Mike Trout had a season that nobody has ever had before, with a buffet of home runs and stolen bases and runs and home run-robbing catches. This is why a majority of talent evaluators already believe he is the best player in the game.
If you wanted to find a blemish -- the smallest imperfection -- then it would be in his strikeout total of last year, 139. To be clear: Nobody complained about that, or criticized him for it. But Trout has mentioned to reporters that he'd like to reduce that rate of strikeouts this year. Jerry Dipoto, the Angels' general manager, marveled over the phone Wednesday about Trout's swing -- a quick path, so simple, with maximum efficiency -- and in the conversation, he mentioned Paul Molitor's famous swing as a similar example.
It's almost logical that Trout had a lot of strikeouts, Dipoto said, because he goes so deep into counts. As a rookie, Trout averaged 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, a staggering average for a player so young, and he seemed to glean a lot of information from what he saw in all those pitches. From plate appearance to plate appearance, Trout got more and more dangerous, and much less likely to strike out. This was Trout against a starting pitcher from his first plate appearance in a game through his fourth in 2012:
1st : .860 OPS 7 walks 35 strikeouts
2nd: 1.042 OPS 10 walks 25 strikeouts
3rd: 1.198 OPS 17 walks 17 strikeouts
4th: 1.244 OPS 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
If Trout determines he wants to reduce his strikeouts, Dipoto said, sounding as if he was chuckling, "I know he'll get better."
Joey Votto mentioned this spring that he thinks Trout is basically slump-proof because of that swing, and one longtime scout offered this addendum Wednesday: "He's slump proof because he runs so well," said the scout. "I don't think an 0-for-20 is possible with him, because if he puts the ball in play, he's going to get his hits."
The scout went through the adjustments that Trout makes, and he too chuckled about Trout's effort to improve his walk/strikeout ratio. "I love watching the guy play," he said. "I think I should wear a Trout jersey to the field."
Around the league
• I watched a lot of the Braves' win over the Phillies Wednesday, and I'd say this about Roy Halladay -- his fastball was better and had more life than what we saw in spring training. But his command issues continued: He walked hitters and ran deep counts the whole night, and his arm angle remains noticeably lower than what it has been in the past. The feeling of some rival evaluators is that with a lower arm angle, he'll be less effective against left-handed hitters, and his stuff will tend to flatten out. And it became apparent, as his start against the Braves went along, that he is leaning much more heavily on his off-speed stuff right now.
He got a bunch of strikeouts in his short outing -- and he was hit hard, by Justin Upton in particular. Evan Gattis, who was on the podcast Wednesday morning and talked about his unusual journey to the big leagues, hit his first major league homer in his second at-bat.
• The Diamondbacks outran the Cardinals in a marathon that ended past midnight in Arizona, as Derrick Goold writes. From his story:
[Mitchell] Boggs, filling in for Jason Motte injured, allowed a hit to the first batter he faced and hit the second batter he faced. That put the Diamondbacks rally in motion. A sacrifice fly by Martin Prado brought home Pennington to tie the game, 9-9, and send it into the 13th inning. Boggs was trying for his first save since July 2011, the last time he had a crack at the closer's role.
"I put myself in a situation that was not ideal and I wasn't able to get out of it," said Boggs, who struck out two in the 13th inning. "It's a one-run game and I put myself in the worst possible situation that I could."
Three times the Cardinals hitters claimed a lead for the relievers before the ninth inning, and each time the bullpen caved. A two-run double by Molina took back the lead in the sixth only to be lost later. Molina's homer in the seventh snapped a 7-7 tie, and that lead too was squandered. Two homers off righty Joe Kelly undermined the middle-inning leads the Cardinals had, and in the eighth [Trevor] Rosenthal wasn't able to blow his fastball past Arizona's No. 3 hitter Aaron Hill. Pitching in back-to-back games for only the third time in his young career as a late-inning flamethrower, Rosenthal allowed three hits in the eighth inning. The one, Hill's RBI single on a fastball, tied the game, 8-8.