My stance on Mark Trumbo a few months ago was quite bearish. Actually, if I were Angels – and I’m just being completely honest right now – I would have dealt him for some bullpen help following the signing of Albert Pujols. The team was in a bit of a numbers crunch – eight players for five spots – and I figured that the Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells contracts were immoveable and too costly to eat, Peter Bourjos was too good to trade, Torii Hunter was still a solid producer, it was still too soon to give up on the recovering Kendrys Morales, and Mike Trout, well, he should have been starting since day one.
Trumbo seemed to me the easiest to move and could have probably fetched a decent return. And I wouldn’t have thought twice about dealing him. His ceiling was too limited. Sure, he has plus in-game power – a very valuable tool, especially considering the declining offensive environment over the past few years – but that was really his only offensive skill. He’s not fast, though far from a bad base runner. He wasn’t willing to take a walk, as evidenced by his walk rate last season, 4.4%, which was the tenth worst in baseball last season.
Yeah, defensively he’s solid at first – +6.4 runs per UZR/150 and +10 runs per John Dewan’s DRS – but remember: first basemen are typically not the most agile, stout defenders in the first place and that’s whom Trumbo’s numbers are compared against. And I figured his performance probably isn’t as strong as the numbers suggest.
Basically, he was a league average starter last season (2.3 fWAR) and one that probably wouldn’t get any better. Well, he has, by more than doubling last season’s walk rate, to 9.2%, almost one full percentage point above the league average this year.
So now I’m curious. Say, for example, all things were held consistent with last year’s production except substituting in this year’s walk rate. What would his production look like?
Before that, though, there are three things I want to discuss:
First, why am I doing this? Well, Trumbo’s already 26-years-old and quickly closing in on his peak. And with that being said, most of his numbers last season are fairly close to his minor league track record, with a little bit of regression as a result of moving up to the big leagues. So, I’m going on the assumption that last season’s numbers will be pretty close to his actual peak numbers. And, yes, I know Trumbo’s hitting .330/.398/.614. But look at his BABIP, .390. He didn’t even come close to posting that his last season in the minors, where levels like that are pretty common, especially for older-ish Triple-A sluggers. Basically, he’s going to come back to earth, and do it pretty hard.
Secondly, I’ll using the wOBA (found here), then Runs Above Average (found here), and finally determining his Weighted Runs Created Plus (found here). But how should we treat his new walk totals? Should we keep everything constant (i.e. hits) and add in the new prorated walk totals, which essentially replaces outs with walks? Or should we replace hits with the new walk total and keep the same outs?
Since my goal here is to see what type of ceiling Trumbo will potentially have with an above-average walk rate, I’ll go with the former case, substituting walks for outs, and perhaps temper the results a touch later on.
Thirdly, I don’t think Trumbo will be able to maintain this walk rate for the entire season. Twice has he posted similar numbers: both in the minors, 2006 and 2010. Otherwise, it’s been semi-abysmal rates. But remember: I’m looking for what his ultimate ceiling could be.
Now onto the calcs…
After determining his new walk total, which was based on this season’s rate, we see that his Weighted On Base Average, or wOBA, increases about 30 points, to .365. Then, converting to RAA, we get 22.7. Next, using that number to calculate Weighted Runs Created Plus – with a little back engineering to determine FanGraphs park factor (about .975) – we see that his production jumps to 131 wRC+, or 31% above the league average. His actual wRC+ from 2010 was 105, which is quite an improvement. Depending on his defense – or where he plays for that matter – and his base running, he could be worth about 4.0 wins or so, give or take half-of-a-win; if he maintains this walk rate. If his walk rate regresses, to something like 7.0%, then we’re probably looking at a 3.0 win player.
At least now we have some type of idea on his ultimate ceiling, which should be far better than what I thought it was going to be about four months ago.
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