Don’t look now, but Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is on pace to match or exceed his phenomenal 2012 season less than two months after some were declaring him to be in the midst of a sophomore slump.
On May 19, more than a month and a half into the season, Trout’s average stood at .278 and the entire Los Angeles offense was hopelessly stagnant. Today, however, the 21-year-old’s stat line looks just as impressive as it did last season. To illustrate the comparison, below are Trout’s stats projected over a full 162 games for both last year and this year:
2012: .326 BA, .564 SLG, .963 OPS, 150 Runs, 212 Hits, 31 2B, 9 3B, 35 HR, 97 RBI, 57 SB, 78 BB, 162 SO
2013: .322 BA, .568 SLG, .969 OPS, 114 Runs, 210 Hits, 52 2B, 14 3B, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 37 SB, 84 BB, 123 SO
So what do these numbers tell us? Well, they tell us pretty much exactly what we’d expect them to tell us about a supremely talented, five-tool player making the transition from his rookie to sophomore year.
First, Trout’s plate discipline—by far his biggest offensive weakness last year—has improved tremendously. He’s walking more, striking out far less, and not letting pitchers off the hook by chasing bad pitches. This is a huge step to make from year one to year two, as plate discipline is something that takes years for even the best hitters to master.
The second obvious takeaway from these numbers is that they tell us what we’d expect from Mike Scioscia‘s decision to move Trout from leadoff to second in the batting order. Trout’s RBI opportunities have increased even as he is hitting fewer home runs, and both his runs and stolen bases have taken a dip. The runs can be explained by the struggles of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hitting behind Trout.
While fewer stolen bases may seem like a disadvantage, Trout is likely to prolong his career if he continues to be selective in his bag stealing opportunities. For every Ricky Henderson stealing bases by the hundreds, there are dozens of players who are forced to the DL because of head-first slides. Additionally, Trout’s boom in doubles and triples has mitigated the need for base stealing. So the Angels won’t begrudge Trout for fewer stolen bases as long as he returns to the lineup healthy each year.
The main thing these numbers tell us is that at 21, an age at which many of his peers are still making mistakes in college, Trout is already one of the most complete hitters in baseball. The prospect of an American League MVP is a distant one as long as Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera continues to put up alien-like numbers, but even so, Trout can solidify his standing among the league’s very best by finishing strong in 2013.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels blogger for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.