Jump to content
  • Welcome to AngelsWin.com

    AngelsWin.com - THE Internet Home for Angels fans! Unraveling Angels Baseball ... One Thread at a Time.

    Register today to join the most interactive online Angels community on the net!

    Once you're a member you'll see less advertisements. Become a Premium member and you won't see any ads! 

     

THREE POSSIBLE FUTURES FOR MIKE TROUT


AngelsWin.com

Recommended Posts

MikeTrout.jpg

By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Columnist - 

A Bittersweet MVP
It happens sometimes: A great player misses out on an MVP award (or, in this case, two) for whatever reason, and then has an inferior campaign the following year and wins it. A classic case was Alex Rodriguez in 2003; in the previous year he was by far the best player in the AL but lost out to Miguel Tejada. In 2003 he was still the best player in the league but didn't have as good a year as in 2002.

And so we come to Mike Trout, who after a historic first two years in which he not only led the majors in fWAR, but surpassed 10 in each year, and still finished second in MVP both times. Certainly, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 and then was even better in 2013, but overall Trout was the better player.

In 2014 Trout will almost certainly earn his first MVP award, and deservedly so – at least if we look at the overall numbers. Once again he led the majors in fWAR, but his overall game did not shine as brightly as in the last two years. A few things tarnished the luster of his shine: One, his already-existing propensity to strike out went through the roof. Secondly, he lost a tick on his leg speed which was clearly a factor in far fewer stolen bases (down from 49 in 2012, 33 in 2013, and 16 in 2014) and diminished defense. A third factor which is rarely mentioned is that he walked less, 27 times less to be exact, but still more than in 2012.

Mike Trout finished with a .287/.377/.561 line, including career highs in HR (36) and RBI (111), but also strikeouts (184). His WAR—according to either Baseball Reference (7.9) or Fangraphs (7.8)--was the lowest of his career, although still good enough to lead the majors. While Trout's fWAR dropped a rather startling 2.7 from 2013's 10.5, he still remained a solid 1.0 above the next best player (Andrew McCutchen, 6.8) and now, over the three years he's been a full-time player, has a rather commanding lead over the rest of the pack (28.4 to #2 McCutchen at 21.8). In other words, Trout remains the best player in the game, even if the gap in 2014 is less than it was in 2012 and 2013.

Looking a bit deeper at his numbers, there are some worrisome trends. While Trout's power was significantly up (his Isolated Power, or SLG minus AVG, was .274, up from .236 in 2012-13), it was at the expense of a higher strikeout rate (26.1% compared to 20.3% in 2012-13), and thus both a reduced BA (.287 compared to .324) and OBP (.377 compared to .416). In other words, Trout hit more HR per at-bat, but at the expense of more strikeouts and, consequently, a lower batting average.

As a hitter and hitter only, Trout took a step back in 2014 (167 OPS+) from 2013 (179 OPS+) but was similar in value to 2012 (168 OPS+), albeit in a different way. But if we factor in Trout's defense and base-running, we see further decline in 2014 from 2012-13, which may or may not be related to his drop in hitting from 2013. According to Jeff Sullivan, Trout's foot speed—while still excellent—was slower than in previous years. Couple that with his upper-cut swing, we are seeing fewer ground balls (33.9% last year, 41.4% in 2013), fewer line-drives (18.9% in 2014, 23% in 2013), more fly-balls (47.2% in 2014, 35.6% in 2013), more infield fly balls (7.4% in 2014, 3.7% in 2013), fewer infield base hits (23 in 2014, 31 in 2013) and again, plenty more strikeouts (184 in 2014, 136 in 2013). And let me put that another way: Mike Trout struck out 48 more times in 2014 than he did in 2013 in almost the same number of plate appearances (705 in 2014, 716 in 2013). A 48 strikeout increase is rather significant.

