Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels knew a long time ago this day would come.

The 95 baseballs affixed to the wall of their clubhouse for every game they have won this season guaranteed it would happen sooner or later.

[+] EnlargeLos Angeles Angels
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesMike Trout, second from left, congratulates Howie Kendrick after scoring a run Wednesday. The Angels clinched the AL West, sending Trout to the playoffs for the first time.
The 18 games they won over the past 22 all but cemented it would be the former rather than the latter.

In the end, the Angels were finally able to celebrate their first AL West Division title since 2009 after huddling around the television sets in their clubhouse, watching the Texas Rangers' improbable six-run ninth inning comeback win over the Oakland A's to seal the championship.

It was, of course, the Rangers and the A's over the past four seasons that ruled the division the Angels controlled from 2004 to 2009, winning the AL West five times in six years. A lot has changed over the past four years. The Angels went from a small-ball team to big-league spenders that were in the mix for every big name free agent, winning their fair share of battles by adding Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson.

With those big names and big contracts came big expectations that they failed to match over the past four years. But along the way they added young players who would turn into young stars who would eventually outshine their overpaid teammates.

And no player has shined brighter over the past three seasons for the Angels than Mike Trout, who was selected with the 25th pick in the 2009 draft when he was only 17 and the team was a postseason regular. Five years later, Trout closed his eyes tight as champagne was poured over his head. He was in left field attempting to high-five every Angels fan who reached out of the stands.

"I can't explain it, it's an unbelievable feeling," Trout said as he wiped champagne out of his eyes. "It feels awesome. I'm speechless."

While Trout, who turned 23 last month, is already regarded as the most talented player in baseball, he has picked the brains of older players since he came into the league. He has been talking to Pujols for the past three seasons about playing in the postseason. This year he has added Pujols' former teammate with St. Louis Cardinals, David Freese, to the conversation. Freese was the World Series MVP in 2011.

"I picked their brains every once in a while," Trout said. "Albert has been there and Freese has been there. They'll lead us the right way. It gives us all in the clubhouse an edge."

Pujols, 34, was expected to be the leader of the Angels on and off the field after signing a 10-year, $254 million contract following the 2011 World Series victory, but he understood quickly the Angels have something special in Trout. As Trout enjoyed his first champagne celebration, Pujols smiled from afar.

"Trout is a special player," Pujols said. "I said it over the last couple of years. Players like Trout don't come around often; maybe once every 30 or 40 years. This city is really blessed to see a young player like Trout and hopefully he wins the MVP this year. I'm pretty sure we're going to continue to talk, but I'm going to make sure he understands that this is just a little taste of what's better for us in the future when we hopefully get to a World Series and win it."

Rangers don't back down to Trout

September, 12, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas -- This is what you have to handle if you're a young pitcher like Nick Martinez and a young slugger like Mike Trout: Pitching inside.

[+] EnlargeNick Martinez
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezMike Trout was hit twice Thursday, but Nick Martinez was simply trying to establish his inside fastball.
Martinez, who fell to 3-11 after the Texas Rangers' 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night, hit Trout twice with inside fastballs.

Martinez has to establish the inside portion of the plate, if he expects to be around with this team next year, and getting in on hitters is important in his development.

"Just establishing the fastball inside and it got away from me," Martinez said.

Trout also understands the game of baseball and he didn't like it. In the three-game series, he was hit three times, all near the same spot of the left arm and he almost got popped there a fourth time.

Trout said he was fine, yet after getting plunked in the fifth inning he flipped his bat and had an exasperated look on his face.

"You go up there trying to have at-bats not thinking you're going to get hit," said Trout, who has 102 runs scored and 103 RBIs. "They're pitching inside the whole series, I understand it."

It doesn't mean you have to like it.

(Read full post)

Angels add Richards to big O for 'best' bid

August, 5, 2014

One ballgame does not a four-game, home-and-home, crosstown series make -- not when the Angels are in what figures to be a two-month race yet to run against the other AL West candidate for best team in baseball, the Oakland A's. But on Monday, the Angels provided a few quick reminders for why folks might want to think about them as baseball’s main feature, and not just in La-La Land.

