If you watched the nationally televised Texas Rangers–Los Angeles Angels game on Sunday night, you likely heard the ESPN three-man booth fall over each other to try to convince the viewership which one of them was more impressed with Mike Trout. Being a good Rangers fan, I couldn’t stomach that particular piece of regurgitated man-love for Trout, so I proudly had my television set on mute. However, in thinking about it more, the broadcast trio, along with all baseball pundits, cannot be blamed for fawning over Trout. To this point, his 2012 season has been nearly unprecedented.
First, all of this should be baselined by restating that Mike Trout is 20 years old. Twenty! This is where I could mention that in three weeks his teammates will finally be able to buy him a beer, or that he is one month younger than Jamie Moyer’s son, but I trust you can grasp how amazing it is for Trout to be twenty in the major leagues. Just think about when you were twenty and what you were doing. Now consider that Trout is getting “best player in baseball” labels slapped on him at the same age. I saw Trout high-five Albert Pujols tonight, and pondered that when Pujols was winning NL Rookie of the Year, Trout was about to start the fifth grade.
Trout is the current favorite to win the American League MVP award, and with every game of Josh Hamilton flailing away at the plate, the word choice of “favorite” will soon become “certainty”. Trout is the first player in MLB history to collect 105 hits, 47 RBI, and 31 stolen bases in the first 73 games of a season. On Sunday night, he set an American League rookie record by scoring a run in 14 straight games. After reaching base four times in five plate appearances against the Rangers, Trout is now hitting .357/.412/.603, and is the AL leader in batting average, 2nd in on-base percentage, and 2nd in slugging percentage. He has stepped on to the MLB stage and made everything look easy. Any time a player makes playing the game look easy, it grabs your attention. Baseball is a very hard sport.
Trout spent the first four weeks of the 2012 season in Triple-A, a decision that now looks preposterous in hindsight. The Angels are certainly either patting themselves on the back for releasing Bobby Abreu, or thanking their lucky stars that Vernon Wells suffered an injury, or both. Prior to his callup on April 28th, Los Angeles was 6-14, and a much heralded offseason spending spree appeared to be headed down the drain. Since that date, the Angels are 46-30, tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League.
There are many reasons besides Mike Trout that the Angels have performed so well since his callup. Mark Trumbo’s contributions cannot be overlooked, and neither can the resurrection of Pujols’ season, as well as the complete turnaround of the Angels’ bullpen to flip from the 3rd-worst in the league to one of the best. However, Trout was the catalyst, the spark, and he looks like a leader of men on that baseball diamond. At some point, he will likely come back to earth. MLB pitchers will learn how to pitch to him more effectively as the scout’s books develop. His batting average on balls in play won’t sustain at a .413 clip. In 2012, there is almost nowhere for Trout to go but down. However, he is playing with all the confidence in the world right now. To watch him in the field or at the plate, it isn’t difficult to picture him as a world-beater the entire year, so if you want to have a little mid-season swoon, I won’t stand in your way.
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