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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How Mike Trout improved his defense

You don’t get to be the best player alive if you aren’t always trying to get better, and this year, his focus was defense. For all the highlight-reel catches, Trout hasn’t actually been rated all that highly by defensive metrics over the past few years. It’s been the only minor flaw on an otherwise spotless resume.

“There are a lot of defensive metrics out there you want to get better on,” said Trout to MLB.com in February.

So far, so good: One-third of the way through the season, Trout’s defense looks better. It’s been rated better. In an admittedly small sample, Trout looks like he’s once again identified something he wants to fix and done exactly that.

Nice to see Mike Trout do some actual work for once.

Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 30, 2018 at 01:17 PM | 135 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, defense, mike trout

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   101. . . . . . . Posted: June 02, 2018 at 02:54 PM (#5684562)
Yes. By you can’t pretend he didn’t miss a big chunk of last season, which is what the poster above was proposing. He did, and those games counted too.
   102. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: June 02, 2018 at 02:59 PM (#5684563)
Yes but the "health is a skill too" comment is used to downgrade injury prone players. Trout is the opposite of that. I agree that he should not get credit for games missed because of a freak injury, but neither should we expect him to be injury prone going forward. I'd be more concerned if he had missed 15 games in each of 3 seasons rather than 45 in one due to one event.
   103. SoSH U at work Posted: June 02, 2018 at 03:12 PM (#5684566)

Yes. By you can’t pretend he didn’t miss a big chunk of last season, which is what the poster above was proposing. He did, and those games counted too.


What the #### are you talking about?

   104. cardsfanboy Posted: June 02, 2018 at 03:38 PM (#5684570)
Yes but the "health is a skill too" comment is used to downgrade injury prone players. Trout is the opposite of that. I agree that he should not get credit for games missed because of a freak injury, but neither should we expect him to be injury prone going forward. I'd be more concerned if he had missed 15 games in each of 3 seasons rather than 45 in one due to one event.


Agreed. One of the points of the durability argument (especially among all star quality players) is that the team has to assume that a Larry Walker is going to miss 15-20 or so games every year, and that the team is expecting to lose their best player and a replacement player needs to be of high quality since he's pretty much guaranteed more playing time than a backup for a more durable player. It affects roster construction and depth of the team.
   105. Mefisto Posted: June 02, 2018 at 06:17 PM (#5684615)
I think the young Mickey Mantle is a perfect comp for Trout. Not counting the rookie year for either, from ages 20-25 Trout has 53.7 WAR while Mantle had 51.3. Trout has had 210 more PA than Mantle did, so per/PA they're essentially identical.

That's a hell of a player. Trout seems likely to age better than Mantle, and perhaps we'll get to see what might have been.
   106. Baldrick Posted: June 03, 2018 at 05:02 PM (#5685048)
At age 26 Mike Trout has already led the league at least once in each of the following categories: Runs, RBI, Walks, Stolen Bases, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, Total Bases, Times on Base, Reached on Errors, and Intentional Walks. And if you throw 2018 into the mix, he's currently leading the league in HR, too.
   107. Mefisto Posted: June 03, 2018 at 05:11 PM (#5685053)
Cobb led the league in all those categories for which we have records, plus many more. And most of them he led multiple times.

I'm pretty sure the same would hold true for some others.
   108. cardsfanboy Posted: June 03, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5685055)
Cobb led the league in all those categories for which we have records, plus many more. And most of them he led multiple times.


Being compared to Cobb isn't an insult(at least as far as baseball numbers go).... when the names of the comparisons are Cobb, Ruth, Bonds, Mays, and Mantle, we are not talking about an overrated player or a not quite as great as the press is making him out to be guy.

106 is pointing out that it's not just some stat like War that is saying that Trout is great, the traditional stats are also supporting his greatness. He's missing out on average, but that is about it. (for the Record Albert Pujols has led in average, obp, slg, ops, ops+,total bases, hr, rbi, hits, runs...but not walks and stolen bases)
   109. Mefisto Posted: June 03, 2018 at 07:30 PM (#5685087)
Yeah, I may have overread Baldrick's comment. I read it as though Trout had done something unique, rather than something very good.

