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OC Register: Angels’ Mike Trout just had his worst season – here’s how he plans to fix it

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Lost amid the narratives of Mike Trout’s injuries or whether he should ask to be traded is the underlying question about what he actually did while he was on the field last season.

The Angels’ superstar, a three-time MVP, posted numbers that were, across the board, the worst of his career.

Trout finished with a .263 average and an .858 OPS, which were well below his previous career averages of .303 and 1.002.

Trout hit 18 homers in 82 games, with his season cut short by a fractured bone in his hand.

“I’ve been fighting through it for the last couple years,” said Trout, who had a .999 OPS in 2022. “Just get that rhythm down, going through a stretch where I feel feel comfortable. Looking back, there wasn’t a stretch in the last year or the year before where I felt like myself for a while. Just getting back to that is key.”

Trout had a .669 OPS over a 41-game span from late April to mid June, which was the worst 41-game span of his career, excluding the 2011 season when he first broke into the majors as a teenager.

Trout finally started to perform in June. He had a 1.047 OPS over his last 16 games and 68 plate appearances before he fractured his hamate bone July 3.

The obvious question is whether Trout’s down year in 2023 was an isolated slump, or if it was a sign of the decline that normally comes as a player gets older.

Trout, who turned 32 in August, scoffed at that idea.

“No, no, no,” he said. “It’s not that. I know what I’m doing wrong. I created a bad habit in the last year or two that I’m trying to get out of.”

That habit, Trout said, is “sliding,” as opposed to keeping a firm base. That caused his hips to drop and he “was under everything.”

Trout’s contact rate was 76% in 2023. He had been at least 80% in every season through 2020. He was at 73% in his injury-shortened 2021 and in 2022.

His troubles were especially acute against high velocity. Last year, Trout hit .197 on pitches at 95 mph or harder. The major-league average was .240. Trout had previously never hit worse than .236 on those pitches, and as recently as 2022 he hit .290.

Although it’s easy to suspect that Trout’s bat speed has slowed, the numbers don’t support that.

Statcast began tracking bat speed in 2023, and Trout’s average of 73.8 mph was the second fastest in the majors, behind Giancarlo Stanton (77.0). The problem wasn’t that the bat was slow; it was that he was missing too many pitches, which he said is because of the mechanical issue.

There was also some element of bad luck for Trout last year. His expected batting average, based on the quality of contact, was .275. The expected slugging percentage was .523, compared with his actual slugging percentage of .490.

Trout’s solution for 2024 starts with getting more plate appearances in spring training. He said he wants 70 to 80 plate appearances this spring, which would include at-bats in live batting practice or minor-league games. Last year, he had just 26 plate appearances in spring training, plus some on back fields.

“You can only do so much in the cage,” Trout said. “You have to get those everyday reps, in the game … If I can get to 100 by mid-April, that’s when you can really get into a rhythm. You have to build into that, but getting those at-bats in spring training will definitely help.”

Trout remains confident he can again be the player who won those three MVPs, including one in 2019.

“For sure,” he said. “Every year I come in like that. I want to be back to that. When you’re grinding through things at the plate, it’s tough mentally and physically. Mentally, you’re trying to get to that point. When you don’t, and you’re fighting through things, it puts a toll on you. And physically, you’re in there hitting every day, and things flare up on you. Getting back to my normal self is the goal.”


The Angels stole 10 bases through their first four spring training games, which was second only to the Colorado Rockies (11) in the majors. The Angels were caught stealing twice.

It’s all part of Angels manager Ron Washington’s preference to be aggressive on the bases.

“I don’t think these teams in the American League will let us run crazy, but if they go to sleep, we’re going to run,” Washington said. “They’re going to have to be on their P’s and Q’s because I want to be aggressive. That’s the way we’re going to play.”

Washington said they’ll also emphasize taking extra bases on hits. When the Angels have a runner at third and less than two outs, Washington said he will regularly send the runner on contact, as long as the Angels are ahead or tied.

“We’re just trying to get that mindset,” Washington said. “If you get thrown out, get up, brush yourself off and when you get back out there, do it again. We’re not going to stop pushing the envelope unless a team stops us.”


Left-hander José Suarez is not scheduled to pitch in a game yet. Washington said Suarez, who pitched in winter ball, is healthy. “Early on his arm wasn’t live, so we’re going to give him a little break to get his arm back,” Washington said. …

Angels broadcaster Mark Gubicza is scheduled to be in uniform as a guest instructor, starting Wednesday. A veteran of 14 big-league seasons, Gubicza has never served as an instructor with the Angels. Former Angels shortstop David Eckstein will also be a guest instructor, starting Wednesday.

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We can hope, right?

Didn't know that about swing speed - that bodes well and implies he's right in his self-assessment, that it is more mechanical--which can be fixed--than actual skill erosion and physical decline.

I maintain that Trout could still have a peak hitting year - a lot of all-time greats have some of their best years with the bat in their 30s, even if their defense and speed starts declining. Meaning, even though he's unlike to have a peak 9-10 WAR again, if he's healthy I could see a 180 wRC+.


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