Game 162 of the 2014 MLB season has wrapped up for the Angels and we can now evaluate how Mike Trout played in his third full season. The season started with the Angels negotiating a seven year contract with Trout several years before he was eligible for free agency. This continues to appear to be a wise decision as he has again proven to be the most productive player for the Angels and the most productive player in all of baseball.
The season started with some suggesting the possibility that Trout had already peaked. This may be the case but the goods news is that it doesn’t matter;Trout remains the best player in all of baseball. With the Angels earning the top spot in the playoffs he’s the hands down favorite to be named the American League MVP. An off-year for Trout is still outstanding by all other standards. Trout ended 2014 first in WAR (8.0), runs, RBI, extra base hits, OPS+, and total bases. He hit more home runs than he’s ever hit before, knocking 36 dingers over the wall. The only possible way to be disappointed by his play is to compare him to himself. The irony of his first MVP is that it comes in his worst year. With offense down across the sport Trout continued to put up great numbers and has earned all of his accolades.
There are several memorable moments from this past season. Trout was named the MVP of the All-Star game. He also hit his first walk-off home run and then on the 4th of July was able to hit another walk-off home run. Trout hit a stunning Grand Slam off of Chris Sale, spectacularly threw out Nori Aoki, and had several incredible catches including a no-look catch at the end of the season. The thing that will probably stand out the most to Trout is his first appearance in the post-season. A fan favorite was Trout and Pujols producing a come-back win against Fernando Rodney and pretending to fire arrows in celebration.
Trout had a small problem with back pain and missed a few games with inflammation but was not sent to the disabled list.
I describe the season as a great tasting chili dog because the season didn’t quite live up to the filet mignon that Mike Trout fans are used to (which I grant is a ridiculous complaint). First off Trout led the league in strike outs for the first time in his career. He had roughly 50 more than in each of his two previous seasons. While he increased his walk rate last year, it dropped this year, mostly likely due to his increased strike out rate. His batting average fell below .300 for the first time in his career. It became clear that Trout liked to hit balls low in the strike zone and it appeared pitchers figured this out and started pitching up in the zone to him. It will be interesting to see how Trout adjusts to this next year. He also stopped stealing bases at the rate his fans had become familiar with. He only stole 16 bases, down from 49 and 33 in his previous two years. It could be that he stole fewer bases because he was batting in front of Albert Pujols and there was a concern that Pujols would be intentionally walked if first base was left open.
Trout deserves the MVP he eventually will win this season. He continues to live up to his identity as the best player in baseball. It will be exciting to see how Trout responds to the post season. Perhaps this will not only be his first playoff appearance but also his first championship.