Start with Garrett Richards, best young righty in the league using almost any metric you might want to turn to. He was already among the top 10 AL pitchers in WAR before Monday’s complete-game shutout, allowing just seven baserunners and whiffing nine in his 17th quality start in 23 turns. His ERA is in the top 10, but turn to Baseball Info Solutions’ Component ERA and you’ll find that the only pitchers in the league doing a better job of keeping runs off the board than Richards’ 2.02 ERC are Felix Hernandez (1.54) and Chris Sale (1.82). Now boasting a 12-4 record on a team that might wind up with the best record in baseball, it’s easy to suggest he might be in the Cy Young mix no matter who comprises this year’s electorate from among the BBWAA’s members: young or old, sabermetrically savvy or new-data indifferent and old-school.

It would be safe to say that wasn’t what most people expected from Richards at the start of the season, but the Angels are simultaneously balancing the proposition that you can be baseball’s best ballclub and nevertheless conjure up answers on the fly, because nothing works out exactly the way you expect. Success isn’t just a matter of getting great years out of great players or enjoying a breakthrough as big as Richards’; it’s also about managing around the problems that arise in-season and coming up with your best combinations as you figure out what works. Richards is one big in-season development; shoring up the bullpen with closer Huston Street and former closer Jason Grilli is another.

But another thing that’s happened along the way is that the Angels’ lineup is finally taking shape along the lines manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto might have envisioned on Opening Day. That’s because they’ve finally gotten all of the big names back from the DL while also being able to discard what hasn’t worked.

[+] EnlargeMike Trout
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsMike Trout wasn't Superman on Monday, but on this Angels' team, he doesn't need to be every night.
In Mike Scioscia’s front-stacked lineup featuring power-hitting Kole Calhoun leading off with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind him, you could argue that the Angels are doing the best possible job of punting on old-school lineup design by trying to put speed or bat control up top, instead concentrating the most at-bats in their best players. They didn’t have the benefit of having that all season, not when both Calhoun and Hamilton got hurt in April, but now they have they have one of the best front fours in any lineup all active at once.

As a result, Trout can afford to turn in workmanlike Clark Kent nights like this -- when he kept his Superman thing relatively muted, “just” doubling in a run and scoring another in the Angels’ four-run first -- because everyone else did plenty to remind folks that they’re not just Mike Trout and Troutettes. Instead, ex-famous people such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton provided reminders that they still have plenty left in the tank, doubling and homering, respectively, off Zack Greinke.

They still afford themselves their former World Series-winning conceit of hard-contact, ball-in-play types who don’t strike out -- guys such as Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar -- but they’re down in the order, behind the big thumpers. The bottom third of the order is where Scioscia gets to play around with combinations, such as professional hitter Efren Navarro and power prodigy C.J. Cron sharing regular at-bats between the first, left and DH slots, or Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger combining to contribute an OPS around .740 from the catchers’ slot. When the worst player in your regular lineup is David Freese, you’re probably going to score runs, and it’s why the Angels rank second in the league in runs scored per game.

The front half of the season also provided answers as well as absences. Giving Raul Ibanez a chance as their DH wasted their time and left runs unscored, but that’s no longer their problem down the stretch. Now, it’s a matter of keeping Hamilton and Pujols in the lineup and injury-free through scheduled rest and sporadic DH starts. If both are contributing behind Calhoun and Trout down the stretch, it can be the kind of lineup that keeps cranking out five runs a night.

That’s no small thing in this low-scoring age. Instead, it’s about as decisive an edge as you could ask for, even on the nights when Garrett Richards doesn’t pitch. And as the Angels look forward to scoreboard-watching night after night to see if this is the night they've caught the A's, the Angels will take both the benefits of the contender they designed and the assets that they've added along the way.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.

Sum of little mistakes Dodgers' new plague

August, 4, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in a series with a lot at stake in a stadium filled with revved-up fans stoked by a rivalry, they played their best baseball of the season, outscoring the San Francisco Giants 17-4 over a three-game sweep at AT&T Park two weekends ago.

