Mike Trout is ‘the best player on the planet’ and keeps getting better
Mike Trout has already carved out a place among baseball’s all-time greats, his career wins Above replacement of 64.2 in only eight seasons placing the Angels center fielder among the top 100 in the game’s history, according to Baseball Reference.
Just in case anyone needed reminding, the two-time American League most valuable player and four-time runner-up, who has closed virtually every hole in his swing and improved defensively every year, showed again during a four-game series against the Texas Rangers why he is Cooperstown-bound.
Trout went six for 11 with five home runs, nine RBIs, six walks and a hit by pitch — good for a 2.631 on-base-plus-slugging-percentage — to help the Angels win three of four games after going 1-5 on a season-opening trip to Oakland and Seattle.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the third-best OPS ever for a player in a four-game series. The top two performances belong to Babe Ruth, who went eight for 12 with six homers and six walks in a series in 1921, and Mickey Mantle, who went six for 11 with five homers and six walks in a series in 1962.
“He’s the best player on the planet,” said Angels pitcher Chris Stratton, who is getting his first up-close look at Trout since his March 25 trade from the San Francisco Giants. “It’s unbelievable to watch in person.”
Through 10 games, Trout is batting .393 with a major league-leading 1.581 OPS and 1.000 slugging percentage and an AL-leading .581 on-base percentage. He has five homers, 12 RBIs and a major league-leading 11 walks, three of them intentional.
Trout is so much better than most players, as are his standards and points of reference, that it’s almost comical.
He said after Sunday’s game that he wasn’t happy with his performance during the season-opening series in Oakland, so he asked hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento to dial up some video of a game last May in New York, when Trout had five hits, including a homer and three doubles, one of the best games of his career.
That rough season-opening series against the A’s? Trout went four for 12 (.333) with two doubles, three RBIs, three walks and one strikeout.
“We looked at some film after the Oakland series and saw what I was doing in New York last year, the five-for-five game,” Trout said. “I try to put myself and my body in that position every time, and it’s been good so far. It’s been working. I’ve just got to stick with it.
“Knowing you’re in a good spot to hit when you get up there, being in the right position feet-wise … now, I’m really looking for when I’m going good, where I’m at, and that’s my setup and trying to consistently go to the plate and come up with that.”
Trout hit two solo homers in Friday night’s 3-1 win over the Rangers. He hit a 458-foot grand slam on an up-in-the-zone pitch from Drew Smyly — the kind of pitch he struggled with early in his career — to key Saturday’s 5-1 win.
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In Sunday’s 7-2 win, Trout broke open a two-run game with a two-run laser over the left-center field wall in the sixth inning, a line drive that left his bat at 113 mph, traveled 422 feet and, with a launch angle of 20 degrees, reached only 57 feet at its apex.
“I think it’s squaring up the ball more,” Trout said, when asked the difference between his line-drive home runs and his moon-shots. “I try to hit line drives, and sometimes they go over the fence. I try to barrel up the ball as much as possible. Sometimes you go up and foul that pitch back, and it’s the only one you see the whole at-bat.”
What’s remarkable about Trout’s hot start is that he is doing so much with so few pitches to hit. Trout knows the intentional walks will continue to accumulate, and he can do nothing about those.
Where he must be careful, though, is when opponents are trying to pitch around him without intentionally walking him.
“I can’t expand my zone or try to look for another pitch,” Trout said. “I have my zone, my approach. If I don’t get it, I’ll walk to first base and pass it to whoever is hitting behind me.”
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