ANAHEIM -- The Angels' offense doesn't need much else, frankly. With Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout -- three hitters who ranked within the top 12 in the American League in OPS last season -- their 2013 lineup guarantees to be something fierce. But if Mark Trumbo can recover from a brutal second half and recapture the success that made him an All-Star leading up to it, then the Angels really have something special.
If Trumbo reverts to that first-half form, this lineup -- which scored the third-most runs in the Junior Circuit without Hamilton -- can possibly be the best in all of baseball.
"I'll say when he goes back to being that guy," Angels hitting coach Jim Eppard said. "There's no reason to think otherwise."
As hitting coach for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in 2010, where he spent nine seasons before getting the Major League gig in mid-May, Eppard helped see Trumbo through his best Minor League campaign. Now Eppard will try to navigate the 26-year-old slugger past a 2012 that seemed to have two drastically different seasons wrapped in one.
Trumbo chooses not to view it that way, though.
"I had one season in 2012," Trumbo corrected. "I understand the perception of what it was, but in the end, they don't score you with two halves. I'm very pleased in a lot of areas with what I was able to do. I have room to improve in a lot of areas, but by in large, I contributed and produced the types of numbers, at least power-wise and production-wise, that I know I'm capable of."
Trumbo has many reasons to be proud. Heck, he improved in almost every category from a 2011 campaign that saw him finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He posted a .268/.317/.491 slash line, hit 32 homers, drove in 95 runs and even increased his walk total (from 25 to 36). Any team would be thrilled with that kind of production from a middle-of-the-order hitter, not to mention one in his pre-arbitration years.
But the lasting impression was a head-scratching, seemingly never-ending slump, prompting questions about the young Trumbo's true identity.
Is he the guy who scorched through the first half, hitting .309 with a .625 slugging percentage and 25 homers in his first 81 games? Is he the one who struggled thereafter, hitting .192/.243/.280 with six homers and 79 strikeouts in a 57-game stretch from July 17 to Sept. 26?
Maybe something in between?
"I was, I guess, at times disappointed that I wasn't able to do a little more, but it's a tough game, and for me, as long as the effort's there, and the mindset's there, I can live with the results," said Trumbo, who figures to get most of his at-bats at designated hitter in 2013 and looks like an ideal fit in the No. 5 spot. "I know the second half wasn't anywhere near what I was hoping for. But I did finish the last week and a half or so on a high note [11-for-26], which made things easier going [into the offseason]."
Yes, Hamilton's second half with the Rangers last year -- .259/.323/.510 while kicking a pesky chewing-tobacco habit -- was almost as rough as Trumbo's. But he has an MVP trophy and five years' worth of solid production to quell apprehensions.
Trumbo's less-extensive track record makes you wonder whether his second half was an anomalous slump or a digression towards the mean that put his final numbers at normal levels.
Trumbo may not be a consistent .300-plus hitter in the Majors, like he was through the first 81 games. But his strikeout percentage (20.6) and walk percentage (seven) in that span were very close to those of his Minor League career, and much better than what he did the rest of the way (33.2 strikeout percentage and 5.1 walk percentage).
Maybe it was bad luck. Trumbo and Eppard both say the swing was practically the same; he was simply fouling balls off that he used to square up.
Maybe it was also the result of mounting frustrations, from a player who wears his passion on his sleeve like few others.
"I don't think anybody can care too much, but I definitely think he is a guy who's very difficult on himself; a lot of self-imposed pressure," Eppard said. "As he brings that into better focus, as he matures, as he gains that experience as a Major League player, as a Major League hitter, those stretches are going to become shorter and shorter as we go."