One of the qualities that has set Trout apart from the crowd in his short career is his incredible ability to adjust, even within a single game. Yet for whatever reason, this ability was lacking in 2014. While his first half numbers were great (.310/.400/.606, 186 wRC+) and spoke of a positive swapping of some average for more power, he struggled in the second half (.257/.347/.502, 141 wRC+), and his strikeouts shot through the roof – from 23.3% to 30%. For those following the Angels on a daily basis, you will remember that whenever it seemed Trout had broken out of his slump and gone on a tear for a few days, he slipped back into handfuls of multiple-strikeout and “0-for” games. Looking back on the second half, it looks less like a long slump that was adjusted to, and more like a binge-and-purge cycle. In other words, what is most worrisome of all is the fact that in the second half as pitchers realized and exploited his vulnerability for high fastballs, Trout did not adjust, and what initially seemed like a July slump turned into a rest-of-the-year downturn. 

So what lies ahead for Trout? This question is, of course, unanswerable. But we can speculate. I'd like to posit three possible outcomes, at least for the near future, with projected stats for a typical healthy season over the course of his Angels contract.

A Rosy-Colored Future
Imagine this: Trout keeps his power and dominance of the first part of 2014, but levels his swing out a bit and adjusts to high fastballs, as well as continues to improve in small ways. The net result is that he reduces his strikeouts by 20-30%, back down to a still-high but acceptable 120-140 a year, his batting average jumps back up, but he keeps most or all of his increased power. Oh yeah, in this scenario he also starts stealing bases again – maybe not 49, but certainly 30ish. We then see a nice run of 30-30 seasons, maybe even a 40-40 season or two.

In this view, Trout will end up as one of the best players in baseball history. While even in this scenario it is unlikely that he reaches the fWAR totals of Willie Mays (149.9) or Ty Cobb (149.3), he could end up somewhere between #4 Mickey Mantle (112.3) and #3 Tris Speaker (130.6). Not too shabby.

Projected Yearly Peak Stats: .320/.430/.620, 35-40 HR, 30 SB, 9-10+ WAR

The Chicken Little Scenario
Let's say Trout simply can't adjust to high heat and remains entranced by his golf-swing, and continues to strikeout at the alarming, Dunnian rate of the second half (consider that Trout's second half K-rate of 30% was worse than Dunn's career rate of 28.6%). Not only do Trout's BA and OBP not rebound, but they are revealed to be more similar to his second half numbers than his season totals. Even in this worst-case scenario he remains a very good, even semi-great ballplayer, but he isn't the same player we've seen in 2012 through the first half of 2014, but closer to the player we saw in the second half of 2014. Oh yeah, in addition he continues to focus on strength training and, in bulking up further, loses more speed, his defense worsening so that he eventually transitions to LF.

In this view, Trout is no longer the best player in baseball, although remains one of the better center fielders. He'd still have a chance at the Hall of Fame, but would end up with a career more comparable to Ken Griffey Jr (77.3 fWAR) than Mantle or Mays.

Projected Yearly Peak Stats: .270/.360/.520, 30 HR, 15 SB, 5-6 WAR

Everything in Moderation
Or there's the Middle Way, which some call the easy way out, unless you're a Buddhist and then it is simply common sense. The moderate view is closer to the optimistic one than the pessimistic one; I mean, we must remember that he's only 23 years old, and the vast majority of 23 year olds actually improve or, if they don't improve, don't get significantly worse. But the moderate view accounts for Trout being an actual mortal, and takes the perspective that he's got a serious hole in his game—his propensity to strikeout—that we simply might have to live with (even in the best-case scenario I don't see him dropping below about 120-130 Ks a year), and that some age-related decline in speed and defense is inevitable, but can be slow.

So in this view his strikeouts drop a bit, but more into the 140-160 range. 150 Ks is still a lot, but imagine if he has swapped 35 of his Ks this year for contact and kept the same overall rates. Doing some quick calculations, he would have hit about .300/.390/.570 with 39 HR and 90 walks and an fWAR around 8.5. 

