If there’s one thing we know about Mike Trout, it’s that he’s consistently great on an annual basis.
Trout’s run of success is unprecedented in MLB history. Trout’s 73.4 fWAR is the most by any player through their age-27 season. That feat is incredible in itself but equally as impressive is his year-to-year consistency. Trout has dipped below 8 wins just once in his career (6.8 fWAR in an injury-riddled 2017 season). If you took Trout’s career-worst numbers in any given season, he’d still rate as an elite, MVP-caliber player.
Trout will continue to be great in 2020 and beyond. What may be different this season, however, is Trout’s raw numbers output and his overall impact in run-producing situations. With the addition of Anthony Rendon, a full season of Shohei Ohtani at the plate and a potential impact from top prospect Jo Adell, this could be the best lineup the Angels have had with Mike Trout. The offense is going to score a boatload of runs and Trout will be at the center of that.
My goal here is to try to gauge what Trout’s raw number totals will look like, aka how many runs will he drive in this season. The numbers say that lineup protection doesn’t really exist (with many disagreements from baseball players, coaches, etc.) but Trout may have more chances to swing away this year. With a strong supporting cast behind Trout, opposing teams may be apt to pitch more aggressively to Trout. Even if they don’t, there’s still a good chance Trout will get more run-producing opportunities this season. This is important because the team should be doing everything in their power to have baseball’s best hitter drive in more runs. Trout’s RBI totals shouldn’t change our perception of him (RBIs are a lousy stat for individual analysis) but from a team level, more RISP chances for Trout are obviously important.
First, let’s look at Trout’s history with runners in scoring position along with some team stats that dictated those situations.
Trout’s RISP Opportunities in his Angels tenure
|Year||Team wRC+||R||Trout RBI opportunities||RBI opp MLB rank||Trout RBI|
This table represents a larger problem the Angels have had since Mike Trout burst on the scene. 2014 represents the only year that Trout has finished in the top 10 in RBIs, when he led the American League with 111. Unsurprisingly, that happens to be the only year the club made the playoffs with Trout. What’s more discouraging is the sheer lack of opportunities Trout has had to drive runs in. The consensus best player of his generation has only had one season where he was top 20 in plate appearances with RISP. He’s finished out of the top 100 four separate times. Since 2012, Trout ranks 31st in plate appearances with RISP behind players such as Starlin Castro, Alex Gordon, and Asdrubal Cabrera.
To be fair, Trout’s high walk totals and recent injuries have created fewer RISP opportunities. There’s also some randomness involved in RISP opportunities that can lead to fewer chances. That still doesn’t excuse the fact that Trout has a criminally low amount of chances to drive runs in. For someone who has averaged 642 plate appearances per season with a .587 SLG since 2012, not having more chances to bring runs home is inexcusable. Since 2012, Trout has hit an absurd .323/.477/.617 with RISP, debunking any myth that Trout doesn’t excel in those spots. Obviously, a lot of this has to do with the lineup around Trout.
As you can see from the table, the Trout-led Angels offenses have not been very good. Even with the advantage of having baseball’s best hitter at their disposal, they’ve finished in the top 10 in runs scored just three times. Since 2012, the club ranks 13th in runs scored. The context-based wRC+ paints a slightly more optimistic picture as they rank fifth in wRC+ (102) since 2012. They have, however, finished with sub-100 wRC+ four different times.
Now that I’ve established that the Angels lineups haven’t been particularly good, let’s take a look at whose hit directly in front of and behind Trout in his Angels tenure. We can compare that to who he may have around him this year.
Trout’s Immediate Supporting Cast
|Season||Player 1||Player 2||Player 3|
|2012||Pujols (132)||Hunter (131)||Morales (119)|
|2013||Pujols (112)||Hamilton (105)||Shuck (97)|
|2014||Calhoun (124)||Pujols (123)||Hamilton (113)|
|2015||Pujols (114)||Calhoun (103)||Aybar (78)|
|2016||Calhoun (117)||Pujols (110)||Escobar (107)|
|2017||Escobar (99)||Calhoun (97)||Pujols (77)|
|2018||Upton (123)||Pujols (90)||Calhoun (79)|
|2019||Ohtani (123)||Fletcher (99)||Pujols (93)|
|2020||Rendon (131)||Ohtani (130)||Fletcher (86)|
Trout had plenty of quality hitters around him for his first handful of years in the majors. After 2014, there was a severe down period where the Angels struggled to put many quality hitters around Trout. This has changed in the last few seasons, with the acquisitions of Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani. With Anthony Rendon in the fold now, the club will roll out one of the best lineups and best supporting casts in the Trout era.
As I alluded to at the beginning, there’s a lot of randomnesses involved in RISP opportunities. At the very least, however, the Angels are attempting to put Trout in more run-producing situations. Apart from the strong trio of Rendon, Ohtani, and Upton, there are other useful hitters that provide depth in the lineup.
David Fletcher and Tommy La Stella will likely get the bulk of leadoff at-bats in front of Trout. Both guys should combine to produce around a league-average rate, giving Trout a fairly reliable leadoff spot. Even the bottom of the lineup should put Trout in better situations. Some combination of Albert Pujols, Andrelton Simmons, Jason Castro, Brian Goodwin and potentially Jo Adell is a fairly reasonable bottom of the order. If Adell is promoted early and produces right off the bat, there will be opportunities galore for Trout.
Trout’s Raw Numbers Prediction
Trout’s 111 RBIs in 2014 represents his career-high. His 184 RBI opportunities in 2013 are his career-high. Will he match or exceed both of those figures? I think you can make a good argument for it but a few things need to happen. First, Trout himself needs to play more than 150 games this season. He’s missed a combined 98 games over the last three seasons. Playing in more games means more opportunities, obviously. Second, Trout needs the leadoff hitters and bottom of the order to be reasonably productive, which could be helped by a bounceback from Simmons or immediate impact from Adell. The final part is out of Trout’s control and that is sheer luck. Trout needs the dice to roll in his favor, with more RISP opportunities based on the sequencing of hits and walks for the Angels offense.
The 2020 Angels lineup has the makings of a potentially-elite unit that should put Trout in better situations. If the Angels are going to compete this year, they’ll need to ensure that baseball’s best hitter has more chances to produce in run-producing situations. With that in mind, here is my bold prediction for Trout’s final raw numbers output.