As the baseball world focuses their hearts and minds on the greatness that is reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown adorned Miguel Cabrera, one cannot help but feel sorry for Mike Trout. Poor Mike Trout. Woe is Mike Trout. While Miggy is earning praise and adulation from every corner of the globe, Trout is mired in the sad state of being merely pretty good.
What is a jilted MVP candidate to do? How can he possible overcome this terrible, terrible sophomore slump that so many prognosticated?
I simply don't know. This plight is just so-
You mean to say-
Are you sure?
No sophomore slump at all?
Not even a little?
Oh, well then. So much for the narrative.
Yes, sorry to break it to everyone, but MIke Trout's sophomore slump never really came to pass. Oh, sure, he kind of had a down week or two in April, but a brief slump is something every hitter goes through. Instead, it appears that Trout has been every bit the player he was last season and is showing signs that he might actually be better, which is a thing that was not really considered feasible. Just take a look at how his stats compare from season-to-season:
|2012||639||30||129||83||49||10.5 %||21.8 %||.238||.383||.326||.399||.564||.409||166||13.3||12.0||10.0|
|2013||204||8||29||29||8||11.3 %||19.1 %||.239||.311||.278||.363||.517||.376||141||-0.8||2.4||1.9|
Now I realize that I'm putting myself out there declaring Trout to be better when his OPS is 80 points lower and wOBA is 30 points lower than 2012, but stick with me here. The thing about talent is that in small samples it doesn't manifest itself the same way each and every time. Trout hasn't been "better" through 44 games, but he is close and there are statistical indicators that suggest he could equal or surpass his 2012 performance over the rest of the season.
With the exception of his batting average, Trout has been as good or better with the bat. His walk rate is up. His strikeout rate is down. His isolated power is nearly identical, a key metric considering that was one area where many thought he would regress. The only peripheral rate that he is noticeably down in is BABIP. That isn't entirely unexpected and, to their credit, was a something foreseen by the predictive models. Why? Because a .383 BABIP is obscene. Sustaining a BABIP that high year after year just isn't done. Thus Trout has to "settle" for his .311 BABIP this season which really just equates to him being a better, more polished hitter this season but a hitter who doesn't have as much luck.
As it stands right now, Mike is on pace for a seven to eight win season. That's nothing near a 10 WAR season, but it is still MVP caliber and, oh by the way, better than any season Miguel Cabrera has ever had, not that we need to revisit that dick measuring contest. The thing is that Trout has room to improve still. With more walks and fewer whiffs, he is on his way to being an even more efficient hitter. If he can find a bit more luck with the BABIP, which is not entirely unlikely since a .311 BABIP is actually a little low for someone with his speed, he can goose that average up over .300 and close the OPS and wOBA gap.
Oddly enough, where Trout is giving away value is in the field. Thus far this season he is slightly in the negative with the glove as opposed to the nearly three wins worth of value his fielding provided last season. Now, nothing is more dubious than 44 games worth of advanced defensive metrics, so knowing his innate ability, we can reasonably expect him to recover some if not all of that by the end of the year. Similarly, the odd decline in his steal attempts has robbed him of a little baserunning value. Again, it seems unlikely that he will continue to perform at that level going forward.
Even if he does continue at the current rate and settles in around a 7.5 win level, that still puts Trout amongst the elite of the league. If the rest of the Angels weren't playing like horse manure, Trout would find himself firmly in the MVP debate once more. I suppose you could still call losing two and a half wins worth of value a slump, but that is the kind of slump any team would love to have. Really though, this isn't even about the myth of the sophomore slump, admittedly something of a strawman in this case since it wasn't like anyone thought he'd fall off the map completely. What it is about is Trout proving that he still has growth left in him. That's a very pleasant thought for the Angels and a not so pleasant thought for the rest of the league.