Mike Trout is very, very good at baseball. He’s about as perfect as you can get if you wanted to build a man to dominate the game in a lab. Each year he gets a little bit better, glossing over and ultimately eliminating some flaw or less than perfect aspect to his game, and like LeBron James is the default for MVP unless someone else does something spectacular.
But no man is without flaw, not completely. The Indians’ own MVP frontrunner, Jose Ramirez, is no Mike Trout, though he’s as close as it gets right now in the game. And in a some ways, he is in fact better than the Angels outfielder.
For several years, the one real knock on Trout was his inability to hit high fastballs. He acknowledged this back in 2015, and since then has made adjustments to it. It’s no longer a weakness that pitchers can exploit. But that doesn’t mean it’ a strength.
Meanwhile, Jose Ramirez has spent his 2018 obliterating pitches up in the zone. According to StatCast, he ranks fifth in baseball with a .467 wOBA in pitches in the upper third and upper edges of the strike zone. Trout meanwhile finds himself way down at 135th, with a .260 wOBA this year. This visual screams at you how much harder Ramirez hits high pitches:
Compared to Trout, who simply still struggles with it a bit:
It certainly helps that Ramirez gets to switch hit (and be so good at it) so he doesn’t have to deal with so much in the way of matchups like Trout might be susceptible to. Even with that though, as a lefty Ramirez owns a .481 wOBA on high pitches, and as a righty it’s a still sterling .421. But really, look at all that pink and red for Ramirez. It’s incredible.
There are obviously weaknesses to Ramirez’s game — somewhere, anyway — but the high fastball is traditionally a place pitchers can attack left-handed hitters in particular. Which is part of what makes not only this, but also that Yonder Alonso of all people is 18th in wOBA on high strikes at .429. Which is neat.
I really think that switch-hitting thing cannot undersold. He’s so dominant on both sides of the plate. I don’t think we care about that enough. Mike “definitely not Mickey Mantle in this case” Trout can’t do it, how good can he really be? Milleville Meteor nothing. How about the Bani Bolide. It’s a word, I swear. It means a comet that explodes in the atmosphere. Way cooler. Plus Ramirez is plainly way better at strutting. It’s a closer MVP race than we think.