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Calhoun aims to improve OBP in front of Trout

Right fielder says he'd rather score more runs than increase homers
MLB.com @Alden_Gonzalez

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kole Calhoun's 2015 season wasn't necessarily better or worse than others. It was just, well, different. The Angels' right fielder amassed new career highs with 26 home runs and 83 RBIs, but he struck out 164 times and his on-base percentage fell to .308, 17 points lower than where it sat in 2014.

Considering where he hits, that's significant.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kole Calhoun's 2015 season wasn't necessarily better or worse than others. It was just, well, different. The Angels' right fielder amassed new career highs with 26 home runs and 83 RBIs, but he struck out 164 times and his on-base percentage fell to .308, 17 points lower than where it sat in 2014.

Considering where he hits, that's significant.

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Calhoun has spent the vast majority of the past two seasons batting directly in front of Mike Trout, making him most responsible with feeding the game's best all-around player with ample opportunities to drive in runs. It's a burden Calhoun feels, a challenge he embraces, which is why on-base percentage is all he really thinks about these days.

"It's big, man," Calhoun said. "It's big. The homers went up a little bit last year, but on-base percentage went down, and runs were down. I'd rather score more runs. I think that's what we were lacking last year in our offense. If I can do my part, we can do even better."

Calhoun batted .272/.325/.450 in his first full season in 2014, with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 104 strikeouts in 127 games. He finished last year with a .256/.308/.422 slash line in 159 games, while trailing only J.D. Martinez for the most strikeouts at his position. Angels manager Mike Scioscia nonetheless called Calhoun's '15 season "terrific," which is tough to argue, especially when you throw in that Gold Glove Award he won.

But the 28-year-old left-handed hitter will gladly sacrifice some home runs for a few more times on base.

"I think there are a lot of other players on this team that have an opportunity to do damage," Calhoun said. "For this team, on-base percentage has got to be a key point to look at and focus on. There's a lot of ways to get on base, a lot of ways to score. Hopefully I can do that."

In the end, Trout logged just 126 plate appearances with runners in scoring position in 2015, fewer than 129 other players. Trout's OPS in that situation -- 1.201 -- led the Majors. Setting him up more frequently could've put the Angels in the postseason and could've given Trout his second American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Scioscia likes to talk about how impressive it is that Trout was able to drive in 90 runs in the first place, a testament to his greatness but a suggestion that the Angels need to get consistent on-base ability in front of Trout.

That will probably fall on Calhoun again, at least partly.

The only declaration Scioscia has made about his 2016 lineup is that Trout will bat third. That puts him in search of two hitters in front of him. One will probably be Yunel Escobar, who sports a career .350 on-base percentage that is 26 points above the Major League average. The other will conceivably be Calhoun, even though he could also profile as a middle-of-the-order bat.

Calhoun believes he needs to "do a better job of getting my pitch and putting my pitch in play. There's a lot of times where I'd get a pitch and foul it off, and not do what I should."

"It's an approach thing," Calhoun added. "It's a mental thing and a focus that needs to be more productive this year."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout