I said it. You probably said it. Everyone said it. Our ideal Trevor Story is the combination of his 2016 offense and his 2017 defense. This is more than a little unfair to Trevor, and it’s the fault of fans and intense observers that set what may be unrealistic expectations. We tend to want players to be more than they are.
So far in 2018, Story is showing himself to be less than the sum of the best parts of his first two seasons, but more than the sum of the worst parts. That amounts to an average major-league shortstop. It may not be our ideal, but it’s a player with a central role on the team.
This evolution is most evident in his offense. In Story’s rookie season in 2016, he had a 122 OPS+ on the strength of better than anticipated .272/.341/.567 slash line. We always knew he had power, but not quite that much. We also knew he was prone to the strikeout, which is what made the relatively high average and on-base percentage surprising. It’s too bad he posted this line in an injury-shortened rookie season, because it then became the go-to baseline for the type of contributor Story is.
Story’s OPS+ fell 36 points from his rookie to sophomore seasons. The first two parts of Story’s .239/.308/.457 triple-slash along with his league-leading 191 strikeouts provided evidence that the worst, and expected, parts of his offensive game were still around. And to make matters worse, he didn’t show the rookie-season power that could have made up for it. Just like it was a mistake to view Story’s rookie season as his baseline, it’s also a mistake to look at his second year at the plate as an anomaly.
It may also be a mistake to look at Story’s season through Saturday, totaling 34 games, and call it equilibrium. On the surface, that’s exactly what it looks like. Story’s OPS+ is the literal definition of average, 100, but he’s not getting there in the way one might have expected. I would have guessed a return of some of the previous power while keeping the average and on-base percentage about the same — in other words, the combination of 2016 and 2017 fantasy.
Instead, Story’s batting average and slugging percentage are both about the same as they were in 2017, but his on-base percentage is higher. Just like Nolan Arenado, Story is taking more walks in 2018. His walk rates for his first two seasons were 8.4 and 8.8%; through Saturday, his walk rate is 10.7%. That two percentage point increase has resulted in a 13 point increase of on-base percentage from 2017. His batting average is still low, so he’s still not getting on base as much as he did in 2016.
I think this Trevor Story is closest to the real one, though there are a lot of games and future seasons left to reveal yet more.