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Mark Trumbo has started out hot for the Orioles. What's behind the hot start?

Mark Trumbo has come out of the gates incredibly hot. Smashing baseballs deep into the night sky and reminding Orioles fans of 2014 Nelson Cruz.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The nature of identifying a trend is that the trend is only noticeable because of it's abnormalities. Abnormal trends are easy to find. Yet, also by their nature they can be fleeting. Identifying a trend at it's apex and saying "see X is happening because of Y" usually ends up with Y dissipating and X returning to normal.

This is the nature of using small sample sizes to make strong conclusions and this is the nature of writing about early season baseball. Well, after 46 plate appearances, we have a abnormal trend happening with Mark Trumbo.

To my mind, I order hitting into three dials. Ability to make contact, plate discipline, and power. Think of it as the triple slash line on the broadcast, BA/OBP/SLG. In order to be an average to above average major league hitter a player has to be at least average in two of these categories.

Think Adam Jones who has good contact skills and above average power, but lacks in plate disciple. Or a high OBP, high SLG hitter like Chris Davis. Well, the problem with Mark Trumbo's game coming into 2016 was that he was all one dial, power.

An unwillingness to take a walk and an inability to put the ball in play meant Trumbo's only true talent at the plate was sporadically demolishing baseballs. In particular because of his lack of defensive value. This creates a player who has a hard time creating value for their team because they have only one true skill.

Well, 2016 Trumbo has looked quite a bit different. He is currently batting .386/.413/.750 with a 234 wRC+. Certainly, some of if not most of that production can be descried by luck, Trumbo is currently .387 on balls put into play which is not far enough from his batting average to indicate that all of his production has been luck.

So clearly, with that line Trumbo is still dialed way up on the power, the plate disciple still is not there, but the contact (batting average) is way up. Thus far, Trumbo has been at the least a two trick pony. As I have proven wont to do around here, below is a table of numbers.

I have included Trumbo's career averages, his 2016 numbers, and his second half of 2015 numbers. I also provide the 2016 league averages for a little context.

wRC+ BB% K% LD% GB% FB% Pull% Cent% Opp%
2016 234 2.2% 17.4% 25.0% 33.3% 41.7% 38.9% 30.6% 30.6%
2nd Half 2015 127 8.4% 24.7% 21.4% 38.7% 39.9% 38.7% 30.4% 31.0%
Career 110 6.5% 24.7% 16.7% 44.3% 38.9% 38.0% 36.1% 25.9%
League 97 8.6% 21.7% 20.3% 44.8% 34.9% 39.4% 34.5% 26.1%

Again, take all of the 2016 numbers with a grain of salt. This exercise is more about identifying interesting trends rather than creating rock solid conclusions. 2016 Trumbo is most certainly putting the ball in play a lot more a four percent decrease in career walk rate combined with a seven percent decrease in career strikeout rate.

Also, when he is hitting those balls, more of them are going in the air which is crucial for a power hitter like Trumbo who has a career 18.2 percent HR/FB rate. Those numbers also line up with his 2015 second half which was pretty good for Trumbo at the plate posting a 127 wRC+ compared to 108 for the whole season.  Also, in 2016 and the latter half of 2015 he changed his distribution of balls in play to either pull or opposite side and out of the center of the field.

This could be a good sign for a hitter like Trumbo because hitting the ball out to either left or right is much easier than to center. Maybe a sign of a different approach at the plate considering his increased walk rate in the second half of 2015 over his career marks.

Those basic rates and percentages tell us some part of the story. But, it is early enough that those numbers could all be fluky, even with the second half of 2015 mirroring some of them. What this comes down to is if Trumbo has actually changed his approach at the plate. Below is a table of his plate discipline numbers. The time frames are the same as the table above.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% SwStr%
2016 29.9% 79.3% 54.6% 57.7% 87.0% 79.0% 50.0% 11.2%
2nd Half 2015 37.5% 75.8% 53.5% 63.2% 74.9% 70.1% 41.8% 15.9%
Career 39.0% 68.4% 51.8% 60.2% 81.9% 72.7% 43.5% 13.9%
League 27.4% 65.9% 46.2% 58.8% 85.2% 77.1% 48.8% 10.4%

According to these numbers, Mark Trumbo is a drastically different player. Once again, I will caution that it is early and that these numbers could substantially change over the course of a couple of games. With that warning aside, Trumbo's contact rates are through the roof.

Perhaps most importantly is his contact on pitches in the zone (Z-Contact%) which he is actually making contact on higher than the league overall. All the while, he has actually been swinging more, but that swinging has been coming on pitches in the zone rater than outside of the zone.

Trumbo's O-Swing% is way below career levels while his Z-Swing% is much higher. He is also swinging and missing much less than he did last year in his successful second half and much lower than his career rate.

Unsurprisingly, Trumbo has been making a lot more contact early on in 2016. The numbers bare out a relationship to a possible change in approach. However, I will take this moment to caution that thus far Trumbo has seen 50% of his pitches in the strike zone. Way lower than his career rate. Could be a hidden lineup effect or more likely some small sample noise.

My guess is that pitchers as a whole will greatly reduce the amount of pitches Trumbo is seeing in the zone and move towards their old ways against him.

The point of it all is that Mark Trumbo is making contact right now at rates he has not done before. If those rates continue, he will have a career year with the Orioles. Regression is going to occur, at this point the most important factor will be to what degree the regression occurs.

If Trumbo can keep his in zone contact rates high, keep the ball off the ground, and continue to lay off of bad pitches, he will be another great unexpected pick up for this Orioles' front office.