Where did that team go?

A sloppy weekend against the last-place Chicago Cubs seemed pretty easy to explain, as the back of the Dodgers’ rotation continued to sputter in two of those games.

But the lights were bright again Monday night, the steamrolling Los Angeles Angels were in town and it felt as if it would once again bring out the Dodgers’ best. Their second-best starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, was on the mound.

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsCarl Crawford misjudged a ball off Mike Trout's bat that led to an RBI double in the first inning. It was one of several miscues for the Dodgers on Monday.
Instead, it brought out their bad habits. They fumbled the ball around at times, paid scant attention at times and made, according to the man who threw it, “one of the worst pitches ever thrown.”

Of course, there’s always tomorrow. The Dodgers are still in first place -- by a dwindling 1½ games -- and they have three more cracks to capture Southern California bragging rights for their fans over the next three nights, one of them behind Clayton Kershaw.

But the sloppiness that plagued the Dodgers in April and May has crept back into their play over the past four games. And it has begun to get on some peoples’ nerves. Some people who matter.

“You look at this game as a playoff-type game from the standpoint of the type of team you’re playing, and you make mistakes, you pay,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hanley Ramirez, who had a -1.0 defensive WAR entering the game, according to Baseball Reference, made two throwing errors, one of which led to an unearned run in the first inning. The end of the half-inning saw the Dodgers in a quick 4-0 hole. Carl Crawford made two failed attempts at sliding catches, one of which was hit by Mike Trout -- one of the fastest players in baseball -- and it got by Crawford and went to the wall for an RBI double.

Yasiel Puig put his head down and allowed Albert Pujols -- far from one of the fastest players in the game -- to tag up and take second base.

It was the kind of effort that would get you beaten by a team like the Cubs. Against a team like the Angels, who play strong defense and are 23 games over .500 in the powerhouse AL West, it’s a good way to get embarrassed.

It was not the way the Dodgers wanted to start off this interleague series, especially in front of more than 53,000 fans.

“We’ve had three games [in the past four] where we basically lost in the first inning,” Mattingly said.

That trend is beginning to bother Greinke, too. Like fellow starter Dan Haren, many of his worst starts have seen him labor early. He has a 5.87 ERA in the first inning.

“It seems to be the problem too often,” Greinke said. “I was not even close to hitting the spot to Trout and Pujols, and they did what they should have.”

His sixth-inning changeup to Josh Hamilton was thrown too hard and right down the middle, and Hamilton pummeled it over the right-field wall.

“That was probably up there with the worst pitches ever thrown,” Greinke said. “I just couldn’t believe I could throw that bad a pitch at that important a time.”

The Dodgers described Angels starter Garrett Richards as “electric,” and he certainly was that, touching 96 mph in the ninth inning and striking out nine batters to get the shutout. But he mostly just piled up ground balls, 12 in all. The Dodgers got only four balls airborne off Richards.

There are games when the opposing pitcher is simply going to be better than you. It hurts more when you make it that much easier for him.

Rapid Reaction: Angels 5, Dodgers 0

August, 4, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- There were more than 53,000 fans at Dodger Stadium Monday and many of them booed Mike Trout’s every move. Fans in Anaheim likely will give it to Yasiel Puig pretty good on Wednesday.

In other words, Southern California’s baseball rivalry is doing pretty well, with contending teams and young stars to energize and/or irritate the two fan bases.

Trout’s Los Angeles Angels got off to a better start in this year's regular-season Freeway Series with a 5-0 win at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

There was just the right hint of tension, too, with Puig and Albert Pujols appearing to exchange some words after the top of the eighth inning. Puig apparently took exception to Pujols tagging up and advancing to second on a fly ball while he looked the other way.

How it happened: The Angels jumped all over Zack Greinke’s pitching and the Dodgers’ shaky defense in the first inning, grabbing a quick 4-0 lead. Angels starter Garrett Richards pretty much took it from there.

The game never felt particularly competitive. The Dodgers managed just five hits, all singles, off Richards, the game’s hardest-throwing starting pitcher, according to Fangraphs data. Greinke was good after the first inning, with the only appreciable mistake a too-hard changeup that Josh Hamilton clobbered over the right-field wall.

Hits: For the Angels, it was Richards (12-4), their best starting pitcher this year, bouncing back from two rough outings with a shutout. He struck out nine batters, but mainly the Dodgers hit ground ball after ground ball. For the Dodgers, the highlight was the major league debut of pitcher Carlos Frias, who pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just Pujols' single and striking out a batter. Frias is in contention to join the Dodgers' rotation if Josh Beckett or Dan Haren continues to struggle or goes down with an injury.

Misses: The Angels, with Erick Aybar at shortstop and Trout in center, have one of the stronger defensive teams. Fielding sometimes is an adventure for the Dodgers. When it is, Hanley Ramirez often is involved. On Monday, he made two errors, one of which was a costly throw that led to an unearned run in the first inning. Meanwhile, Carl Crawford made two unsuccessful attempts at sliding catches in the first inning. The second one, hit by Trout, got past Crawford and rolled all the way to the wall. Trout would have had a triple, but he had to retreat after missing first base. In the eighth, Puig stood there after catching a high fly ball and Pujols was paying attention, sprinting to second.

Stat of the game: The Angels have the best interleague record (92-48) in the majors since 2007, and part of that is their domination of their regional rivals. The Angels are 57-40 against the Dodgers.

Up next: The four-game series continues with the last of two contests starting at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Dodgers Stadium. Clayton Kershaw (13-2, 1.71 ERA) goes for the Dodgers, while lefty Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.76) pitches for the Angels.

As Trout hits, Angels continue to climb

July, 3, 2014
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Getty ImagesMike Trout has been leading the Angels up the AL West standings.
The Los Angeles Angels continue to creep up on the Oakland Athletics in the AL West after going 18-11 since the start of June, sitting just 3 1/2 games back.

As usual, Mike Trout has played a huge role, batting .354 in that span.

Despite his youth, Trout continues to find ways to improve. This recent hot stretch has been fueled by crushing offspeed pitches. Since June 1, he is hitting .529 against breaking balls with a ridiculous 1.118 slugging percentage.

How good are those numbers? Those rates are twice as good as the numbers he put up in the first two months of the season against offspeed pitches (.277 BA, .523 slug pct). To put it in further perspective, in that same span the next highest batting average against breaking balls is .421 by Adrian Beltre.

Friday's matchup
Trout will get to test his offspeed-crushing skills Friday against Houston Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel, who has been one of the biggest surprises this season.

Keuchel entered this season with a 5.20 career ERA in two seasons, but this year takes a 2.78 ERA into his start against the Angels.

A big reason for his success is an extremely effective slider. This season, opponents are hitting just .143 against Keuchel’s slider. That ranks fifth-best among all qualified major league starters.

Trout does have four hits in 14 career at-bats against Keuchel, but is 0-3 with two strikeouts in at-bats ending in a slider.

The Angels have faced Keuchel twice this season, going 1-1 with the one win coming in Houston when they knocked him out after a season-low five innings.

Angels rained out in Cleveland

June, 18, 2014
CLEVELAND -- Even during a brief slump for the Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout continued to supply offensive firepower. His teammates joined him in an explosive showing in their most recent game to help avoid another loss.

That could be bad news for Cleveland's Justin Masterson as he tries to find some traction during the most inconsistent season of his career.

After rain postponed Wednesday's game, the Angels look for a second straight road victory for the first time in more than a month Thursday against the Indians.

The decision was made to not play a doubleheader, leaving Wednesday's contest to be made up on a mutual day off.

"It's never in anybody's best interest to play a doubleheader," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Los Angeles (38-32) had scored just 10 runs in its losses during a 1-4 stretch before breaking out for 15 hits in a 9-3 win Tuesday. Trout has four homers in his last four games after going deep twice for the second time in his career and driving in four runs. He's batting .410 with eight homers and 26 RBIs over his last 22 games and has 14 RBIs in his last 13 matchups with Cleveland.

