Mike Trout had a season that nobody has ever had before, with a buffet of home runs and stolen bases and runs and home run-robbing catches. This is why a majority of talent evaluators already believe he is the best player in the game.
If you wanted to find a blemish -- the smallest imperfection -- then it would be in his strikeout total of last year, 139. To be clear: Nobody complained about that, or criticized him for it. But Trout has mentioned to reporters that he'd like to reduce that rate of strikeouts this year. Jerry Dipoto, the Angels' general manager, marveled over the phone Wednesday about Trout's swing -- a quick path, so simple, with maximum efficiency -- and in the conversation, he mentioned Paul Molitor's famous swing as a similar example.
It's almost logical that Trout had a lot of strikeouts, Dipoto said, because he goes so deep into counts. As a rookie, Trout averaged 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, a staggering average for a player so young, and he seemed to glean a lot of information from what he saw in all those pitches. From plate appearance to plate appearance, Trout got more and more dangerous, and much less likely to strike out. This was Trout against a starting pitcher from his first plate appearance in a game through his fourth in 2012:
1st : .860 OPS 7 walks 35 strikeouts
2nd: 1.042 OPS 10 walks 25 strikeouts
3rd: 1.198 OPS 17 walks 17 strikeouts
4th: 1.244 OPS 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
If Trout determines he wants to reduce his strikeouts, Dipoto said, sounding as if he was chuckling, "I know he'll get better."
Joey Votto mentioned this spring that he thinks Trout is basically slump-proof because of that swing, and one longtime scout offered this addendum Wednesday: "He's slump proof because he runs so well," said the scout. "I don't think an 0-for-20 is possible with him, because if he puts the ball in play, he's going to get his hits."
The scout went through the adjustments that Trout makes, and he too chuckled about Trout's effort to improve his walk/strikeout ratio. "I love watching the guy play," he said. "I think I should wear a Trout jersey to the field."
Around the league• I watched a lot of the Braves' win over the Phillies Wednesday, and I'd say this about Roy Halladay -- his fastball was better and had more life than what we saw in spring training. But his command issues continued: He walked hitters and ran deep counts the whole night, and his arm angle remains noticeably lower than what it has been in the past. The feeling of some rival evaluators is that with a lower arm angle, he'll be less effective against left-handed hitters, and his stuff will tend to flatten out. And it became apparent, as his start against the Braves went along, that he is leaning much more heavily on his off-speed stuff right now.
He got a bunch of strikeouts in his short outing -- and he was hit hard, by Justin Upton in particular. Evan Gattis, who was on the podcast Wednesday morning and talked about his unusual journey to the big leagues, hit his first major league homer in his second at-bat.
Halladay told reporters after the game: "I'm going to fix it." He looks like a pitcher trying to reinvent himself, writes David Murphy.
• The Diamondbacks outran the Cardinals in a marathon that ended past midnight in Arizona, as Derrick Goold writes. From his story:
Cliff Pennington walked it off, in the end.
[Mitchell] Boggs, filling in for Jason Motte injured, allowed a hit to the first batter he faced and hit the second batter he faced. That put the Diamondbacks rally in motion. A sacrifice fly by Martin Prado brought home Pennington to tie the game, 9-9, and send it into the 13th inning. Boggs was trying for his first save since July 2011, the last time he had a crack at the closer's role.
"I put myself in a situation that was not ideal and I wasn't able to get out of it," said Boggs, who struck out two in the 13th inning. "It's a one-run game and I put myself in the worst possible situation that I could."
Three times the Cardinals hitters claimed a lead for the relievers before the ninth inning, and each time the bullpen caved. A two-run double by Molina took back the lead in the sixth only to be lost later. Molina's homer in the seventh snapped a 7-7 tie, and that lead too was squandered. Two homers off righty Joe Kelly undermined the middle-inning leads the Cardinals had, and in the eighth [Trevor] Rosenthal wasn't able to blow his fastball past Arizona's No. 3 hitter Aaron Hill. Pitching in back-to-back games for only the third time in his young career as a late-inning flamethrower, Rosenthal allowed three hits in the eighth inning. The one, Hill's RBI single on a fastball, tied the game, 8-8.
• Evan Longoria said something about James Shields the other day, and Shields doesn't understand. Shields felt as though he was a decent leader when he was with the Rays, he tells Marc Topkin.
From Topkin's story:
Longoria said Monday that he felt the two longtime Rays [Shields and B.J. Upton] were still somewhat scarred by the team's rough past and, at times, couldn't get beyond it, and that without them the current team is in "a better mental state" and has better camaraderie.
Shields, who was traded to Kansas City in December, said he didn't know what Longoria was talking about or why the Rays third baseman was talking about him and Upton, who signed with Atlanta.
