There are a lot of reasons to "like" a baseball player. You might like him simply because he's a good player. That goes a long way with a lot of fans. You might like him because he plays hard; that goes a long way too. Or you might like him because when he speaks publicly, he seems sincere and self-aware and maybe even smart enough to spend a few hours with.
Those last guys are the ones I tend to "like". And there aren't many of them, but that's largely because I haven't been around a lot of players, and not because there aren't plenty of sincere, self-aware, smart players out there. Every team's got at least a few. Or so I'm told.
I think I might like Mark Trumbo. Seems somebody asked him about his statistics this season, which are pretty good in one respect and not so good in some others. And his answer shows some self-awareness, even some vulnerability:
"At the end of the day, you hit 30 homers and you drive in 80, 90, 100 runs, whatever it is, that's awesome," Trumbo said. "But what's hard as a player, to be quite honest, is when the majority of the times that your name is brought up, it's going to be what you're not doing well -- unless you're a guy like Mike [Trout]. I do quite a few things well, and there are some things I don't do well, which are quite obvious. Unfortunately, you tend to dwell on what you want to get better at. I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how I can do certain things better."
"I understand it," Trumbo said of getting a bad rap for his on-base percentage. "When I'm hitting well, I take a lot of walks. And when I struggle, I don't. Pitchers are going to come at me."
First, let me stress that a) I hope Mark Trumbo's not reading this, and b) he doesn't do quite a few things well. He doesn't control the strike zone, or hit for average, or run the bases well. About his defense, let's just say he does well enough for an outfielder without a great deal of speed.
Mark Trumbo does hit home runs well. Over these last three seasons, only five players in all the major leagues have hit more home runs than Trumbo. And if you're going to do one thing well, that's a good one.
So good, in fact, that Mark Trumbo's worth keeping around. That sounds like faint praise, but it isn't really. Being one of the 750-some best baseball players on the planet's an impressive accomplishment, and just last year Trumbo was even better than that.
The good news is that Trumbo will have better seasons than this one. He's hit in some tough luck this season, his batting average on balls in play somewhat lower than we would expect. Next season, his BABiP will be a little higher, and so will his batting average and his on-base average.
The bad news is that Trumbo has not evolved as a hitter at all. His fundamental percentages this season are all right in line with his career norms. He has not evolved, and at 27 he's not likely to evolve. It's true that he's increased his walks over the seasons ... but they've come with a price: more strikeouts, too. Which leads to less contact and (you guessed it) fewer base hits.
Baseball can be cruel. You can be the best of guys and the hardest of workers, and baseball can still kick your ass with unsettling frequency. Mark Trumbo is going to make a great deal of money over the next few years. If he keeps hitting 30 homers per season, he'll deserve it. But it's unlikely that he'll ever become more than the player he already is.