Mike Trout wrapped up his sixth season once again sitting atop MLB as baseball’s best player and unfortunately once again sitting out of the playoffs. Despite his stellar play the thing that will most be remembered about 2017 was the period of just over 6 weeks in which he did not play.
Trout started the season off with a bang being named the American League Player of the Month for April. It was the best start of his career to date and the fourth time he has received the award. His all-around stats continued to build as he surpassed all of the expected career plateaus during the year. He passed 150 stolen bases, 500 RBI, 500 walks, 1,000 hits, 200 doubles and reached 200 home runs just as the season came to a close. He once again found a way to lead the league in on-base percentage (.442) and was able to couple that with the simultaneous lead in slugging percentage (.629). That naturally made him the league leader in OPS, a remarkable 1.071. He finished the season with a 187 OPS+. At an early stage in the season he had an absurd OPS+ over 200.
All of these feats would seem to make him a shoe-in for his third MVP award, but then May 28th put a serious dent in Trout’s season and the Angel’s playoff chances.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) May 30, 2017
While stealing second base, Trout tore the UCL of his left thumb. The injury required surgery with an expected recovery time between 6-8 weeks. Trout’s teammate Andrelton Simmons had the same surgery in 2016 and was out for 5 weeks. Trout returned on July 14th, just under 7 weeks after injuring his thumb. The All-Star Break game was played while Trout was still in recovery. Though he was once again selected to the All Star Team he was unable to play.
The Angels were able to play reasonably well without their superstar losing just one more game than they won. Trout was having arguably the best season of his career and was leading or near the top of every offensive category in the American League when he was injured. The visit to the Disabled List left him unqualified for any of the ratio-based stats because he lacked enough plate appearances to qualify. Presumably in an attempt to improve Trout’s chances of winning a batting title the Angels moved him back into the second spot in the lineup in order to maximize his ability to gain plate appearances.
After Trout’s return, the Angels were able to string together a great stretch of victories in August. They were able to do this despite a number of devastating injuries to their starting pitching staff throughout the season. They improved their record enough to put themselves in a position to earn a wild card spot in the playoffs. Angels’ GM Billy Eppler made a couple of trades to improve the team’s chances and Trout found himself surrounded in the lineup by veterans Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips. Unfortunately the Angels schedule was much tougher in September than the Minnesota Twins, their main competition for the final playoff spot. Despite the additional lineup help, Trout and the Angels fell into a hitting slump in the second to the last week of the season resulting; in a 6 game losing streak. The Angels ended the season looking outside of the playoffs and with their second losing season in two years (80-82).
Trout once again earned the honor of being the team MVP for the 6th time, this time sharing the award with shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Trout is in the running for MVP but will probably fail to achieve the honor due to missing 25% of the season because of his injury. Despite his substantial time off the field Trout was frequently mentioned in conversations about the MVP until the final week of the season.
The offseason brings a great deal of opportunity to the Angels and to Mike Trout. On the personal side, Trout is set to marry his long term girlfriend Jess on December 9th. The Angels have a lot of money coming off their payroll. Being on the cusp of the playoffs in 2017 it seems they have a great opportunity to make the playoffs in 2018. The hope of strong free agent signings, a healthier pitching staff and full year of Mike Trout make the future appear bright. Baseball needs to see Mike Trout in the playoffs once again.