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 comment and join the most interactive online Angels community on the net!

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



On Mike Trout: Can He Make One More Adjustment? (Part 3 - Statcast, 100 WAR Seasons, and Summing Up)

Recommended Posts

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.


2023 Examined: What does Statcast tell us?

In the past two installments, we focused first on Trout as a player (Part 1) and then on historically comparable players (Part 2). In this final installment, we'll take a deeper dive in Trout's 2023 season, to see if the statistics--in particular, Statcast.

2023 was a rough year for Trout, both on the field and in the statistical record. We can see this by splitting his season into three unequal parts:

First 28 games (through April 29): .320/.408/.612, 176 wRC+

Next 41 games (April 30 - June 16): .199/.318/.351, 85 wRC+

Last 14 games before injury (June 17 - July 3): .340/.441/.680, 203 wRC+

As you can see, about half of his games played--or the first month and the last two weeks (ignoring his one game back)--were pretty standard Trout, though with small differences: higher batting average and slightly lower walk rate. But he was basically as good as ever.

But in-between is what is probably the worst 40ish game span of his career, especially the last 18 games (May 28 to June 16) in which he hit .141/.309/.234 with a 58 wRC+ in 81 PA.

A first, cursory look at his Statcast data doesn't yield any red flags. His Barrel rate, Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, and Sweet Spot % are all within the natural fluctuation of the nine years of data (Statcast only goes back to 2015). His Barrel rate (16.0) is a tad on the low range and below his average (16.4), but higher than 2016-17; his Exit Velocity (91.9) is above his average (91.4), and his Launch Angle (19.3) is a bit higher than his average (18.4) but lower than three other seasons; finally, his Sweet Spot % (38.3) is a little below his average (39.0) but higher than four other seasons. In other words, he's hitting the ball about as hard as ever.

The same is true when we look at his Batted Ball profile: just about everything is within normal ranges. There are a few minor exceptions: The number of balls he hit to center was a career low (30.1%), well below his average (35.8%). Also, his solid hit % (5.8) was his lowest since 2017 and at the MLB average, below his own (6.7).

The pitch he struggled with the most by Run Value was the sinker at -3 RV; everything else was average or better. He's never had an issue with sinkers, at least in the data range going back to 2017, and it was his only RV below -1 for his career.

But here's where the flags start showing up: His Zone Swing % was the highest during the data span going back to 2015 at 69.8%, significantly above his previous high in 2022 at 64.8%, both of which were well above his average of 59.2%. At the same time, his Zone Contact % over the last two years--75.8 and 75.9, respectively--are his lowest and far below his average of 82.0.

And here's another interesting bit: Remember when we all used to complain about him always taking the first pitch? Well, his last three seasons (2021-23) have been a jump from previous years, and the highest going back to 2015 (the full data range). 2021 was the highest but in only 36 games; otherwise 2023 is the highest. And his overall Swing% is the highest of his career at 44.4, compared to a career rate of 38.8.

To summarize, Trout is swinging more, especially in the zone, swinging at more first pitches, and making worse contact. This likely means one (or both) of two things: diminished hand-eye coordination (or eyesight) and pitch recognition and/or that he's pressing and gotten into bad habits.

Is that fixable? Only time will tell. His last two weeks before injury are encouraging, because it seemed like he had made the necessary adjustments and was seeing the ball better. Chances are he'll be able to carry this forward, or at least adjust again as necessary, but whether back to the super elite 170 wRC+ level of most of his career or something in-between remains to be seen.

We also see a trend in his plate discipline: His 12.4 BB% is the fourth lowest of his career after 2012, '14, and '22, but at least it went up from last year, and it was rising over the course of the season. His K% (28.7) was the highest of his career, but that is partially due to league-wide increasing strikeouts.

As mentioned, Trout has been unusually consistent over the course of his career, with full-season wRC+ rates in a rather tight range: 167 to 188. In 2023 he plummeted to 134. It would be very surprising if 134 is the new norm. Chances are he bounces back to at least the 150ish level, and maybe higher. 

So if I were to guess, I'd say that Trout's bat will improve significantly, at least for the next several years. There's no reason to think that he cannot at least bounce back to the 150+ level, and may even have a season or two back around his career average of 170.

The big question is whether he can stay healthy. The most similar player to Trout in baseball history is Mickey Mantle who, even as his WAR plummeted after his last great season in 1961 at age 29, his wRC+ remained above his career average for three more partial seasons (age 30-32), and he only dipped below 140 for one season. But again, given the nature of some of his injuries--basically freak accidents--it seems quite possible that at least some of the next seven or more seasons will be less injury-ridden.

The 100 WAR Question

Before concluding, I want to add one more piece to the puzzle. The question has come up on the forum as to whether we've seen the end of players reaching 100 WAR. I noted that we don't see as many huge outlier seasons. For instance, while there are more 7-8 seasons overall, we are seeing less 10 and especially 11+ WAR seasons, with Aaron Judge's being the first since Barry Bonds did it three times in the early 2000s, and then before Bonds you have to go back to Joe Morgan in 1975 (11.0 WAR).

