Bourjos, Trout: Who’s swiftest?

Thoughts on a few hot topics of the day:

Peter Bourjos vs. Mike Trout

Who’s faster? And where will they play when they’re in the same outfield?

These are questions I get all the time. There is no definitive answer to the matter of speed. My guess is Trout is more explosive in the first 20 to 30 yards, but Bourjos would catch him and nip him at the wire at 100 yards. Everyone would like to see them race, but it’s actually better this way, keeping the debate alive as we watch these two  phenomenal athletes grow into whatever they become.

My guess is that Bourjos, with great reads and a better arm, will remain in center field and win close to as many Rawlings Gold Gloves as his mentor, Torii Hunter, who owns nine. Bourjos is already the best, in my view, and can only get better.

Bourjos has the ability to be a highly productive offensive player, hitting in the .280 to .320 range consistently with 50 to 70 steals. He has the hand and bat speed and the willingness to put in the necessary work to make it happen.

Trout’s ceiling is Sistine Chapel-esque: colorful and enormous. I’m not sure he’ll ever be quite as good as Bourjos defensively, but he’ll be close. And he has the talent to be one of the game’s best total hitters. Still not quite 20, he won’t come into his power for a few more years, at which time I think you’ll see him land in the 25-30 homer range with triple digits in runs scored and RBIs. He has the tools to contend for batting titles.

With Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu coming back, there’s no need to rush Trout. But he might force his way into the outfield rotation next season. If he does, I see him in left. And that’s where I see him for a long time, giving the Angels the best left fielder in the game to go along with the premier center fielder, Bourjos.

Something else to ponder: Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Trout forming the fastest, most electric top third of a batting order anyone has seen in a long time. Maybe ever. Aybar is almost as swift as Bourjos and Trout.

Oh, and the guy hitting behind them, cleaning up by driving in loads of runs? Mark Trumbo. This guy is on his way to becoming one of the game’s most feared power hitters. He has the skill and the will and, the most underrated part of the formula, rare common-sense intelligence.

The best is coming for Angels fans. Patience is no virtue, I understand, when it’s all about winning RIGHT NOW. But there’s a whole lot of gold here waiting to be mined in the future.
Mike Napoli vs. Jeff Mathis

The collision of the front-running Rangers, with Napoli fitting in beautifully behind the plate and in the lineup, and the pursuing Angels, with Mathis doing his customary solid defensive work while scuffling offensively, has touched off an old debate among the so-called faithful.

A small segment of fandom seems to appreciate what Mathis has done for a pitching staff that has been the foundation of the Angels’ success. A much larger segment preferred, and still prefers, Napoli’s booming bat. Now that Nap also is putting together an impressive catcher’s ERA with a superb Texas staff, his supporters – and those who just don’t like Mathis – are coming unglued on web sites attacking Mathis, manager Mike Scioscia for playing him, and yours truly for defending him.

The venom is totally out of proportion to the reality, but when emotion gets involved, all logic goes out the proverbial window. I’m an idiot, and so is Scioscia, evidently, for continuing to defend and, in Mike’s case, play a guy WHO CAN’T HIT .200.

Numbers, thrown out to defend any position, now hold the game hostage. It’s all about all these categories I can’t even define. Watching and enjoying the game is secondary now. Sometimes it’s as if the stat people would be thrilled if they just stopped playing the game altogether and let them give us the results through their computers. Everything is so cut and dried, preordained statistically, they might as well do that.

In response to all those who insist I am biased toward Mathis, I would ask you to please, if you get a chance, ask Napoli our relationship when he was with the Angels. I’m pretty sure he’d tell you he had no bigger supporter, in or out of the media.

I’m thrilled to see Napoli with a big smile on his face, having a great time. He’s a good guy. So is his best buddy, Mathis. Their relationship has remained rock solid through their years of competing for playing time, which tells you a lot about both of them.

They used to joke that if you combined their talents, you’d have Johnny Bench. And that wasn’t far from the truth. Given the relative popularity of the two, it’s obvious about 95 percent of fandom would take Bench’s power over his defense.

Mathis knows he needs to hit. That’s his problem. He has to relax and let his natural athletic ability flow. He’s one of the five best athletes in the clubhouse, and if that ever happens, if he ever unlocks himself, he can be a decent offensive player.

The Mathis haters, of course, will laugh, as always. Go ahead. It’s your prerogative. Just please try not to be so hostile in expressing yourself. It cheapens your position.