In this scenario, his average rises a bit, but not back to the near-batting champion level we saw in 2012-13, ranging from .290-.310 in most seasons. He keeps most of his power, his speed stays about the same except for slight and gradual age-related decline in the second half of his 20s and 30s. He probably steals a few more bases than in 2014, but not back to 2012-13 levels. His defense levels off some and his statistics reflect the eyeball view that he's a good-but-not-Bourjosian center fielder. 

In this view, Trout remains the best player in baseball for the indefinite future, winning multiple MVP awards and going down in history as one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game, perhaps challenging Mickey Mantle for fourth on the all-time list of center fielders in fWAR (112.3).

Projected Yearly Peak Stats: .300/.400/.570, 30-35 HR, 20-25 SB, 8-9 WAR

What's the Verdict?
The point of this article isn't as much to come up with a definitive projection, but to lay out different possibilities. If I had to  put my money down on the table, I'd speculate a 20/65/15% split for Optimistic/Moderate/Pessimistic outcomes. In other words, I'm going to chicken out and take the moderate view, with the optimistic being a tad more likely than the pessimistic future. I do think he's got a good chance of having one or several seasons more in the optimistic range, but that his norm will be more akin to the moderate view. 

I would be remiss to mention that there are many other possible futures; for instance, another option would be a combination of the skill-set in the “Chicken Little” scenario, but the value of the “Middle Way” scenario – in other words, something more like .280/.370/.550 with 35-40 HR and 15 SB.

With a talent like Mike Trout, it is really difficult to speculate. We're still talking about a player who has—according to Fangraphs—been more valuable than any player in baseball history through his age 22 season (his 29.1 career fWAR leads Cobb's 25.9, Ott's 25.1, and Williams' 24.8).  The future remains unwritten, and where Angel fans and baseball fans (with the possible exception of the most die-hard division rivals) as a whole unite is looking forward to seeing exactly how Mike Trout writes it.
g7cKFPOuidI

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll take the strikeouts if he's hitting 35-40 HR's, scores 100+ runs, drives in 100+ runs & is in the top 5 in WAR, HR, OPS every season while playing great defense.

 

Damn, some have been spoiled here. I think some of you have expectations that Mike Trout should be some sort of a combination of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron.    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Damn, some have been spoiled here. I think some of you have expectations that Mike Trout should be some sort of a combination of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron.    

 

You mean like Mickey Mantle! I think the expectation is there because, well, he was pretty much that way for his first two years. But yeah, it isn't fair to expect any player to post a 10 WAR performance every, even most, years. Even the all-time greats fluctuate. Mantle "only" had five seasons of 8.8 fWAR or higher, three of which were 10+. The rest of his years were below 7.

 

When I'm not trying to make dinner later tonight, I'll pull together some numbers about all-time greats and how many of their seasons were actually "truly great." I'll have to define what that is, but probably 9+ fWAR. My guess is that even the inner circle greats produced less than half their years at that level.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's some Trout Porn to even out any criticism I might be pointing his way. Mike is currently, now get this, the second greatest position player in the history of the game in terms of fWAR/162 games played. Here's the top 12:

 

10.9 Ruth

9.6 Trout

9.3 Hornsby

9.2 Williams

8.9 Bonds

8.7 Gehrig

8.1 Mays

8.0 Wagner

8.0 Cobb

7.8 DiMaggio

7.6 Mantle

7.2 Schmidt

 

Now certainly Trout's average fWAR will go down substantially over the course of his career--although I think he could still be above 7--but that's still pretty cool.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll take the strikeouts if he's hitting 35-40 HR's, scores 100+ runs, drives in 100+ runs & is in the top 5 in WAR, HR, OPS every season while playing great defense.

 

Damn, some have been spoiled here. I think some of you have expectations that Mike Trout should be some sort of a combination of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron.    

Yes please!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll take the strikeouts if he's hitting 35-40 HR's, scores 100+ runs, drives in 100+ runs & is in the top 5 in WAR, HR, OPS every season while playing great defense.

 

Damn, some have been spoiled here. I think some of you have expectations that Mike Trout should be some sort of a combination of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron.    

 

Yep. Strikeouts don't mean a whole lot at the end of the day. The best hitters in baseball tend to strikeout a lot.

