TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout isn't ready to give up on being a legitimate stolen-base threat. He's too young, too fast, and for this offense, it would mean too much. Trout's stolen bases have descended over the course of his four-year career, just as the power element of his game
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout isn't ready to give up on being a legitimate stolen-base threat. He's too young, too fast, and for this offense, it would mean too much. Trout's stolen bases have descended over the course of his four-year career, just as the power element of his game has continually become more pronounced. It's the trajectory that has long been expected of the Angels' superstar, on par with the likes of Willie Mays, Andre Dawson and Barry Bonds.
But Trout remains discontent. He wants to run free again.
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"That's one of the things I'm going to work on this spring," Trout said when asked if he'd like to steal more bases. "It's definitely one of the personal goals I want to get back to."
Trout stole a Major League-best 49 as a rookie in 2012 and 33 in '13. In '14, that number dropped to 16. And in '15, Trout stole only 11 bases and got caught a career-high-tying seven times. The 24-year-old feels he just needs to "get back my confidence."
"Last couple of years," Trout said, "my confidence has been down -- not getting good jumps, not getting good reads. Just getting back to the way I used to be."
Trout went 6-for-6 in stolen bases last April, but he was caught three out of five times in May and backed down thereafter. Over the next four-plus months, Trout attempted seven stolen bases and was thrown out four times. It didn't really matter, though, because he belted 41 home runs, slashed .299/.402/.590 and compiled a FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement score of 9.0 -- tops in the American League.
It's why so many in the organization are perfectly fine with Trout's dwindling stolen-base totals. He does too many other things well, and stealing bases takes too much out of players anyway. Their legs become a lot more stiff during leads when they're anticipating steals. Then there's the explosion to second base and the hard contact with the bag, leaving either their knees or their fingertips vulnerable.
Trout doesn't see it that way.
"I'm young, man," he said. "I play hard."
Ron Roenicke, back as the Angels' third-base coach, doesn't agree with that theory, either. Guys like Vince Coleman, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson, who frequently stole upwards of 60 or 70 bases -- with Coleman and Henderson topping 100 three times each -- used to get beat up a lot. But Roenicke isn't worried about the affects that stealing 20, 30 or even 40 bases would have on Trout's body.
"You steal that many bases in a year," Roenicke said, "that's not going to hurt you."
Roenicke is one of the best at spotting the pitcher tendencies that will allow potential basestealers to get better jumps. It's why he's so valuable as a third-base coach, and why the Angels were so thrilled to have him back. They think he can help Trout get back to running a little bit more.
The two talked about it briefly during Wednesday's first full-squad workout.
"I take a lot of pride in that part of it," Roenicke said, "and I like the guys to be prepared with as much information as they want. He's obviously got the ability to do it. As long as he's healthy and he wants to go, we'll give him information, and we'll help him out."
Trout doesn't have a specific number of steals in mind, "just obviously more than last year."
"I'm just trying to get on second base," Trout said, "so Albert can drive me in."
Albert, of course, is Albert Pujols. Trout's stolen-base totals have plummeted ever since he stopped leading off and started batting directly in front of Pujols, though Angels manager Mike Scioscia always scoffs at the correlation.
Trout is at least more cautious when he's on first base with Pujols batting, because Trout can score on basically any extra-base hit, and Pujols gets a lot of those. But Pujols also makes a high degree of contact and has grounded into 43 double plays over the past two years, the sixth most in the Major League. That doesn't happen if Trout is in scoring position.
"We're on the same page, for sure," Trout said. "We have our talks, and we figure some stuff out. … He tells me if I have the green light and I have a good jump, I'm just going to go. He protects me sometimes. Sometimes he sees I don't have a good jump and he fouls one off. But I'm going to do everything I can to get in scoring position."
FanGraphs has an all-encompassing baserunning statistic that turns stolen bases, caught-stealings and other plays -- taking extra bases, getting thrown out, etc. -- into runs above or below average. Trout's score has gone from 14.1 to 7.8 to 6.5 to 3.3, with the final one tied for 32nd in the Majors last year.
But Trout doesn't have to be a premier basestealer. He doesn't have to be a 30-30 guy, because he already does so much else. The point, though, is that he can.
"No doubt," Scioscia said. "We talk about forcing things, and last year there was no doubt that he tried to force a couple things. And he had to readjust. He can get to 40-40, possibly, but you have to let those numbers fall into place. Wherever they are, they are."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.