"I'm being patient and squaring up some balls," Trout said. "I'm not anxious. I'm just comfortable."

(Read full post)

Trout, Cabrera get to go head-to-head

April, 18, 2014
Getty ImagesMike Trout and Miguel Cabrera will face off for the first time this season Friday.
The Los Angeles Angels start a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers on Friday. It will be a great chance to see two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and two-time runner up Mike Trout go head-to-head.

Plenty has been written about whom should have taken home those last two MVP awards, but I won't attempt to pile on in this post.

What I do want to compare is the two players through the same amount of MLB games played. Trout has now played 351 career games, and while Cabrera definitely hit the ground running when he was brought up as a 20-year-old in 2003, the slight edge so far, through a little over two seasons worth of games, is definitely with the Angels center fielder.

It's tough to do a straight comparison between the two as the players have filled different roles offensively for their teams. But when you factor in that Trout was a little younger when he debuted and has batted primarily in the one or two hole in his career, the comparable power numbers to Cabrera are incredibly impressive.

Add to that Trout's impact on defense and on the basepaths and his recently-signed six-year, $144.5 million contract extension was a no-brainer for the Halos' front office.

Matchup to watch this weekend
Trout will face one of the best power pitchers in the league Saturday in Max Scherzer. In 10 previous plate appearances against Scherzer, Trout has three hits, including a line-drive homer on a slider to the low-inside portion of the strike zone.

Despite the small sample size, Trout's history against the Tigers' righty suggests he should try to take advantage of offspeed pitches. He is 0-6 with five strikeouts in at-bats against Scherzer that have ended in a fastball.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

April, 14, 2014
The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels face off in part two of an ESPN doubleheader Monday night (read about part one here). Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Oakland’s economical pitching
The Athletics are going with a very low-budget starting rotation this season as they’ve spent only $11.3 million on their five starters. Only the Marlins ($3.2 million) have spent less.

Scott Kazmir accounts for $9 million of the starting pitching budget. The next highest paid starter, Jesse Chavez ($775,000), starts Monday night.

Chavez, a 42nd-round pick in 2002, is now pitching for his seventh major league team, and he seems to have found a groove early this season.

In 13 innings pitched, Chavez has posted a 1.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks (6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He has done most of the damage with his cutter.

Chavez has thrown his cutter on nearly 37 percent of his pitches, second only to Travis Wood (44 percent, min. 2 starts). Opponents have gone 4-for-24 (.174) against the pitch with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 2014. The Angels have struggled against cutters so far this season, batting .160 against those pitches.

A more aggressive Mike Trout
Mike Trout mentioned this past offseason he wanted to be more aggressive early in the count. While the sample is small, so far he’s staying true to his word.

Trout has increased his swing percentage on the first pitch by 47 percent, which has led to him doubling his chase percentage against the first pitch as well.

Trout hasn’t put many of these balls in play (just 1-for-3), but falling behind early hasn’t been a detriment. Trout is batting .346 this season after falling behind in the count 0-1.

Josh Donaldson’s early slump
Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .222 through the first dozen games. The biggest difference for Donaldson is in his strikeout and walk totals. He’s struck out 15 times and walked only once this season, after 110 strikeouts and 76 walks in 2013.

An early issue for Donaldson has been the inside pitch. He’s 3-for-22 (.136) against pitches thrown to the inner third of the plate or off the inside corner this season, after hitting .330 against those pitches last season.

Hector Santiago’s fastball a concern
Hector Santiago pitches tonight for the Angels. He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts, both losses.

Opponents have posted a .346/.485/.577 slash line against Santiago’s fastball this season, which is compounded by Santiago throwing the pitch 74 percent of the time. Against Santiago’s other pitches opponents have hit .250 with a .500 OPS.

Angels 2014: Could this be the year?

March, 31, 2014

The other day, a reporter asked Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to assign blame for the acquisition of pitcher Joe Blanton, the occasion being the Angels’ unconditional release of the, ahem, struggling right-hander. Dipoto’s answer was refreshing.

