I’ve had something of an obsession. I feel like it’s an understandable one, but that’s the way everyone feels about his/her own obsessions, so let me explain a little bit. Mike Trout’s the best player in baseball, right? I mean, even if you don’t think he’s No. 1, he’s one of the top two or four or five. And he’s probably been No. 1. He’s done silly things to our WAR statistic. Trout makes people think about Mickey Mantle, and not in a way where it’s like, “Mike Trout is good, but he’s no Mickey Mantle.” He might really be the new Mickey Mantle. He’s great. OK. You know that.
Trout’s been amazing, but last year it became apparent he had a weakness. It became increasingly apparent to everyone, and it was ultimately exploited in the playoffs by the Royals. On the off chance you don’t remember what I’m talking about, Trout was incredibly vulnerable against high fastballs, and particularly high, inside fastballs. There was no mystery. Teams would face the best player in baseball, and they knew what they had to do to get him out.
Not that they were able to consistently pull it off. But my obsession was tracking how opponents were pitching to Trout because there was so much to gain from attacking his weakness. He was like an otherwise unbeatable video-game boss with a flashing red rectangle under the chin where he could be felled were he struck just so. Every team had the report, and as more time passed, Trout saw more elevated, inside fastballs. It seemed like something would eventually have to give. Either Trout would make an adjustment, or the major leagues would defeat him and knock him from his perch.
Over the winter, Trout talked from time to time about the hole in his swing. His typical line was that he’d just have to lay off the high-and-tight fastballs, because he said they were usually out of the zone. In reality, a lot of them were in the zone, so Trout’s response was incomplete. He had to know the pitches he’d be seeing, so he had to try to get himself ready for those. And, sure enough, in the early going of the 2015 season, Trout was a high-inside-fastball magnet. Teams hadn’t forgotten what they’d learned the previous summer.
But there’s a funny thing about the best players in baseball. They know how to adjust, especially when they’re young. During the offseason, Trout had a goal. And it became pretty clear early that Trout had fixed his weakness. Gone was the vulnerability. Trout improved his contact against those high, inside fastballs, and he improved his ability to hit them hard. There were loud hits and loud outs. All of them warnings. Trout had adjusted to the adjustment. Which meant it was up to the pitchers again to make an adjustment. How, now, would they work with the league MVP?
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.