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Mark Trumbo’s 2017 season was the Orioles’ biggest offensive disappointment

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Unable to come close to his 2016 production, Trumbo hurt the team at the plate and in the field. With two more years on his contract, he is likely to get a shot at redemption in 2018.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season started off dramatically for Mark Trumbo, highlighted by Joe Angel’s thunderous call of a “Trumbo Jumbo” walk-off homer to beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, on opening day at Camden Yards.

His shot to left field seemed to be a promising follow-up to his 47-long-ball campaign in 2016. The win also helped catapult the Orioles to a four-game win streak on the way to a league-leading 22-10 start to the season.

Trumbo didn’t contribute much at first to the Birds’ hot start, despite playing in all 32 games. He hit just .231/.281/.331 with three home runs during that stretch. But things started to turn for the better in a late-April game against the Yankees, when Trumbo broke his 20-game homer drought, launching a three-run bomb and going 3-for-6 with four RBIs.

The Orioles blew an 11-4 seventh inning lead to lose to the Yankees 14-11 that day, but it did kick off a very productive 32-game run for the Orioles slugger. Trumbo batted .331/.392/.538 with seven homers and 22 RBIs during this stretch and improved his season totals from .190/.229/.266 on April 26 to .278/.332/.435 on June 1.

But that’s where Trumbo’s good news ends. For the next four months he failed to sustain any kind of production, hitting a horrific .209/.263/.374. He oughta buy the pitching staff chicken dinners for taking the attention away from his miserable season.

There are lots of stats to point to, but Trumbo was signed to hit home runs, and he mustered a measly 23 dingers in a sizable 603 plate appearances in 2017. This is doubly disappointing, given the uptick in round-trippers around the major leagues.

With all due respect to Chris Davis, Trumbo’s season represented the offense’s biggest letdown of the year. He finished the year batting .234/.289/.397 with just 65 RBIs and a -0.6 WAR – far from the results the Orioles brass expected after signing him to a three-year contract.

Why did they sign Trumbo to that big deal last offseason? Because hitting 47 home runs speak loudly, even in this age of power production. Many believe that the Orioles were largely bidding against themselves when they negotiated the $37.5 million contract. Who knows for sure? Sniffing 50 dingers raises eyebrows, but the Birds got plucked inking this deal.

Owed $26 million over the next two years, Trumbo isn’t likely to be going anywhere. This is a shame given how he really doesn’t fit the Orioles’ current and near-future needs. In addition to the obvious need to improve its starting pitiching, the team should also look to fill two other voids and upgrade its atheticism and on-base percentage. But don’t look to Trumbo to help there, given his glaring deficiencies in those areas.

After starting last season as the primary right fielder versus left-handed pitching, Trumbo proved he can’t be counted on to play the outfield with any regularity. His UZR/150 was a jolting -18.9 in 2017, according to Fangraphs, which should limit him to DH with Chris Davis manning first base.

Of course, Trumbo’s 2017 numbers pale compared to his previous year’s production. They are, however, below his career stats as well, giving some hope for a rebound next season.

Here’s Trumbo’s batting line over these three timeframes:

2017: .234/.289/.397/.666

2016: .256/.316/.533/.850

Career: .249/.301/.461/.763

Trumbo’s precipitous drop in home runs from 47 to 23 was largely due to the fact that he just didn’t hit the ball hard enough. Fangraphs reports that his hard contact rate dropped from 39.3 percent in 2016 to 30.4 percent last year.

His career 34.2 hard contact percentage provides another reason to expect a power improvement in 2018, but don’t expect anything close to the 47 he jacked in 2016 when his HR per fly ball rate was an astronomical 24.6 percent. That fell to 13.8 percent last year, but a return to his career 18.4 percent could help Trumbo return to some level of respectability.