“It’s a mistake on my part. There’s no one else to blame,” Dipoto said.

That little bit of accountability had to be music to Angels fans ears. For four long years, a team with three of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, a strong manager and one of the best starting pitchers in the game has been shut out of the playoffs, and the atmosphere in Anaheim has been a bit more drab with each passing season.

It should be noted, by the way, that owner Arte Moreno didn’t do Dipoto any favors in recent seasons by jumping in on the big-splash signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, leaving Dipoto scant resources to build a pitching staff.

Jered Weaver
AP Photo/Jim CowsertJered Weaver still has the deception, movement and savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.
Perhaps Angels fans didn't realize how spoiled they had become by the team’s run of excellence under Mike Scioscia from 2002 to 2009, a stretch that included a World Series title, three trips to the ALCS and six trips to the postseason.

Did the release of Blanton and Dipoto’s frankness signal a new era for Orange County’s baseball team?

The Angels' offseason makeover wasn't all that different from what the Boston Red Sox underwent going into the 2013 season. It was a bit of a reboot, with an emphasis on quality, low-impact moves rather than the big winter meetings splash that winds up weighing the team down.

Dipoto has certainly been making every effort to improve the team’s pitching, which -- even more than underperformance and injuries from Pujols and Hamilton -- has been this team’s demise. Presuming even a marginal uptick in those two sluggers’ production, the Angels look like a team with vast potential to improve. Who wouldn’t take a lineup that includes Mike Trout, Pujols and Hamilton?

This pitching staff has potential. When Jered Weaver first arrived in the major leagues, he could touch 95 mph and, combined with his off-speed pitches and funky delivery, made for one of the more uncomfortable at-bats in baseball. He’s different now, with the years of heavy workloads reducing his fastball velocity to the sub-90 range most games. But he’s still got the deception, the movement and the savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.

(Read full post)

Mike Trout keeps getting better

September, 6, 2013

ESPN Stats & InformationMike Trout's discipline at the plate has been key to his improvement this season.
Not to be lost in another rough season for the Los Angeles Angels is the fact that Mike Trout is having another amazing year. Trout will eclipse the 139 games he played at the big-league level last year in a few days. On the surface it looks as if his numbers have dipped as he has fewer homers and steals than last year, but his rate stats show that he has actually improved over his 2012 season.

Last season Trout put up a triple slash of .326/.399/.564. This season, he has improved all three of those numbers to .335/.433/.574. Thanks to an increase in doubles and triples, Trout's isolated power is exactly what it was last year (.238).

Staying disciplined
In addition to his power/speed combo, Trout showed good plate discipline last year, ranking 39th in baseball with a 25 percent chase rate on pitches outside the zone. This season as pitchers gave him even fewer quality pitches to hit, Trout has become more patient, chasing just 22 percent of pitches out of the zone, which ranks 23rd in baseball.

Trout's pitch recognition doesn't just apply to pitches out of the zone though. As he has learned to lay off a higher percentage of pitches out of the zone, he has also been more aggressive when recognizing strikes.

Walk this way
One of the biggest jumps Trout has made is in his walk rate. Last season he walked 10.5 percent of the time. This season he's up to 14 percent, which is tied for the fifth-best in baseball trailing only Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Santana.

Trout is on pace to become the seventh Angel to walk 100 times in a season and the first since Chone Figgins did it in 2009.

Say Hey!
Assuming Trout doesn't go into a massive slump that drops his batting average more than 10 percentage points, he will have his second straight season with at least a .325 average, 20 home runs and 30 steals.

There have been only 14 such seasons in the live ball era and Trout would join Hall of Famer Willie Mays as the only players with a pair of them.

Mike Trout still producing on offense

June, 21, 2013

AP Photo/David KohlMike Trout is having another incredible season despite falling behind last year’s numbers
A couple of weeks ago my colleague Mark Simon wrote about Mike Trout and his defensive shortcomings this season, but on the offensive side of the ball Trout has been one of the best in the game. His 4.2 Offensive WAR ranks tied for second in all of baseball with Chris Davis, behind just Miguel Cabrera.

