Mark Trumbo is all about distance. The middle-of-the-order Oriole (and erstwhile Angel, D-Back and Mariner) has averaged 29 home runs in his four uninterrupted seasons. Many have been bombs. He has a 475-footer to his credit and 17 of last year’s 22 blasts carried 400 feet or more. His three this year have gone 412, 415 and 428, respectively.
One thing he’s not is a high-on-base guy. A notorious free-swinger, Trumbo has a career 6.5% walk rate and a .302 OBP to go with his .258 batting average and .460 slugging percentage. It’s not that he wouldn’t like to reach base at a healthier clip. His skill set is simply that of a slugger.
Trumbo — hitting .389/.421/.667 on the young season— talked about his game when Baltimore visited Fenway Park earlier this week.
Trumbo on maturing as a hitter: “I’d like to think I’ve gotten better in a lot of areas. I’ve had one injury-plagued year (2014) — I played half a season — but I was still on pace to drive in over 100 runs. But as far as managing the count and picking spots — being an overall smarter hitter — I’m more advanced than I was my first two or three years in Anaheim.
“It’s been more reps. It’s been seeing the pitchers and gaining information. It’s about having a good memory. If you expand your zone once, you’re probably going to be a bit ticked off, but hopefully you can remember it down the road and not make the same mistake, two, three, four times.
“Your game plan is really important. You get rewarded for having a good approach. That approach can come from experience, seeing more pitches, having success in certain situations and remembering what you did. And sometimes you just see the ball better than you do at other times.”
On plate discipline: “I’m not [disciplined enough] in a lot of people’s eyes, but that’s the way I’m most efficient. I’ve tried both. I’ve tried to be a high-walk guy, and that version of me is not even a major-league-caliber player. I have opinions on plate discipline, and the best version of me is the one that’s aggressive. If I swing at a few pitches out of the zone, so be it.
“I especially try to limit the amount of balls I chase that are down. The ones I tend to go after more often are the balls that are up, especially if they’re offspeed pitches. Those balls can go a long way.
“I’d love it if I had the ability that Paul Goldschmidt, or Joey Votto, has to control the strike zone. That’s just not one of the natural abilities I possess. I’ve asked quite a few people who are high-walk guys — guys with great plate discipline — and often times they can’t put into words how they do it. I’ve also talked to some people who can. They take calculated risks at times. In their minds, if the matchup isn’t in their favor, they might take quite a few pitches in hope they can draw a walk. They think that’s the highest-percentage play as far as getting on base.”
On hitting coaches: “You’re going to get different messages wherever you go. That’s just kind of the luck of the draw. I’ve been with quality people — I’ve learned something from all of them — but the reality is that I’ve jelled with some hitting coaches better than others. It’s a product of personalities.
“You always try to maximize your relationship with the person you’re working with. You try to explain to them what makes you tick — the things you know to be true with your swing — and hopefully they can be that second set of eyes for you.”
On strikeouts and clearing fences: “It’s cool [to hit long home runs]. But it’s also cool when they [barely clear the fence]. If you’re in a good position to hit and give yourself a chance to drive the ball in the air… the biggest thing is in the air, because that’s where the real damage is done. The ones that go slightly over the fence are probably misses. They’re still a byproduct of doing a lot of things right.
“As long as they’re in reason, [strikeouts] don’t bother me. I think 20-25% is kind of the norm. Obviously, you don’t ever want to strike out. But if you start dwelling on them and fearing them, that’s when they get out of hand.
“I’ve always tried to maximize my power. I’ve gone through stretches where I’ve been a little bit better. If I’m in the lineup every day, having consistent at bats and not being platooned or changing positions all the time, is when I’m at my best.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.