbo combination.
Just to be clear, I’m not a huge Trout fanboy (Albert, thank you very much), nor am I the only one that thinks you don’t need to always follow lineup tradition. I am merely pointing out that putting Trout in the #1 spot may not be putting him in the most effective place even if he may get an extra at-bat in a game. There are only a handful of players in the last decade that have such abilities so young. Why not put your potential MVP candidate in a position to be successful no matter where he is in the batting order of an inning?