"I feel like he ought to be worried about his own team," said Shields, a 16th-round pick of the Rays in 2000. "I think Evan is trying to take the (Rays) team on and lead in his own way. It is what it is."
The pitcher said he and Longoria had a solid relationship, adding to his surprise at the comments.
"Evan and I have known each other a long time, we've gone through a lot of good experiences together," Shields said. "Evan's a great player.
I'm sure he'll be a good leader."
• Robinson Cano explained why he fired Scott Boras.
Other agents predict that given Cano's age (30) and the Yankees' need, the deal that he could work out with the Yankees could fall in the range of $175 million over seven years, or perhaps eight years and $200 million. Cano has been shopping for another agent for weeks.
From Ken Davidoff's piece:
Boras, who flew to New York to try to meet with Cano -- his efforts went unrewarded as of late yesterday afternoon, and you could bet on the two men not communicating -- publicly questioned Cano's decision.
"For [Cano] to make such immediate changes means a lot was said to him, a lot was promised and a player sometimes needs time to understand situations when a great amount of new information comes his way," Boras told The Post.
• The Astros are already making history: They have 43 strikeouts in their first 93 at-bats of the season, and became only the fourth team since 1910 to have 15 or more strikeouts in back-to-back nine-inning games.
Most strikeouts in first three games of season (since 1900)
2013 Houston Astros: 43
1966 California Angels: 36
2007 Atlanta Braves: 34
1961 Philadelphia Phillies: 33
Dings and dents
1. Hiroki Kuroda was hurt.
2. Ryan Ludwick could miss more than three months, Dusty Baker said.
3. Casey Kotchman was hurt, in the midst of the Marlins' loss.
4. A blister is not expected to derail Yu Darvish.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Dayan Viciedo isn't anxious about a long-term deal.
2. The Braves aren't going to skip Julio Teheran in their rotation. It makes complete sense for them to build in as much rest for Tim Hudson as possible.
3. The Dodgers decided to cut Kevin Gregg.
1. Confusion took down the Tigers.
2. Ervin Santana gave up the long ball.
3. Mark Reynolds was The Man for the Indians.
4. Jake Peavy had his good stuff, again.
5. Milwaukee didn't get contributions from all parts of its roster.
6. The Twins staged a comeback, as Mike Berardino writes.
7. The Toronto bullpen gave it up.
8. The Rockies won their first series of the year.
9. Tim Lincecum won a very strange outing, in which he walked seven in five innings.
10. Jed Lowrie and the Athletics broke through against the Mariners.
11. Mike Scioscia thought about walking Joey Votto before Votto's game-winning hit.
AL EastMatt Joyce was pummeled, in a good way, after hitting a walkoff homer, and then it turned all Talladega Nights. From Marc Topkin's story:
And once Joyce got done with his onfield interview with Todd Kalas and made it back into the clubhouse, things got even crazier, as the newcomers got to see how the Rays celebrate a win.
The disco ball was spinning, strobe lights flashing, Pitbull's Don't Stop the Party was blaring, then Joyce pulled the cord to light the Captain Morgan light in the corner of the clubhouse.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar pulled out his cellphone to take a video. "First time I saw that," he said.
Kelly Johnson wasn't sure initially what to think.
"You think it's going to end, and it just keeps on going," Johnson said. "It was hilarious. And awkward. I was trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to do. I felt like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, in my first interview."
• Jose Bautista doesn't like mediocrity.
• The Orioles aren't going away this year, says Joe Maddon.
• Chris Davis is off to a scorching start.
• Dan Shaughnessy wonders if the Red Sox will ever lose.
• The relationship between Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley Jr. is evidence of a changing team, writes John Tomase.
• If the Detroit rotation continues to thrive, the bullpen problems won't be as much of an issue, writes Drew Sharp.
• Alexi Ogando helped the Rangers set a strikeout mark.
• Justin Smoak's approach is leading to more walks.
• Joe Saunders struggled in his Seattle debut.
• Jeffrey Loria wants fans to give the Marlins a chance. Just a piece of advice from this corner: Fans don't want to hear from him right now. The only thing that will win over fans is winning.
• The Nationals are perfect so far.
• Matt Harvey has become a symbol of hope for the Mets, and he was outstanding in his first start.
• On a cold night in Pittsburgh, Wandy Rodriguez was dealing.
• Alex Pavlovic writes about Pablo Sandoval's special talent within this piece.
• Clayton Richard is struggling with the long ball, already.
• The Dodgers left a bunch of guys on base.
• The great Dave Anderson writes about Ebbets Field, as it turns 100 years old.
• Kevin Sherrington explains why he thinks Texas fans should cheer for Josh Hamilton.
• Bryce Harper visited the White House.
• Here's a special breakdown of R.A. Dickey's pitches.
• Rollie Fingers is putting a couple of his awards up for auction, writes Don Walker.
And today will be better than yesterday.
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