Howard Kendrick vs. Howie Kendrick

Most everyone calls him Howie, but I’m sticking with Howard for one reason: Jody, his wife, calls him Howard, and so do other family members, from what I understand. If that’s who he is to those closest to him, I’ll go with that. Mike Scioscia calls him Howie because he believes there should be a separation between the athlete and the private person. Mike and I sometimes disagree.

At Spring Training a few years ago, another person close to Kendrick told me “there’s nothing Howie about him,” adding that he’s just too nice a guy to even care what people call him.

Kendrick once told me that Howie first surfaced next to his name early in his career when a bubble-gum company put that on his card. I remembered seeing (and hating) Bob Clemente, not Roberto, on a card when I was a kid. So I guess that’s another reason why I write Howard Kendrick, not Howie.

No big deal. Just setting the record straight from my perspective. – Lyle Spencer


  1. larry

    Lyle, we aren’t Mathis haters. At least I am not. I agree he is a very good defensive catcher. I also agree he is a good guy no doubt. There are a segment of fans out here that truly believe that Napoli did not get his just due as a defensive catcher, many believing he is not a good as Mathis…this is simply not so, stats do bear that out. Please don’t call us haters, we just like Napoli better and wishing Mathis was the one traded.

  2. Steve

    So Lyle, one way to quiet down all the Mathis haters would be to come up with a method of comparing the two catchers combined offensive and defensive stats to look at their total + and/or – contributions to the game. Perhaps there’s a sybermatic formula out there to do that? It’s clear that the scales would tip in favor of Napoli offensively. However, I don’t think they would tip in Mathis’ favor defensively as radically as Sosh paints the picture. Therefore, the scales would tip slightly in favor of Napoli. Of course, the real answer would be to survey the pitchers that have thrown to each on a regular basis and see how big of a difference Mathis makes over Napoli behind the plate. I guess we would never get answers to that one because the guys would never disrespect either one, regardless of what they really think. Personally, I believe Mathis is too much of a liability at the plate, it’s as if the Angels play national ball everyday vs. Ameican League teams when he is in the lineup. Thank God they are not in the National League, with two batters that bad and the mighty little ones sprinkled all around the infield, they would really be at a disadvantage. But that’s for another days’ comments…..

  3. Larry

    Lyle, I don’t think anyone dislikes Mathis, it’s just how do you justify a Major League Player batting a career .197 ? And as a catcher only throwing out 30% of the runners stealing? Other than working with the pitchers well, please tell me what is so special about Mathis? Why is Soscia so enamored with Mathis? I am sure his work ethic is good but has anyone in the Angel organization thought on hiring someone else to work on his hitting since it looks like he is going to be around for awhile?

  4. Jacob

    Mathis ranks at the bottom of the list in defensive metrics- not just of angels catchers, but in the mlb. I understand that you may not understand things like that, or care, but to put it bluntly, Mathis is a bad defensive catcher.

  5. TCH

    I attend about 20 Angels games every year, and thus hear both the positives, and negatives. The later start about the 2nd or 3rd inning – seemingly after a small group of late-comers arrive, with beers in hand, and an athletic alpha-male sitting in their midst. Last year their vitriol was aimed at Brandon; this year it’s Jeff.

    It is very apparent that the hate they spew at the game, or within a blog, is not aimed at helping the player, nor the team. Rather – it is purely a self-aggrandizing outburst (and dare I say by a person with perhaps low self-esteem).

    For those of us there to watch “the game” and the very best baseball players in the world (no exceptions) – the negative actions of fans is annoying at best.

    I also find it absurdly comical when you get attacked (I’ve read such within a supposedly pro-Angels blog). Please know that I enjoy your reports; they are fact based, and seasoned with a few grains of kindness, and optimism.

    From now on I will say “Howard”.


    P.S – Isn’t it awesome – that Brandon Wood is playing for / contributing to the 1st place Pirates!! Go Brandon!

  6. Mike Diapolito

    I’m baffled by the so-called professional ethic of bloggers on a certain pro-Angels site. Since Lyle’s name is out there, these people should have to reveal their identities. This flat crosses the line. How in the world can they get money from responsible advertisers and have a respectable national editing staff with this language? I am beyond shock. I’m sorry this needs to be addressed. Speech should be protected at all costs, anonymous speech shouldn’t be when it done in public forums and is that personally offensive and defaming.

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