Last night Trout went 4-for-4 with all four hits coming on pitches inside in the strike zone, the seventh time in his young career he’s reached four hits.

2012 tough to duplicate
This offseason there were plenty who expected some regression from Trout, but this wasn’t necessarily a knock on him – merely a realization of how rare a season Trout had in 2012.

Trout’s OPS is top ten in baseball, but it is down about 50 points from last year through 73 games when it sat at a gaudy 1.003. Part of the reason for the dip can be traced to how often he’s made hard contact. Last year at this point, 25 percent of his at-bats ended in a well-hit ball while this year that number is down a couple percentage points. That, along with a little less luck, has contributed to his batting average on balls in play dropping from .409 to .357.

No need for speed?
The most noticeable drop-off has been in steals. Trout has 16 bags, which is tied for eighth in baseball. But last year through this many games he had 31. Trout’s success rate on the base paths is only slightly down from 91 percent to 84 percent, but he’s attempted 15 fewer thefts.

Some may point to Trout putting on extra weight this offseason, but the bigger reason is likely that he’s spent 55 games batting second in the order this season and just 18 leading off. He might be more hesitant to run with Albert Pujols at-bat.

Tonight's matchup
Gerrit Cole (PIT) vs Jered Weaver (LAA)

The Los Angeles Angels face former UCLA ace Gerrit Cole tonight in an interleague matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cole went to Orange Lutheran high school before becoming a Bruin where he starred before being drafted first overall by the Bucs in 2011.

Cole is looking to continue his dominance of California teams after picking up wins against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in his first two career starts.

Mike Trout looking like Mike Trout

May, 24, 2013

AP Photo/Alex GallardoMike Trout has been on a tear since the calendar turned to May
The Los Angeles Angels are playing their best baseball of the season – winning five straight. The last four wins have featured solid pitching as the Angels have surrendered a total of seven runs in that span. It also doesn’t hurt that Mike Trout is once again looking like Mike Trout.

No sophomore slump
After an MVP-caliber rookie season, many projected Trout’s numbers to regress nearly across the board. In April those prognostications looked good as Trout hit just .261 in the month with two homers. May has been a different story as Trout has eight homers with a week left in the month. Thursday’s homer went 463 feet – the longest of his career.

His career-high for homers in a month came last July when he hit 10 bombs and hit .392. Trout has been waiting for his pitch more in May, chasing 19 percent of pitches outside the strike zone after chasing 28 percent in April.

Looking back at the Greinke gamble
Jean Segura
Now that we are eight weeks into the baseball season, it is clear that last season’s trade for Zack Greinke has come back to bite. Greinke wasn’t enough to boost the Angels into the postseason and then took the money and ran up the 5-freeway to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That alone would hurt enough, but now the main prospect traded for him, Jean Segura, has quickly become a force for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Segura entered play Thursday with a 2.4 WAR – ranking 10th in baseball among position players. The Angels shortstops by comparison have combined for a -0.9 WAR: Erick Aybar (-0.4), Andrew Romine (-0.3) and Brendan Harris (-0.2).

Friday’s matchup
Angels (Vargas) at Royals (Mendoza)
Trout isn’t the only one with crazy April/May splits, Jason Vargas has bounced back from a rough April in which he went 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. This month he is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA, allowing opponents to hit .212.

Vargas’ curveball has been dominant this month as opponents are hitting .125 against it after they hit .308 in April.

Vargas' complete game lifts Angels over O's

May, 3, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jason Vargas pitched a three-hitter for his first victory with his new club, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout homered and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 Friday night.

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Trumbo's latest homer helps Angels beat A's

May, 1, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Trumbo hit a home run for the third consecutive day, Howie Kendrick and Mike Trout also homered and the Los Angeles Angels ended a four-game losing streak, beating the Oakland Athletics 5-4 on Wednesday.

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Howie Kendrick
.293 7 75 85
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169