To put that another way, of the 26 hitter seasons of 11+ WAR, ten of them (38.5%) were in the 1920s alone and only four in the last 48 years (1976-2023). Or compare the number of players at various levels above 7 WAR by decade:


It is important to understand that this is not a static player pool -- thus note the "Player Seasons" row. From the 1900s to the 1950s there were from 1002 to 1114 hitters per decade with 400 PA; as expansion happened starting in 1961, this grew substantially, from 1331 in the 1960s to 1731 in the 70s and up from there, maxing out in the 2000s with 2182 player seasons of 400 PA or higher. Meaning, three 10+ WAR seasons in the 90s isn't the same thing as three in the 1950s when there were about half as many teams and players.

The next chart illustrates this, with WAR ranges as percentage of 400 PA seasons:



Perhaps what stands out most in both charts, but especially the second one, is how many big (10+ WAR) seasons there were in the 1920s. In fact, of the nine 12 WAR hitter seasons in baseball history, seven of them were in the 20s: Five by Babe Ruth and one each by Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig. The two in the 2000s were, of course, Barry Bonds.

So it is worth noting that every 12 WAR season was done either in the 1920s when Ruth and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Rogers Hornsby were so much better than everyone else with the bat--or by Barry Bonds who, well, you know. Ruth revolutionized hitting in a way not seen before or since, and Hornsby was presumably the first to be able to come close to emulating it. By the 1930s, big bats flourished, with fewer high outliers. But even Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays weren't able to reach 12 WAR (Though Williams and Mantle both had multiple 11 WAR seasons).

Another, and perhaps more relevant, takeaway from the chart above is that there have been fewer 10 WAR seasons in the last 50-60 years, not just numerically but as a percentage of all hitters. The 1920s are a historical outlier; the 1930s-60s saw a significant number, but it dropped during the comparatively low offense of the 70s and 80s, before rising a bit in the 90s and after. But more importantly, we see this contraction occurring with 9 and 8 WAR seasons, and slightly with 7 WAR seasons. Meaning, WAR is being contracted.

So to return to this question, while I think we will see 100 WAR players--Trout is a virtual lock, and Mookie Betts has an outside chance, and who knows about Acuna and other young guys--we probably are done with 120 WAR players, at least unless the game radically changes (again). In fact, other than Bonds (164.4) we haven't seen a 120 WAR player since Mays (149.8) retired in 1973 and Aaron (136.3) retired in 1976. Alex Rodriguez (113.7) fell just short, and Mike Schmidt (106.5) and Rickey Henderson (106.3) are the only other hitters to surpass the 100 WAR threshold in the last five decades.

With his astonishing 11.6 WAR season last year, Aaron Judge proved that we still will see the occasional 11 WAR season; and within the last dozen seasons, Trout (twice), Betts, and Buster Posey have reached 10 WAR. But these high 10 to 11+ WAR seasons are more rare than they once were, and will likely continue to be more rare.


Conclusion: Summing Up the Series

OK, let's wrap things up. After about 6,000 words, where does that leave us? Let's summarize some key points: 

  • Trout's career has been characterized by unusual consistency, with every full season from 2012-22 within the 167 to 188 wRC+ range.
  • 2023 was a huge aberration from that, with a 134 wRC+.
  • According to JAWS, Trout is the 5th best center fielder and 25th best position player all-time, and has a good chance of reaching 4th and the top 15 (possibly top 10), depending upon how the rest of his career goes.
  • The vast majority of somewhat similar players, in terms of career accomplishments, had at least one MVP caliber season (7+ WAR) in their 30s.
  • In 2023, he was his normal self for about half of his playing time (the first month and last two weeks) but terrible for about 40 games in-between.
  • An analysis of Statcast tells us that the main outlier in 2023 was a penchant to swing more often, especially on the first pitch, and making worse contact.
  • WAR totals have contracted since the 1920s, with very high (10 and especially 11 WAR and above) seasons more rare than before, leading to career WAR totals also contracting.

What does all this mean? And to the point: What does it mean for Mike Trout in 2024 and beyond?

To go back to a point from the intro of part one, every player is unique - and there is no way to know the future with any degree of certainty. All we can do is try to understand the individual player as much as possible, look at historical trends and deeper statistics, which is what I tried to do in the three parts of this series.

All that is left is to make an informed guess, season it with intuition and, hopefully, reduce bias as much as I can (which is hard with Trout).

So my guess is this: In 2024, Trout will bounce back, having his best year since 2019. He'll never quite be as good as he was in his prime (2012-19), but his bat will be close. Over the next three or four years, he'll have one or two MVP caliber seasons of 7 WAR or better (or very close to it), but probably not 8 WAR or above. But he'll continue to struggle with the injury bug to some extent, and probably never play 140 games again, though have several seasons above 120 games.

He'll be an MVP caliber player--when healthy--through 2026 or 27 (age 34-35), surpassing the 100 WAR mark sometime in 2026, then drop to merely good to very good, before playing one final hurrah season post-contract in 2031 at age 39, turning 40 near the end of his final season. With injuries and a bit of ups and downs, he'll accumulate 30-35 more WAR and finish his career with 115-120 WAR, to go along with 550+ HR and a career wRC+ in the 160-165 range. He'll widely be considered an easy pick as one of the top 20 players of all time, and arguably top 10.

Or to put it another way, Trout isn't done. We may never see "Trout WAR Day" again, but we'll see him among the five or ten best players in the sport, at least for several years. And who knows, maybe the stars align and he has one (or two?!) more MVP runs left in him. We can dream....








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.

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...