Giancarlo Stanton struckout 170 times. Many consider him to be the best hitter in the NL.

 

Also, people love to obsess over his 2nd half slump while ignoring the fact that he had a .969 OPS in the final month of the season. He ended up striking out 33 times in 25 games.

Edited by Poozy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep. Strikeouts don't mean a whole lot at the end of the day. The best hitters in baseball tend to strikeout a lot.

Giancarlo Stanton struckout 170 times. Many consider him to be the best hitter in the NL.

 

Also, people love to obsess over his 2nd half slump while ignoring the fact that he had a .969 OPS in the final month of the season. He ended up striking out 33 times in 25 games.

while I don't think it means everything, Trout's speed makes it important for him to put the ball in play.  While I keep coming back to it, I think it's worth being said once again.  He had a wRC+ of 78 hitting the ball to the opposite field this year.  128 in 2013, and 155 in 2012.  His BABIP to the opposite field was .200 this year and his IF fly out % was way up.  

 

obviously and arm chair analysis but I think this is a combo of a couple of things.  

 

First and foremost, is his focus on pulling the ball and hitting more hrs or at least hitting more fly balls.  His FB rate was way up.  

It could have something to do with them pitching him up in the zone more, but I think it's the opposite.  I think this approach makes him more susceptible to the pitch in the zone and less likely to handle it.  

Secondly, and of course this is me critiquing the one of the best players in the game, but I think he needs to change his two strike approach.  He looks breaking ball with two strikes, but they never throw it to him.  He lets the ball get deeper and because it's generally always hard stuff, he's lat on the fastball up.  Couple with his new tendency to want to pull the ball in the air, it makes him more prone to the swing and miss or getting sawed off high and inside for weak flyouts and popups.  

 

I'd like to see him shorten up with two strikes and focus on hitting the ball the other way on a line.  

 

He's always had that two strike approach, in the past I feel like with his strikezone awareness and willingness to hit the ball the other way its wasn't as detrimental but now that he's more focused on pulling the ball in the air, it actually makes him vulnerable.  

 

bottom line is that some hybrid of what he did in 2014 when he's ahead and what he did in 2012 when behind would be more balanced.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ONE LIKELY FUTURE FOR MIKE TROUT: Hall of Fame

 

Yes, that's a wide range of outcomes. Willie Mays (149.9 fWAR, 154 wRC+) and Jim Rice (50.8 fWAR, 128 wRC+) are both in the Hall of Fame.

 

Now obviously Trout will probably end up somewhere between Mays and Rice, but that's not the point. The point is that there are a wide range of talents in the Hall of Fame, from the very best to ever play the game (e.g. Mays) to guys that were very good for awhile and happened to shake the right hands at the right time (e.g. Rice). To say that he'll be in the Hall of Fame isn't saying a whole lot at this point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep. Strikeouts don't mean a whole lot at the end of the day. The best hitters in baseball tend to strikeout a lot.

Giancarlo Stanton struckout 170 times. Many consider him to be the best hitter in the NL.

 

Also, people love to obsess over his 2nd half slump while ignoring the fact that he had a .969 OPS in the final month of the season. He ended up striking out 33 times in 25 games.

 

I'll second what Doc said, but wanted to underscore that in Trout's case--as I said in the blog article--he struck out 48 more times in 2014 than 2013, which is 48 times less that he didn't put the ball in play. That is significant.

 

And yeah, many great hitters strikeout a lot, but I wouldn't say that the best hitters tend to strikeout a lot. It really depends upon the type of hitter. One of the things Blengino said in that Fangraphs article is that Trout seems to be turning more into a Stanton type than a Mantle type. It is worth reading the past two paragraphs of his piece:

 

That said, he appears to have become a power-before-hit guy rather than the hit-before-power guy he was in 2012 and 2013. The aforementioned factors underlying his 2014 performance – the increased K’s, popups and fly balls, and the increased pull tendency on the ground – are hallmarks of older players. Trout has pushed himself several years forward on his personal aging curve, and as it is with the defensive spectrum, it’s a lot easier to move in one direction than the other. It’s similar to fighting the force of gravity.

