Trout, Trout, Trout (and stuff)

Ebby (holding out his arm): Ebby Calvin Laloosh.

Annie: You need a nickname, honey.

Ebby: I’ve been telling everybody that.

— Bull Durham

Mike Trout needs a nickname. I suppose technically he already has one if you want to go with the charmingly old-fashioned “Millville Meteor,” but that makes him sound like a kid who left the farm in 1933 and, anyway, that’s not the kind of nickname we’re talking about here. Trout needs a daily nickname, one that we use all the time, the way Earvin Johnson became Magic, the way Eldrick Woods became Tiger, the way George Herman Ruth became the Babe.

His name is plain. It’s not a bad name, of course, but “Mike Trout” just doesn’t convey the wonder of the player. It’s hard to express wonder with a simple two-syllable name. The best sports names, it seems to me, tend to be four syllables, usually two syllables apiece (Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Larry Czonka, Ozzie Newsome, Elgin Baylor, etc.) though sometimes grewat ones are one syllable followed by three (John Unitas, Carl Yastrzemski, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Montana). There are plenty of great five syllable names, I mean, Jackie Robinson, Darryl Strawberry, come on. And there are a lot of wonderful three syllable names — Bobby Orr still seems to me the perfect hockey name.

But when you are “Mike Trout,” two quick syllables, name ends almost before it begins, there’s a straightforwardness, a simplicity, it’s good but it just doesn’t match Mike Trout. Two syllables is fine for Jim Brown because his whole game and like was unadorned, candid, unequivocal: “I will run and you will not stop me.” Pete Rose brought some of that same two-syllable heat, head-first dives, intensity, ferocity, but he was often called “Charlie Hustle.”

Trout is too wonderful a player for two syllables. That word: Wonderful. On Wednesday, he homered again — that was his eighth extra base hit in nine games this year. He is slugging .735. He’s great again — and of course he is. Trout’s just 25 years old, and his career WAR is already at 50, which is utterly absurd, almost beyond comprehension. By WAR measurements he has already put up about as much value as Jim Rice and Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford and Lou Brock and Goose Gossage did for their ENTIRE CAREERS.

And even if you do not buy into WAR, do not buy into any single number that tries to capture all that a ballplayer does on the field, you still know that the things Mike Trout does on and around a baseball diamond are mesmerizing and glorious and remind of the greatest players the game has ever seen, the Mantles and Mayses and Aarons and Gehrigs. You still know that he hits for average, and he hits for power, and he steals bases, and he scores runs, and he drives in runs, and he runs down fly balls, and he takes away home runs, and he signs all the autographs, and he hires a skywriter to ask his high school sweetheart to marry him … and he drinks milk, and he helps elderly people cross the street, and he hits home runs that cure sick children … and he halts bank robberies, and he blows out forest fires, and he rescues random cats from trees, and he will gladly reverse the rotation of the earth to go back in time and stop an earthquake.

Come to think of it, Clark Kent is another plain two-syllable name. He needed a nickname too.


Twitter Poll of the Day:

The Baseball Hall of Awesomeness is this idea I’ve been working on … I didn’t feel the need to explain it for the poll. It seems pretty obvious. But since you’re here I’ll tell you the basic idea:

  1. Only people who are living are eligible to be inducted. Many people wondered why Buck O’Neil was on the list. It’s because Buck is gone. He will be in the Hall of Awesomeness but he and others like Dan Quisenberry, Ernie Harwell, Marvin Miller and others are a different category.
  2. You are only eligible if you are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame (winners of Hall of Fame Awards like the Frick and Spink Awards are still eligible).
  3. The qualifications for the Hall of Awesomeness are vague and will remain vague. The only qualification really is that the person must be awesome. What does that mean? We take it on a case-by-case basis. Was Bo Jackson awesome? Yes. He’s in. Was Mark Fidrych awesome? Yes. He’s in. Was the San Diego Chicken awesome? Yes. He’s in. Was Super Joe Charboneau awesome? Yes. He’s in. Was Bowie Kuhn awesome? No. He wouldn’t get in even if he was eligible.

This Random Day in Baseball History

Let’s choose, um, the Chicago White Sox. And let’s go for, uh, this day in 1979.

Ah, Jorge Orta and Alan Bannister. It’s so weird looking back, the Chicago White Sox of that era basically WAS the Cleveland Indians of that era. Same team. They even had the same players. Orta, Bannister, Rusty Torres, all these guys played the Cleveland teams of my youth. Orta got four hits against the Yankees that day including a home run off Luis Tiant (another former Tribesman). Bannister got three hits and homered off of Ken Clay.

And the ChiSox got a complete game from Rich Wortham, who allowed one run and struck out nine. Wortham had an interesting baseball life. He out-dueled Dennis Martinez of Team Nicaragua in the final of the Amateur Baseball World Series. He also led the University of Texas to its first College World Series title in a quarter century, pitching the clinching game.

Wortham was a crazy good pitcher at Texas. He won 50 games, a record for several years. He was drafted numerous times, as players often were in his time, and he made it to the big leagues when he was 24. This game and day I randomly chose, as it turns out, might have the high-mark of Wortham’s career. His nine strikeouts was and would remain a career high. He was, after that game, 2–0 with a 1.10 ERA. He would have a 5.53 ERA for the rest of his injury shortened career.


Statcast™ Thought of the Day

Let’s do a serious breakdown on Statcast™ barrels. There will be a little bit of math, but not too much. Statcast™ barrels are those impossibly hard hit balls — the types of balls that are a hit at least half the time and average a 1.500 slugging percentage. That means these balls hit are usually crushed for doubles or long home runs.

The Statcast™ barrel is determined by two things.

First, there is the exit velocity — how hard the ball is hit. That’s obvious. For a ball to be a barrel it must be hit AT LEAST 98 mph. The key phrase is “at least.” Think about the 98 mph exit velocity as your ante to get into the poker game. You have to hit the ball at least that hard just to have a chance at a barrel.

The second factor is launch angle. For a ball to be barreled, it obviously has to be hit in the air. How high in the air? Well, it depends. At 98 mph, the launch angle window is very small — 26–30 degrees. You can certainly do damage hitting a baseball 98 mph, but you must hit it on just the right line.

But the harder you hit the ball, the wider the barrel window becomes. If you hit a ball 115 mph — which is just about as hard as a major leaguer can hit a baseball — the angle widens significantly so that anything hit between 9 and 50 degrees would constitute a barrel.

The thing I love about the Statcast™ barrel concept is that it’s utterly new and entirely familiar at the same time. Everybody knows that you want to hit the baseball hard. And everybody knows that you want to hit the baseball at the right angle. Ted Williams wrote about this stuff without using the numbers.

Here are some numbers:

Anything below 4 degrees or so is a ground ball.

A 12-degree angle is a perfectly struck line drive and a hit most of the time at almost every speed (within reason).

Here’s Corey Seager with a 12-degree work of art:

A 28-degree angle is the perfect home run angle if you get enough power behind it. Let’s all watch and enjoy Nolan Arenado crushing a 28-degree home run at Wrigley Field.

Anything above 50 degrees or so is a popup and pretty much an automatic out even if you hit the ball hard (those are your “major league pop-ups”). Here is Josh Donaldson hiting a 50-degree ball — he hits this ball very hard, 104 mph, and you can see how far it goes:

And, finally, this would be the ultimate example of a Statcast™ barrel, brought to you courtesy of Aaron Judge, the man that Michael Schur and I have dubbed the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant. This is 115 mph, 28 degree launch angle.

OK, that’s probably enough for now. Lots more on barrels coming.