intentionally walking Mike Trout with the bases loaded over the weekend -- a tactic reserved only for peak-level Barry Bonds and Josh Hamilton -- just gives us occasion to point out the very ridiculous reality that right now Trout is a better hitter than he has ever been before.
This shouldn't be possible, because in three of the past five completed seasons, Trout's average offensive output, per OPS+, has been 73 percent better than the league average. But this year, Trout has been 125 percent better than average, and that's attributable to a really interesting development in strike-zone discernment.
According to FanGraphs, Trout is swinging at 42 percent of the pitches he sees -- the highest such mark of his career. And yet his strikeout rate (19.3) is the lowest it's been in the last four seasons, and his walk rate (15.8) is far north of the league average (8.8).
The reason for that is that Trout has never swung at so few pitches outside the strike zone (21.8 percent). He's taken a more aggressive approach on strikes (particularly first-pitch strikes) and done a better job laying off pitches he can't do damage with. The same guy who just three years ago struck out a league-high 184 times to drive his batting average down to .287 -- part of the devil's deal accompanied by a rise in homer production -- is now hitting .350 and on pace for roughly 130 strikeouts, all while on pace for the highest home run total of his career.
It's not supposed to work that way.
So while Collins thought better of walking Trout in that specific situation, there was nothing at all absurd about the thought. We're witnessing the best version of Mike Trout we've ever seen. And we've seen some pretty darn good versions of Mike Trout.