Strikeouts are up in a league that’s trying to swing for the fences more. Players across the league are swinging — and missing — at a record pace, yet not everyone is following suit. So many pros walk away from home plate, but two players have made an art of avoiding strikeouts with remarkable consistency.
Who are they?
Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger are among the most recognizable names in baseball — and for good reason. The 27-year-old is known for a fundamental approach to the game. Trout has struck out plenty in the past, but he seems to have cracked some sort of code when it comes to avoiding strikeouts.
Bellinger is having a career year in a career already filled with accolades. The 23-year-old is hitting pitches from all over the plate without sacrificing his team’s success. If he keeps it up, the first baseman will have a historic year. Although the two superstars don’t have the same approach at the plate, their success must be explored.
Trout lands among the highest-paid athletes, and it’s no shock to baseball fans that he continues elevating his game. Rather than swinging at every pitch, the center fielder takes a calculated approach to the batter’s box, choosing not to chase wild pitches and instead make the right one come to him. Trout is swinging at only 16% of pitches outside the strike zone while hitting 93% of those inside it.
Trout’s strategy has changed, but his mechanics remain intact. People praise pro athletes’ physical gifts and forget the mental aspect is important. When someone sees the game with the expert lens of a player like Trout, it can arguably be a greater asset than any physical one.
After striking out on nearly 33% of low inside pitches last year, Bellinger adjusted to bring that number under 20%. Part of the improvement is because he’s standing closer to the base and getting more coverage of the entire zone. Although a strange strategy, the results are indisputable.
The 23-year-old is also taking fewer risks when down two strikes and trying to make the best decision on a pitch-by-pitch basis. This keeps the pitchers on their toes, which means they have to make sure every throw is in the right place. Going forward, Bellinger will need to avoid old habits and make sure he remembers what helps him.
What can we learn?
There are multiple ways to succeed in all aspects of every sport. While these two superstars are having historic years, players can learn from their differing approaches and perhaps even develop some of their own.
Time will tell how sustainable this approach will be for both players. It will also let us know whether there is a ripple effect throughout the rest of the league. For now, however, we can stand in awe of what both Trout and Bellinger are doing at the plate this season.