Trumbo’s work last offseason will help him cash in during this one

Mark Trumbo set out to hit a lot of home runs in the 2016 season, then he went out and did it. Much easier said than done, but it’s nice when a plan comes together.

And make no mistake, Trumbo went into the 2015 offseason with a specific plan to improve his ability to drive the baseball, and he went out and got that done.

Trumbo’s 47 homers led the majors by four over the next closest on the list, Seattle’s Nelson Cruz with 43. Last night, Trumbo was rewarded with a Silver Slugger Award, the first by an Oriole since 2013.

The day before the Orioles played in the American League wild card game at Toronto last month, Trumbo talked about winning the homer title, his winter plan and his 2016 preseason work coming together for him.

“I’m obviously very happy with it,” Trumbo said. “I think this was a year where some of the goals I had in the offseason were really able to materialize. I think coming into this year I wanted to really focus on driving the ball, doing it consistently and keeping that approach through the entire season. Fortunately, I was able to see that through.”

mark-trumbo-orange-bat.pngTrumbo got off to a fast start for the Orioles this past season. He hit .337 with six homers, 19 RBIs and an OPS of .958 in April. In this early May interview, Trumbo detailed to me that during the offseason he worked specifically to improve his exit velocity and launch angles.

“There is a, I guess it would be a machine not unlike a golf simulator, called the HitTrax that is in the facility that me and a few other players hit at in the offseason,” he said. “It has a tremendous ability to measure all sorts of things. But two of the ones I place a lot of importance in are the exit velocity and the launch angle.

“You know that is obviously a pretty technical way of talking about hitting the ball hard. You know if you can combine hitting line drives and some fly balls, but having that high exit velocity, too, that is where the damage is done in this game. In the air with some miles per hour behind it. I don’t know how else to put it, other than hitting it high and hard is going to be good for a hitter.”

Statcast numbers have been available for two years now. While Trumbo produced an average exit velocity of 93.4 mph in 2015 and that tied for 11th in the majors, he did in fact improve on that in 2016. His average exit velocity of 95.08 was sixth best in the majors. The big league average this year was 89.6 mph.

Trumbo hit .256 with 47 homers, 108 RBIs, a .533 slugging percentage and an .850 OPS. He ranked tied for sixth in the AL in RBIs and he tied for ninth in slugging. He hit 28 homers in the first half and was selected to his second All-Star team.

His average and on-base percentage of .256/.316 was very similar to what he posted in 2015 with .262/.310. But it was in slugging percentage where he really improved, going from .449 to .533.

In 2015, before Trumbo went to work on improved exit velocity, he hit a homer once every 23.1 at-bats. That improved to once every 13.4 at-bats last season.

The 2016 AL leaders in at-bats per home run:
13.04 - Mark Trumbo, Orioles
13.21 - Khris Davis, Athletics
13.70 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners
14.13 - David Ortiz, Red Sox
14.31 - Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

Now we wait to see if Trumbo will, as expected, turn down the Orioles’ qualifying offer and instead hit the free agent market. We’ll see if the Orioles can keep him with a new multi-year deal.

On Wednesday night, Trumbo won the Players Choice Award for American League Comeback Player of the Year. The announcement was broadcast live on MLB Network. He beat out the Rangers’ Ian Desmond and Yu Darvish.

What Trumbo worked on last winter paid off last season. Now the man who had a plan waits to see how big that will pay off for him.

Listen in: Yesterday I was the guest on the Baseball America podcast. Listen in here as I joined Baseball America’s John Manuel and J.J. Cooper for an in-depth discussion of O’s prospects and the O’s minors.

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