Mike Trout’s 2020 season ended with MLB’s playoffs once again lacking the best player in a quest for a championship. A shortened season caused by a global pandemic casts a sense of proportion on the disappointment, but in baseball terms. . . this is getting old.
The 2020 season offered a lot of promise for the Angels to reach the finally reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Anthony Rendon signed a free-agent contract and would provide sufficient lineup protection for Trout. Shohei Ohtani would be able to rejoin the meager pitching staff. Top prospect Jo Adell would be waiting in the wings to join the team, and the league would open up the playoff structure so that half of the total teams would make the playoffs. For the Angels to miss the playoffs in that situation the team would have to seriously underperform. Sadly, that is exactly what happened.
The early part of the season offered unique excitement as Mike’s first child Beckham Aaron Trout was born on July 30, 2020. The baseball world was delighted to share in the excitement of a Baby Trout and it didn’t take long for people to recognize that his initials were B.A.T. Mike took several games off for paternity leave and then enjoyed frequently getting on FaceTime with his wife and son throughout the remainder of the season.
The Angels season derailed shortly after this personal bright spot. The Angels eventually went on to lose 11 out of 13 games. In a short 60 game season with a trade deadline just 6 weeks into the season few teams could survive a losing streak like that and the Angels started shopping all of their quality players who would soon reach free agency. Eventually the team dealt away Tommy La Stella, Brian Goodwin, and Jason Castro. Rumors circled the team that they would even trade Andrelton Simmons (who had been injured for much of the early part of the season.
Trout’s numbers remained quality as always. Though slightly down from his most recent years he still produced All-Start caliber numbers. Over the course of a full season he would have likely produced somewhere close to 50 home runs, 150 RBI, and an 1.000 OPS. His short season WAR was worth 1.6 wins. In a rare moment, likely produced by the short season, Trout did not produce the most WAR in the league, in fact, he did not even produce the most WAR on his own team. Anthony Rendon slightly bested him by producing 1.8 WAR.
Though the team lost more one-run games and extra inning games than an average team might expect, the performance of Trout’s teammates largely explains their inability to make the playoffs. Justin Upton, Jo Adell, and Shohei Ohtani all ended the season with batting averages under .200. Albert Pujols didn’t fair much better with a .224 batting average. The pitching wasn’t much better with the team only getting consistent quality pitching from Dylan Bundy. Most notably Julio Tehran performed below league average and Shohei Ohtani experienced an injury which once again prevented him from contributing from the mound.
Mike and his wife Jess took a big step into social activism this season in an effort to honor her brother, Aaron Cox, who lost his life to suicide. They partnered with TinyTurnip and OC Health to launch a campaign called “Your Game Isn’t Over Yet;” They chose a semicolon to represent the continuation of a thought and a metaphor for continuing a life.
By the last two weeks of the season the team started to right the ship and were only 2 games back of a playoff spot before running out of time and being eliminated from the playoffs. It seemed the need to sprint from the start of the season caught up with the Angels. If the season had been able to play out over another 2 months it might have been possible for the Angels to make the playoffs but it seems unlikely that they would have been able to make the playoffs without the expanded playoff system.
After five straight losing seasons under General Manager Billy Eppler, the team chose to part ways with him. Trout expressed his favorable working relationship with the GM who signed him to a long-term contract. “Billy was a big reason why I signed back here” said Trout. But Trout said “The biggest thing is getting to the playoffs . . . You guys all see it. I see it. It sucks being out of it. It’s time. We gotta get to the playoffs.”
The Angels will seek a new General Manager, who will then seek to bring the team the pitching it desperately needs to grant Trout, and baseball fans everywhere, the opportunity to see the playoffs.