It seems Mike Trout has been striking out much more frequently this year. Currently his on-base percentage is down 70 points from last year to .363 and his batting average has dropped nearly 50 points to .275. I pulled up the stats from Baseball-Reference.com and it’s true; his strike-out rate has gone from around 20% to 28% this year.
What’s causing this? Victor Rojas, the Angels television play-by-play announcer posited that Trout was taking too many first pitch strikes. Trout certainly increased his plate discipline last year and saw all of his batting numbers increase. But the word seems to be out via scouting reports that Mike likes to take the first pitch. Knowing this allows the pitcher to throw a strike down the middle of the plate and immediately get ahead in the pitch count. Any advantage over Trout is worth taking from the pitcher’s perspective. It will be interesting to see if Trout makes the counter adjustment and starts swinging on first pitch fastballs (as he was willing to do against NY Yankee Mashiro Tanaka).
Just for interest’s sake I took a random look at players Baseball-Reference.com considers to be similar to Trout; Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx and Ken Griffey Jr. None of them ever really had a strike out rate higher than 20%. Miguel Cabrera had a similar strike out rate to Trout at about the same age and then found a way to consistently drop that rate through his prime. Here’s to hoping Trout can do the same.