• HE'S A LOW-BALL HITTING MACHINE: "He doesn't necessarily have a weak spot," said Adams, another fellow whose AL West duels with Trout (back in Texas) didn't go so hot. "He's hard to figure out. He's a low-ball hitter, too. And that plays in his favor so much, because pitchers are told to keep the ball down. And that's where he does his most damage. He's also a five-tool guy. He can beat out an infield hit. He can drive the ball. ... Hopefully, you just make a good pitch and he gets himself out. Him and Miguel Cabrera -- they're the two guys you just hope get themselves out."
Since Trout's first full season in 2012, he's hitting .362 with a 1.044 OPS on pitches that can be defined as "down." That ranks No. 1 in the sport. The average hitter has batted .233 with a .656 OPS on those same pitches.
Dempster told another tale, about throwing what he thought was a perfectly located, 1-and-2, down-and-away fastball to Trout, and watching him turn it into a laser-beam triple off the right-center-field fence.
"If you were going to draw a box that you should throw it to, that's where you want to throw it," Dempster said. "But hey, great hitters, that's what they do. They take that pitch, down and away, and what do they do? They line it to right field. Derek Jeter made a career out of that. But Trout, he's driving that pitch. And that's so unique. And not just driving it, like obscenely driving it. It's not just gap power. It's a bomb the other way."
So why don't pitchers just start pitching him up, you ask? Ho-ho-ho. Easy to say. Hard to do.
"Because he doesn't swing at those pitches," Santana said. "So you'd be wasting a pitch. You're trying to make him swing when he's not going to swing."
Now we're not trying to claim this guy is slump-proof. Trout did, in fact, have a three-week period from April 29 to May 19 this year in which he hit .164 with 24 strikeouts and only 11 hits in 86 plate appearances. But then the light bulb flashed right back on, and he hit .387/.477/.766 over the next month and a half. Hey, of course he did.
"His 'really bad' slump lasts three weeks and not three months," said Dempster. "His 'little' slumps last two at-bats, not two days. ... He makes those adjustments, just like that [while snapping his fingers]."
So what we have is one of those rare members of the species who refuses to let the rest of the sport find any significant weakness to exploit. And how is that possible?
"I don't know," laughed Santana. "He's coming from another planet." But the truth is, Mike Trout isn't an alien. He's just ...
So the pitchers have spoken. But we aren't through chasing perspective on what makes this man so impervious to the hitter-unfriendly forces that are sweeping the baseball universe.
Next, we'll turn to three men with a different viewpoint: (A) an advance scout; (B) an American League executive who is involved in data and video-based scouting for his club; and (C) Eddie Bane, the Red Sox exec who was formerly the Angels' scouting director who drafted and signed Trout in 2009.
The focus of their discussion was the most important question of all: Why can't the rest of the sport figure out Trout the way opponents seem to figure out pretty much everyone else with a bat in his hands?
Well, the answer, said the AL exec, is: The sport has actually figured him out. Kind of ... just not successfully.