Mark Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016, drove in 108 runs and parlayed his career highs into a three-year, $37.5 million contract to remain with the Orioles. A virtual bargain given today’s salaries.
Trumbo followed it up with 23 home runs, 65 RBIs, an OPS that dipped from .850 to .686 and a vow to clear his head and get a fresh start.
His offseason routine is, in his words, “a little bit different this year.” No sense repeating anything that led to such a disappointment.
“Kind of took a look at how things went last year, which weren’t quite what I wanted or anybody wanted,” Trumbo said yesterday at FanFest. “I think I’ve got a little bit better plan going into this year that like most guys are pretty excited to see how it pans out.”
We need specifics, of course.
“The production was obviously much less, but I think the mindset was probably a little cluttered and I think that’s something that’s getting to be a lot more prevalent in the game,” he continued. “I think there’s a lot of numbers flying around and angles and things of that nature that really detract from the goal of squaring up the ball. So might be a little bit more of a less is more approach this year in a way.”
Taking a sword and slashing sabermetrics? Maybe just carving up the edges. Anyway, Trumbo welcomed a fresh start after batting .202/.243/.357 in the second half and, most painfully, .192/.224/.315 over the final month.
I watched him chasing pitches over his head and in the dirt. He seemed lost. He needed to take a few deep breaths after returning home and refocusing. Or resetting, which seems to be the better term here.
“It does wonders,” he said. “I mean, it is a grind and at the time, especially a poor season, it seems like it lasts forever. But once the offseason rolls around it’s kind of an automatic reset in a lot of ways. It’s a fresh start and you kind of look forward to it if you’re coming off a year that maybe wasn’t quite as good.”
Refocus, reset and reflect. Maybe there will be a nice reward at the end.
“I think you need to reflect a little bit, but sometimes, especially when you’re kind of able to separate yourself, the answers are pretty obvious,” he said. “I think in this case, probably just too distracted last year with a lot of different numbers, analytics, launch angles, things like that. So I think the approach this year is going to be getting back to getting a good pitch and squaring it up.”
Trumbo isn’t using designated hitter as an excuse. We can toss out more numbers, how he hit .207/.268/.367 when he wasn’t playing in the field, how he’s always been better at the plate when he’s manning a position. But Trumbo squared up that explanation and drove it out of the media workroom.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I played long enough that I can separate those two. Some years are just harder than others.
“I think you always hope if you don’t get off to a good start that you can right the ship in the second half and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. And I think that’s where I was last year was always hoping for a nice surge and have everything shape up where I wanted it and everybody else wanted it to, but in the end I just fell short of that.”
The Orioles, on paper, look like they’ll fall into last place again with so many holes in the rotation and roster. Trumbo is leaving it to the front office. He has enough on his plate while trying to improve from the right side of it.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of opinions on not only how we stack up, but how other people stack up, but my job is to take care of business on the field,” he said. “I tried to quit playing GM a long time ago. It does no good on my end and there’s much more important things for me to worry about than the state of our roster or where we’re going or what we’re doing.
“I take care of my job and we’re going to be better because of that.”
At least Trumbo isn’t experiencing the stress of free agency. He didn’t re-sign with the Orioles until January 2017. He showed up yesterday at the Baltimore Convention Center, one year later, knowing which uniform he was wearing and again feeling a part of the community.
“Yeah, it gives you a little bit more breathing room,” he said. “A lot of times, especially if you’re a free agent or there’s a lot of uncertainty there, that can be a distraction in itself. But there’s a lot more peace of mind I think this offseason.”
Next, he’ll take more home runs and RBIs and fewer concerns about the other numbers that clogged his mind. That’s the angle that he wants in his season story.