By Cole Parkinson
There’s never been any question since 2012 that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and while many may have expected him to slow down, it’s been just the opposite.
He’s started the 2021 season on absolute fire, and despite the Angels continuing to be a mediocre team, Trout has been must-watch TV this season.
He’s hitting well above .300 and getting on base close to 50 per cent of the time, and of course, it’s still incredibly early in the 162-game schedule, but Trout has been in the league full-time since 2012 and pitchers have yet to figure out how to get him out consistently.
The up and in fastball is a favourite for most pitchers, but even that comes with risk because if you miss your spot — goodbye baseball.
At 29 years old, he’s already ranked in the top 100 Wins Above Replacement leaders in the league’s history and it’s hard to believe he won’t be near the top when it’s all said and done, especially if he can keep this pace up.
The talent in the MLB has continually gotten better since its inception, but Trout has risen far and above.
This season, he has come out like a man on a mission as he’s already hit eight home runs to go along with 18 RBI as of Wednesday morning.
He’s accumulated 20 walks, an On Base Percentage (OBP) of .477 and an average of .355.
Most impressively has been his slugging of .673 (third in the league) and On-Base Plus Slugging of 1.150 (first in the league).
And despite being 6’2” and 235 pounds, Trout can still move on the base paths.
While he’s only stolen one bag this season, I’d imagine he’ll get right around the 20 mark by the end of September.
He stole 49 in his first full season in 2012, but I doubt he’ll ever reach that mark again due to age and the fact he’s bulked up so much in the past nine years.
Defensively, he’s been an absolute stud in the outfield.
Overall, he has a fielding percentage of .993 in 11 seasons and when in centrefield, where he can be found primarily, it’s a .994 fielding percentage.
He has only committed 23 errors in 10,562.2 innings and 2,993 chances, that is absolutely incredible. Trout also has 38 assists in those 11 seasons.
While players like Fernando Tatís Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto have energized the game of baseball, Trout is still the king.
It’s just too bad the Los Angeles Angels front office has been so mediocre in his tenure.
He’s only reached the postseason once in 2014 and the Angels were promptly swept in three games by the Kansas City Royals, who would go on that miracle run to the World Series before losing to San Francisco.
Trout’s first postseason appearance was very un-Trout like where he went one for 12 with a home run and an OBP of .267.
It will be an absolute shame if we don’t get more Trout in the biggest games of the year, but until the Angels can prove they’re more than a bottom feeder, I don’t know when that will happen.
The Oakland Athletics continue to prove money isn’t everything in the American League West as they have made the playoffs the last three seasons.
Oakland has the 23rd highest payroll in the league this season at just over $87 million, while the Angels sit at six with over $182 million.
Of course, with the Angels cutting ties with Alberta Pujols, it has left them with $30 million to pay and Trout’s salary of over $35 is another big portion of the payroll.
It just goes to show that even if you spend like the Dodgers and Yankees, and you have the best player in the game, it doesn’t guarantee you a championship.
Baseball is a team game and Trout can’t do it all himself, as evidence of the Angels’ records over the past several years where they’ve been under .500 since the 2014 season.
It’s been ugly in Anaheim for too long and with Trout signed for the long haul, it’s in every baseball fan’s interest to see them build a competitive team.
The hiring of manager Joe Maddon and signing third baseman Anthony Rendon is a start, but they’ve got a long way to go.
The emergence of Shohei Ohtani has to be incredibly encouraging for Angel fans as he has been showing plenty of pop in the batter’s box and pitching well after undergoing Tommy John in 2018.
But even with those pieces in place, the team has yet to be a contender and they currently sit in last place in the division despite Trout and Ohtani crushing the ball.
Trout isn’t getting any younger and while I expect him to be the best player for the foreseeable future, age comes for everyone — just ask Pujols.