Since they’ve all been heard by now, let’s skip the puns and grant that Trevor Story and his many dingers have been one of the best parts of the first couple of weeks of the 2016 season.

But in a related story, things have also gotten to a point where the question needs to be asked: Just how many more dingers can be expected from Story?

Per the latest news, “infinite” still seems like the best answer. With seven home runs in 12 games already in his pocket, Story poked yet another at Great American Ball Park on Monday. His eighth-inning shot gave the Colorado Rockies a 2-1 lead that ultimately turned into a 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, and it looked and sounded like this:

With that, Colorado’s rookie shortstop now has eight home runs. That’s two more dingers than any other player has this season. And according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Information), it’s one more than any other player has ever had through his first 13 career games.

Because somebody has to say it, Story is on pace to hit 100 home runs. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll also be the one to say he’s not going to get there. Call it a hunch based on the notion that a guy breaking the single-season home run mark by 27 dingers is slightly far-fetched.

Still, Story’s latest long ball at least keeps rookie home run marks in focus.

If the 23-year-old can’t top Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 home runs, perhaps he can top Frank Robinson and Wally Berger’s National League rookie record of 38. He only needs to hit 30 more over the next five-and-a-half months to get there, which will be no problem at the rate he’s going.

About that rate, though…

Everything looks good regarding what Story’s done when he’s made contact. He entered Monday with a fly-ball rate of 60 percent, tying him with Bryce Harper for fourth in baseball. He’s also had a hard-hit rate of 56.7 percent, which ranks first.

That’s the batted-ball profile of a legit power threat, and it’s a shoe that fits Story well. He slugged over .500 in his last 130 games at Double-A and Triple-A. And physically, the 6’1″, 180-pound Story struck one Rockies legend as an enhanced version of the best shortstop the franchise has ever had.

“He looked like Troy Tulowitzki with broader shoulders,” former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton told Jerry Crasnick of 

With Story, however, the inevitable “But…” has always been about his swing-and-miss problem. It occasionally threatened to derail his minor league career, in which he struck out in 26.8 percent of his plate appearances.

And now, it’s already pushing against his home run binge.

Story hid his swing-and-miss problem as he was launching six home runs in his first four games, as he struck out only 21.1 percent of the time. Over his last nine games, however, he’s struck out 47.5 percent of the time.

Though data from Monday night is not yet available as of this writing, Story’s underlying numbers confirm his recent struggles with whiffs are no accident:

Note: “O-Contact%” refers to contact outside the strike zone, which makes “Z-Contact%” for contact inside the strike zone. 

Story has actually gotten more selective with his swings since his impossibly hot start, but it hasn’t translated to more contact in or out of the zone. Quite the contrary, actually.

Pitchers have done their part to force this. Story’s percentage of pitches in the zone has fallen from 57.1 to 46.2. And as Brooks Baseball can show, that’s only half the, um, story.

Pitchers were pitching Story like this:

Now they’re pitching him like this:

The difference isn’t subtle. After not having a clear pattern early on, pitchers have since resolved to pitch Story low and away and low and away some more.

This is a go-to strategy for hitters who specialize in both power and whiffs, and it may be an especially good idea against Story. In his scouting report at Baseball Prospectus, Al Skorupa wrote that Story “doesn’t recognize spin well” and that he’s “vulnerable to soft and spin away when he becomes too pull oriented.”

With an overall pull percentage of 46.7, Story has indeed been pull-oriented. And as Baseball Savant can illustrate, a good percentage of his recent strikeouts have come on spinning pitches away from him. He’s inviting pitchers to pitch to his scouting report, and it’s working.

This more than likely puts the kibosh on the idea that Story can get to McGwire’s rookie home run record. It seems reasonable to mark Story down for a strikeout rate of at least 30 percent. No hitter with a strikeout rate that high has ever hit 49 homers.

And remember, we’re talking at least 30 percent. Story’s overall strikeout rate stands at 39 percent. If it stays that high, never mind home run records. He’ll have trouble even staying in the big leagues.

It’s not entirely out of the question, though, that Story can adjust.

To this end, it doesn‘t hurt that Story doesn‘t feel overwhelmed by anything that’s happening to him.

“I feel in control,” he told Nick Groke of the Denver Post recently. “Getting used to the big leagues is different. It’ll take a little bit. But it hasn’t sped up on me. I feel good about how I’m handling it.”

He already seems to be making an effort by going the other way more often. After it was just 26.7 percent in his first four games, Story’s opposite-field rate climbed to 40 percent in his next eight games. If he can continue that without sacrificing any power, he could actually do some damage against all the low-and-away pitches he’s seeing. That could force pitchers into a different strategy, which could help eliminate some whiffs.

If Story can go the other way more often and/or cut down on his strikeouts, the National League rookie home run record might actually be possible.

Chris Davis topped 38 homers despite striking out over 30 percent of the time just last year. Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard have also done it. Chris Carter, Mark Reynolds and Pedro Alvarez, meanwhile, have all topped 35 home runs with a strikeout rate over 30 percent. And to boot, none of these guys had the benefit of hitting regularly at Coors Field.

For Story, making history has been easy so far. In the long run, it’s most definitely going to be more difficult. But in this story, what’s difficult isn’t necessarily impossible.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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