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Orioles still haven’t seen much power from Mark Trumbo

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After leading all of baseball in home runs a season ago, Mark Trumbo has seen a steep decline in the most covetous aspect of his game. It’s kind of hard to explain.

St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With the emergence of Trey Mancini, whose 147 (!!!) wRC+ continues to be one of the few pleasant surprises on the Orioles this season, the everyday mediocrity of Mark Trumbo has made the Orioles desire to re-sign him less appealing by the day.

After an 0-4 night with two strikeouts on Wednesday, Trumbo’s .255/.315/.399 slash has plummeted to the depths of an 89 wRC+. In other words, he’s hitting like Kevin Pillar, but without the speed, a semblance of defense or consistent ability to make contact. With a current -0.3 fWAR, there’s nothing controversial about saying Trumbo’s current offensive profile hasn’t sufficed.

What makes the jumbo disgruntlement so, like, disgruntling, is that Trumbo has, for the most part, stayed on a path of improved patience.

Trumbo Plate Discipline

Plate Discipline O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Z-Contact% Contact% Whiff%
Plate Discipline O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Z-Contact% Contact% Whiff%
April 27 28.00% 73.10% 49.80% 77.60% 70.30% 14.80%
June 27 31.7 % 69.5 % 48.7 % 81.4 % 73.1 % 12.90%

I wrote about Trumbo’s slow start in late April, mostly attributing his early hitting woes to nothing more than a guy still trying to find his rhythm at the plate.

He was showing a lot of signs of what most would believe promised improvement, such as a career-low chase rate and a BABIP of only .246. A Trumbo only hitting three home runs 100 April plate appearances probably wouldn’t last.

After a solid May, Trumbo has regressed deep into June, but again, Trumbo has mostly remained a slightly patient hitter. Though his offerings at pitches out of the zone has predictably risen, it hasn’t been by much. His frequency of swinging the bat has also lessened, as has his number of swings and misses.

With more contact and more swings within the strike zone, Trumbo should have seen his production catch up. As such, so too would the home runs.

But that hasn’t happened. With only 10 home runs and a .146 ISO, or slightly north of a one-legged Albert Pujols, Trumbo’s usually-prodigious power has been sedated. This doesn’t make any sense.

There’s a lot of red missing in the heart of the strike zone, where Trumbo has been notorious for punishing mistakes. For a guy like Trumbo, whose plate coverage will never grow in expanse, meatballs are a necessary means to his production at the plate.

So, when we see such a massive absence of offense in an area of the plate indicative of the extent of Trumbo’s output, it is of deep concern. How can Trumbo, a power-hitter with what the eye test suggests has above-average bat-to-ball skills, miss so many baseballs destined for open real estate? Well, your power numbers aren’t going to gain much leverage if the baseball isn’t being hit in the air.

On the left is Trumbo’s launch angle chart, where we see more bloat in the areas of home run tendencies. On the right is Trumbo’s current predicament, where his best work is directed to the ground.

Trumbo’s ground ball rate has curbed in June, where it’s down to just over 35 percent, a solid change from the 43-44 percent range it was in the previous two months. Still, his overall work this year has been more reminiscent of his career numbers before the 47-homer season in 2016.

Home runs are easier to come across when baseballs are up in the zone. For a big guy like Trumbo, whose bat path is relatively flat in an era of uppercuts, his swing is well-suited to hit high fastballs or hanging off-speed and breaking stuff. As we’ve progressed to the halfway point of this year, Trumbo isn’t finding the same rate of contact up in the zone as he had in his blitzkrieg a season ago.

Obviously Trumbo hasn’t maintained the same pop up and in, and while he isn’t necessarily struggling to meet bat with ball on the inner-half, a hitter with more than enough pull power isn’t hitting the baseball with the same authority.

Mix in a decreasing number of hard-hit balls both in the air and on the ground, and softened contact where his power reigns, and Trumbo becomes less jumbo.

While he hasn’t been a complete dud, this current trend is reminiscent of before he was an Oriole, when he was seen as a nice role player. With Manny Machado yet to pivot to his true talent, and with no Chris Davis, the Orioles are not in need of a bat that is simply passable. The starting pitching has stunk, but Orioles’ offense hasn’t mashed to the level of its capability.

Mark Trumbo has been part of the problem.