 

Mike Trout is not in a steady, inexorable decline. He is an incredible athlete, with elite ball-impacting skills. He will win more MVP Awards, and his current contract is very likely to turn out to be a bargain. That said, my long-term prognosis for him isn’t as sunny as it was entering this season. Offensively, he looks a lot more like Giancarlo Stanton than Mickey Mantle going forward. Mantle struck out a lot, but he had the platoon advantage each and every time he batted in the major leagues. Trout apparently has sold out the approach that worked for him in his first two seasons for power, power, power. He’ll exhibit plenty of it in the coming seasons, but I would expect him to be a much different player at the end of his current contract than he is today. Someday, he’ll have to move to an outfield corner, and 2014 marked his first large step to a corner outfielder skill set. He now appears much more likely to experience a conventional aging curve rather than a Hank Aaron-esque hit-before-power path that features peak level performance as late as one’s late thirties.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, that's a wide range of outcomes. Willie Mays (149.9 fWAR, 154 wRC+) and Jim Rice (50.8 fWAR, 128 wRC+) are both in the Hall of Fame.

 

Now obviously Trout will probably end up somewhere between Mays and Rice, but that's not the point. The point is that there are a wide range of talents in the Hall of Fame, from the very best to ever play the game (e.g. Mays) to guys that were very good for awhile and happened to shake the right hands at the right time (e.g. Rice). To say that he'll be in the Hall of Fame isn't saying a whole lot at this point.

 

2012 Trout is more fun to watch. But I think he lost some speed so he doesn't want to leg out as many infield hits anymore therefore he's trying to hit with more power. WAR and wRC+ aren't perfect stats but they have value. To start and end a conversation with them as giving value to where he may fit in the HOF is incomplete and I don't follow the reason to do so. We'll see where Trout takes his game moving forward.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the big thing for Trout is to swing at the 1st pitch a tad more often. This doesn't mean he gets a super aggressive approach but he's had good success with 1st pitch swinging and most guys groove fastballs to him on the 1st pitch. 

 

If Trout starts pounding those 1st pitch fastballs, then pitchers adjust by throwing 1st pitch balls, which means more favorable counts for Trout. 

 

Trout's been exposed up in the zone with the fastball but almost every player in baseball has issues with elevated heat. He's not the only one with that trouble.

 

I think the bigger issue is having too many 2 strike counts. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the big thing for Trout is to swing at the 1st pitch a tad more often. This doesn't mean he gets a super aggressive approach but he's had good success with 1st pitch swinging and most guys groove fastballs to him on the 1st pitch. 

 

If Trout starts pounding those 1st pitch fastballs, then pitchers adjust by throwing 1st pitch balls, which means more favorable counts for Trout. 

 

Trout's been exposed up in the zone with the fastball but almost every player in baseball has issues with elevated heat. He's not the only one with that trouble.

 

I think the bigger issue is having too many 2 strike counts. 

You're right, if Trout weren't behind in as many counts he could afford to take borderline balls that are high/inside and punish mistake (not easy to pitch high heat consistently without making mistakes) instead of being at the whim of the umps on two strikes and getting called out looking so much

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the big thing for Trout is to swing at the 1st pitch a tad more often. This doesn't mean he gets a super aggressive approach but he's had good success with 1st pitch swinging and most guys groove fastballs to him on the 1st pitch. 

 

If Trout starts pounding those 1st pitch fastballs, then pitchers adjust by throwing 1st pitch balls, which means more favorable counts for Trout. 

 

Trout's been exposed up in the zone with the fastball but almost every player in baseball has issues with elevated heat. He's not the only one with that trouble.

 

I think the bigger issue is having too many 2 strike counts. 

A tad more often=once in a while.

 

Trout became very predictable this year. Pitchers could get that first pitch over and not worry about Trout swinging at it.

 

He became a Three True Outcomes player.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...