The 2018 season began with a great deal of promise for Mike Trout. Trout had recently gotten married and seen his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, win the Super Bowl. In addtion, the Angels offseason saw the addition of Justin Upton (through a contract extension), Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler and the two-way phenom, Shohei Ohtani. It appeared the Angels would be on track for their first playoff appearance since 2014.
The season started with a bang as the Angels won 11 of their first 13 games. The offense seemed to be on fire and the pitching staff healthier than it had been in years. But that optimism didn’t last much past May. Key injuries to Kenyan Middleton, Garret Richards, Shohei Ohtani, and Zack Cozart railroaded the team. In addition Kole Calhoun ran into a major hitting slump which required him to rework his entire swing in the offseason. Justin Upton had a mediocre start to his season that didn’t really strengthen until the latter part of the year. All of these plus a slew of other injuries robbed the Angels of a winning season. Meanwhile Mike Trout continued to do Mike Trout things.
For his part, Mike Trout had the best offensive season of his career. It seems absurd to be able to say that but he continued to find new ways to improve his game. Trout raised his OPS+ to 199, one of the 15 best seasons for a hitter in the last 50 years. That number roughly means he was almost two times better than the average MLB hitter. His on-base-percentage climbed to his career high, .460, which means he was on base almost 50% of the time through either a walk or a hit. In addition his power stayed on track and he provided his team with 39 home runs.
Trout’s RBI numbers remained disappointing as his teammates struggled to get on base in front of him. After several months batting second in the order, Mike Scioscia moved him down in the order in hopes of providing more base runners for Trout to hit in.
Defensively Trout was determined to make a change. For years he had been rated poorly as a defender. Trout wanted to know why. So in Spring Training he and the coaches sat down to watch film and answer the question of how he could improve. The first answer was found in the first step he takes after a ball is hit. The results of the season were spectacular and Trout elevated his fielding to Gold Glove caliber becoming one of the best center fielders in the American League. To close out the season he was named Player of the Month for September. Trout once again provided 10 wins of value to his team and appears locked in a tight race for MVP with Boston’s Mookie Betts.
Season highlights include being voted in as an All Star once again. MLB took advantage of Trout’s love for the weather by letting him provide a pre-game weather report.
On May 26th he put on a show at Yankee Stadium by achieving his first 5 hit game. Them game included 3 doubles, a home run and an infield hit.
Then on September 8th he found a way to record another 5 hit game, this time against the Chicago White Sox. This game featured two home runs.
The season also included some off-the-field drama. Just before the All Star game the LA Times published an article questioning Trout’s lack of desire for self-promotion. The article was mostly likely inspired by Trout’s decision not to participate in the home run derby in addition to other off-the-field opportunities. Commissioner Rob Manfred followed the article up with confirmation that he was frustrated that Trout wasn’t doing enough for the sport. The Angels broke with the Commissioner’s comments in defense of Trout. The controversy eventually subsided when Trout released a statement expressing his lack of offense from the Commissioner and excitement to return to baseball.
Tragedy struck Trout and his family on August 15 with the passing on his brother-in-law Aaron Cox. Aaron was Mike’s wife’s brother. He and Trout had grown up together and Cox had until recently been a part of the Angel’s minor league system. Trout had been on the disabled list when Cox suffered injuries that eventually resulted in his death. Trout left the team to grieve with his family. On August 23rd Trout publicly commented on the passing of Cox via Facebook. On August 26th Trout returned to the playing field during “Players Weekend”. Just a few hours before the game Trout decided to honor his brother-in-law by displaying his name on the back of his jersey.
The last month of the season saw the Angels ending the season with a record of 80-82. Albert Pujols had season-ending knee surgery and Shohei Ohtani would be undergoing Tommy John surgery and will be unavailable to pitch in 2019. In addition, Manager Mike Scioscia announced that after 19 seasons with the Angels he would not be returning to the team.
Trout has two years left on his contract. There is great anticipation that the Angels will attempt to sign him to an extension before his contract expires. Trout for his part says that winning is important to him and wouldn’t publicly comment further about contract extensions. Then Angels look to be improved in 2019 as many of their pitchers will return from injury and the first batch of young athletes from a rejuvenated farm system start to make their presence felt.
Mike Trout provided a diamond worthy performance in the midst of a rough season. His dominance and his legend continue to grow. As his career numbers continue to inspire comparison to some of the greatest players in history there seems to be only one thing left to prove, winning; for that Trout requires teammates who can help.