Angels' Mike Trout stealing fewer bases amid Albert Pujols' hot streak

Mike Trout reaches first base, and it's easy to imagine that old song by the Clash bouncing around in the Angels center fielder's head: "Should I Stay or Should I Go."

Far more often than not, Trout has stayed, not strayed. In fact, it seems as though an anchor is attached to the leg of one of baseball's fastest runners, weighing down Trout and, at times, the Angels' offense.

When Trout stole second in a 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on June 29, it was his first stolen base in 5 1/2 weeks, a span of 35 games.

His previous stolen base, in Fenway Park on May 22, was his eighth of the season and came in the Angels' 42nd game. That put Trout on pace for 31 stolen bases, which would have been a considerable jump from his 16 stolen bases in 2014.

The Angels, who open a two-game series against Colorado in Coors Field on Tuesday night, have played 82 games, and Trout has nine stolen bases in just 13 attempts, putting him on pace for 18.

The combination of opponents' keen focus on Trout and Albert Pujols' recent tear at the plate has ground Trout to a virtual halt.

"Albert has been hot — that's definitely one of the biggest reasons," Trout said. "When I get chances to run, I'll run. It just so happens that everything Albert is hitting, he's squaring up, so you don't want to take the bat out of his hands. I want to let him swing."

Pujols is hitting .309 (42 for 136) with 17 home runs, 36 runs batted in and a 1.122 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) in 37 games since May 26, and he leads the American League with 25 homers.

Pujols has only five doubles during his streak, but with Trout's speed, Trout is essentially in scoring position when he's at first, so why risk an out with Pujols up?

"If he hits something into the gap or down the line," Trout said, "I have a pretty good chance of scoring."

Bench coach Dino Ebel said pitchers often throw to first when Trout is on in an effort to "wear him out, get him tired." Pitchers often slide-step to the plate and throw more fastballs to give catchers a better chance of throwing Trout out.

"There's a lot of things to consider when you talk about stealing a base or not," Manager Mike Scioscia said. Pitchers' "slide steps to the plate and some catchers who can throw are a bigger piece of the puzzle than worrying about whether a team will walk Albert if a base is open."

Trout doesn't need to steal bases if the Angels clobber the ball as they did this past weekend in Texas, where they scored 33 runs, hit .392 (47 for 120) overall and .444 (20 for 45) with runners in scoring position in a three-game sweep.

But the Angels struggled to score all season before the Rangers series, and the bats will likely cool. Manufacturing runs has not been a strength.

Trout can wreak havoc on the bases, put opposing defenses on their heels and inject energy into the offense. Wouldn't it benefit the Angels — and Trout — to employ that weapon more often?

"I'm going to try in every possible way, whether it's taking the extra base, making the big play on defense, to use my speed," said Trout, who was elected an All-Star starter for the third straight season.

"I'm still going to steal some bases. I'm not going to shut down the whole running game. When I get chances to run, I'll run."

Trout, who is batting .299 with 21 homers, 45 RBIs and 60 runs, stole an AL-high 49 bases as a rookie in 2012 and 33 in 2013. As his power increased — Trout had 36 homers and 111 RBIs and won AL most-valuable-player honors in 2014 — his stolen bases have decreased.

That's a trade-off the Angels will gladly take, especially if it reduces the risk of injury for their best player. Trout, who turns 24 in August, is 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, and often slides headfirst into bases. He must strike a balance between the benefits of stealing and the wear and tear it can put on his body.

"I don't think there's an exact number of stolen bases that would be good for me," Trout said. "I feel great physically. I'm staying in shape, keeping my body strong. If you steal 50 bases, it will take a toll on your body, but I'm not going to stop running. I want to put the team in the best position to score some runs."

Up next

Left-hander Andrew Heaney (1-0, 1.38 earned-run average) will oppose Colorado right-hander Chad Bettis (4-3, 3.67) at Coors Field on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. PDT. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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