Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Robert Cunningham - Feature Writer 

In 1987, two notable Oakland A’s sluggers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, took the baseball world by storm combining for 80 home runs and 231 RBI’s. The two of them were so strong and powerful (and sadly we know why today) that they were given the combined nickname, “The Bash Brothers”. Sometime later this Summer, Angels fans are going to witness an equally fascinating pair of players, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout, showcase a display of speed and base running not seen since the likes of Rickey Henderson and we might end up calling them, “The Dash Brothers”!

Typically when scouts are grading a player’s tools (power, speed, arm, etc.) they use a scale of 20-80, with a score of 50 meaning that the particular tool is average. An example might be Mark Trumbo’s power tool that graded out at an 80 which is very impressive. Equally as impressive is the fact that both members of the Dash Brothers grade out at a score of 80 in the speed tool and that makes a manager like Mike Scioscia salivate at the chaos that his team can wreak on the base paths.

To put it in a different perspective: The average right-handed hitter (RHH) can run from home to first base in 4.3 seconds. The average left-handed hitter (LHH) can run from home to first base in 4.2 seconds. A fast runner can do it under 4.0 seconds. Peter Bourjos averages approximately 3.87 seconds running out of the right side of the batter’s box. Mike Trout has been clocked at 3.82 seconds going from home to first base also out of the right side of the batter’s box. That is explosive speed!

In order to get a better idea of how these times compare to other current and former MLB regulars going from home to first base see the chart below:

Time from Home to First Base
Mickey Mantle
Willy Taveras
Jose Reyes
Carl Crawford
Peter Bourjos
Mike Trout
* The fastest recorded home to first base time in MLB history

Clearly both Bourjos and Trout have game-changing speed and they both bat from the right-side of the plate. Beyond the home to first base times many have observed that, once Peter Bourjos gets going, he is quite possibly one of the fastest first to third base runners of this generation. When words like “gazelle” are used to describe a player’s stride speed you know you are talking about a very fast runner!

So how does the Dash Brothers speed help the team? First of all their speed puts pressure on the other team’s defense. A routine ground ball can turn into a real adventure as Elvis Andrus found out last year when Mike Trout hit a ball right to the Texas shortstop. Andrus was efficient in getting to the ball and scooping it up but when he raised his head and hand to fire the ball his eyes popped open in surprise as he realized Trout was almost to first. As we all know Trout beat the throw and it wasn’t even a mistake on Andrus’ part! Trout’s explosive speed beat the Texas shortstop’s excellent defense! That type of speed from a base runner can distract even the best pitchers and fielders.

Beyond the rushed throws, the fantastic speed allows Bourjos and Trout to run 1st to 3rd on singles and even allows them to score from first base on long singles to the gaps. This type of pressure tests even the best arms in the game such as Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Bautista, and Shin-Soo Choo. If the term “speed kills” was in the dictionary there would be pictures of Bourjos and Trout.

It is easy to see Mike Scioscia plugging Trout, initially in late 2012, in the 8th hole with Peter following in the 9th hole (or vice-versa) and Aybar leading off (against RHP). If the inning happened to start off with Trout it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see him get on with a walk, base hit, or bunt and have Peter lay down another bunt right behind him and then Aybar do the same. Their combined speed could conceivably get all three on base for Kendrick, Pujols, and Morales to knock in!

Additionally, the speed clearly helps with the Angels team defense. Peter was brought up for this very reason as his speed combined with his fantastic ability to read the ball off of the bat and the excellent routes he selects allows him to track down fly balls and cut off balls hit to the gaps that almost no one else can get to. By taking better routes to cut off ground balls he can force the base runners to hold at 1st or 2nd and not take the extra base which can help prevent an extra run or two from scoring.

Finally the amazing speed of Bourjos and Trout will alter the outfield alignment. Because they can cover so much of the outfield Trout will be able to shade himself a little more to left-center field and Bourjos can shade slightly towards right-center field. This allows our right fielder (presumably Wells in 2013) to shade more towards the right field wall and gives our starting pitchers incredible defensive range and coverage of any balls hit to the outfield. Again excellent run prevention helps win games and our team defense will continue to shine!

When his career is over Peter Bourjos will be recognized as one of the premier defensive center fielders that ever played the game. His ability to read the ball off of the bat, select the perfect route to intercept, and cover so much of the outfield with his speed truly sets him apart on defense and will lead to a series of Gold Gloves in his immediate future.

Mickey Mantle’s 3.1 second record home to first base sprint was hand-timed back in his era. When a scout recently spoke about Mike Trout he wondered out loud, “Is this what Mickey Mantle looked like?” That statement isn’t that ludicrous if you think about it. Mike Trout has a speed very similar to Mantle and also has the potential to hit for power and hit for average as Mantle did. Trout has been described as an ultra-athletic burner who will probably be more special on the offensive side than the defensive side and that is saying something because he can cover a lot of ground like Peter can and was projected as a center fielder even though he will probably play left field in the Majors with the Angels.

So you think acquiring Albert Pujols was awesome? Watch out Angels fans! You are about to witness an era in Angels baseball that could eclipse some of our greatest seasons in franchise history! Watch out for the Dash Brothers because if you blink you might miss them!
Love to hear what you think!

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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