How Can Mike Trout Possibly get Better?
How can Mike Trout get better after the season he just had? Go ahead, answer that question. This wasn’t just a “really good Rookie season,” This was a historically good season. His bWAR of 10.7 (You know, that one that lead the Major Leagues this year. hint hint, wink wink BBWAA.) is tied for 20th, all time. The two other players to have a 10.7 bWAR in a season, Willie Mays and Ted Williams. I’m sure you have heard of them.
Sep 19, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) at bat against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Mike Trout was not just the WAR darling for the Fangraphs crowd, he also led the league in stolen bases with 49 (While only getting caught five times) as well pacing the AL in OPS+ at 171 (Buster Posey was the major league leader at 172). The other day I wrote about what would be a fair contract should the Angels decide to decline Dan Haren‘s option in an effort to extend him. I based my opinion using Fangraphs.com’s dollar per win above replacement model. If you used that model in regards to Mike Trout’s 2012 season ($4.4 million per win above replacement), You would get a season valued at $47.08 million. I’m going to let that soak in for a minute. That’s right, the “value” of Mike Trout’s 2012 would be worth almost as much as the entire Gary Matthews Jr. contract. And no, I’m not going to suggest what the Angels should pay lock up Mike Trout long term.
Since we have these silly things called stats, let’s just go back an take a quick look at what Mike Trout did this season:
Wow, all that in 139 games. Damn you Tony Reagins, damn you.
Now, to suggest that Mike Trout was a relative unknown to other teams coming into this season would be completely naive. Teams have scouting reports on everybody. They may not be uber extensive when it comes to minor leaguers, but they generally know what to expect. And I can only imagine that the higher the prospect is on the Top Prospect list the thicker the report becomes. Hell, Bryce Harper probably came into 2012 with most teams already having a dossier on him with all the exposure he has gotten since he was 15 years old. So, to say that teams were caught by surprise by Mike Trout, is downplaying how special Trout is.
Teams did however find some kind of hole in Mike Trout's swing though. As the season progressed Trout started striking out more and more, culminating with 35 strikeouts in September. This could be a byproduct of Trout hitting for more power, and he did have a walk rate that got better as the season went on, but the concern is still there. If Mike is going to remain in the leadoff spot, he needs to bring the strikeout totals down to a much more acceptable level.
He also got a little jumpy in tight situations.
Some players would kill for those numbers. But, relative to Trout’s total body of work in 2012, these numbers were a far cry from what he was doing on a regular basis.
Other than a high strikeout total, and a little less bat late in the game, we really couldn’t ask for much more from the boy wonder. He did everything that a five tool, top prospect is supposed to do while simultaneously vanquishing the memory of failed prospects of the past (Dallas McPherson, Brandon Wood anyone?). He also did this funny thing called adjusting during his rookie year. And he didn’t just adjust from month to month, or week to week, but he adjust from at bat to at bat.
And just to compare, here is how Bryce Harper fared from at bat to at bat:
By Harper's third at bat of the game, he had a good idea of what the pitcher was going to do leading to an OPS jump of .186. That jump from at bat one to at bat two for Mike Trout is .182. The jump from at bat one to at bat three for Trout is .338. It took Harper three at bats to get to where my Trout was after two at bats, and by the third at bat it wasn't even close. Bryce is good for this because of the rookie connection. The league is hard for anyone to figure out, let alone rookies. But, as this Halos Heaven post illustrated back in June, Not even some of the best hitters of the past 30 years could adjust in game as well as Mike Trout could. Mike Trout velociraptor indeed.
The sophomore slump is a very real thing, and many a rookie have succumbed to the dreaded year long slump when the league figures them out. Mike Trout could be one of the many victims of this sports phenomenon with a climbing strike out rate that he seemingly couldn't get under control. Mike Trout could also buck the trend by doing what he did best all season long, by continuing to adjust. I personally think Trout will experience regression in 2013. I also boldly stated that Trout would not be a 30/30 player this year. So there is that.
With all of his tools showing up all at once (Including having a little more power than the 60 grade he was projected to end up with), Trout has become the poster boy for both Angels baseball and the future of Major League baseball. Not a bad gig for a 21 year old kid. And even with a little back slide next season, it will probably be a gig that he holds onto for quite some time.