I obviously agree that Trout is quite a player, since I just compared him to a young Mantle.
   110. Baldrick Posted: June 03, 2018 at 07:42 PM (#5685092)
Yep, was mostly just looking over his stats and thinking how neat it is that he's good at so many different thing.
   111. DanG Posted: June 03, 2018 at 09:31 PM (#5685152)
It's impressive that every year Trout has led the league in something, both traditional and sabermetric stat:

2012: R, SB / OPS+, OWn%, WAR, oWAR, WPA, Power-speed
2013: R, BB / RC, TOB, WAR, oWAR, Power-speed
2014: R, RBI, TB, XBH / RC, oWAR, WAR/pos, WPA
2015: SLG / RC, TOB, OPS+, OWn%, WAR, oWAR
2016: R, BB, OBP / RC, TOB, OPS+, OWn%, WAR, oWAR, WPA, Power-speed
2017: OBP, SLG, IBB / OPS+, OWn%, WPA

Trout has 34 points of Black Ink, more than the average hall of famer.
   112. Cooper Nielson Posted: June 04, 2018 at 04:31 AM (#5685291)
At age 26 Mike Trout has already led the league at least once in each of the following categories: Runs, RBI, Walks, Stolen Bases, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, Total Bases, Times on Base, Reached on Errors, and Intentional Walks. And if you throw 2018 into the mix, he's currently leading the league in HR, too.

This is very impressive, but if we go back to the "How would he be viewed in the old days?" question, it's worth noting that he's led the league in a "Triple Crown" category exactly once: with a not particularly impressive 111 RBI in 2014.

So he's "good" at (almost literally) everything, but only "best" at things that in the old days either weren't noticed, or were undervalued. (SB and runs had their devotees, I'm sure.)
   113. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5685387)
This is very impressive, but if we go back to the "How would he be viewed in the old days?" question, it's worth noting that he's led the league in a "Triple Crown" category exactly once: with a not particularly impressive 111 RBI in 2014.

So he's "good" at (almost literally) everything, but only "best" at things that in the old days either weren't noticed, or were undervalued. (SB and runs had their devotees, I'm sure.)


This is fair, although in most other decades (and on most other teams today) he'd probably be hitting #3 or 4, and racking up a lot more RBIs (and fewer Runs).
   114. Ithaca2323 Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:19 AM (#5685415)
At the end of the day, Trout hits second, walks a ton, and doesn't have a super high average. As a result, he only gets about 175 hits a season, and that just links to too many other stats.

He's going to have an all-time great WAR, but he strikes me as a guy who is going to be perceived as the "Jayson Stark GOAT". Stark always likes to find some random combination of stats to illustrate some player's accomplishments. Trout will probably find himself to be the only player with some sort of historic combination, even if he doesn't have any one thing that stands out (other than his WAR, and possibly runs)
   115. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:14 PM (#5685581)
Brett Gardner is now in the top-10 AL WAR leaders for position players. In case anyone might be concerned about the disproportionate impact of defense given that he's hitting .263/.364/.389
   116. Cooper Nielson Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:40 PM (#5685609)
This is fair, although in most other decades (and on most other teams today) he'd probably be hitting #3 or 4, and racking up a lot more RBIs (and fewer Runs).

Most likely, yes. But he's already batted #3 in about 30% of his plate appearances, and I don't think "a lot more RBIs," in his case, would have led to many more RBI titles. Other than his #1 finish in 2014, he's only been in the top 10 in RBI once -- 9th in 2013.

Here's the distance between him and #1 each year:

2012 - 56
2013 - 41
2014 - **
2015 - 33
2016 - 27
2017 - 47
2018 - 13 (currently -- "on pace" for about 35)

That's a lot of ground to make up, and I don't think dropping to #3/#4 is gonna do it (especially with the corresponding drop in plate appearances). In 2016, the closest one, he was already batting #3 most of the time (124 games).

More than batting order, the problem was that he was on the Angels, who didn't exactly have Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines available to insert into the #2/#3 slots. He's not going to get those retroactive RBI titles with Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun batting in front of him.

So far he's only been in the top 10 in HR twice (3rd both times -- 4 HR behind and 6 HR behind), though he's in first place right now and had a chance last year until he got hurt.
   117. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:56 PM (#5685624)
Trout will probably find himself to be the only player with some sort of historic combination, even if he doesn't have any one thing that stands out (other than his WAR, and possibly runs)
This isn't contradicting your point, but I just noticed that he is currently 6th alltime in adjusted OPS+.

I know, I know, zero decline phase factored in. But, damn.
   118. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:58 PM (#5685626)
So he's "good" at (almost literally) everything, but only "best" at things that in the old days either weren't noticed, or were undervalued. (SB and runs had their devotees, I'm sure.)


This is absurd. I go back to Joe Morgan, who won back-back MVPs in 1975-76 while leading the league only in OBP, walks and slugging. Barry Bonds won his first MVP while leading only in slugging; he added OBP, walks and runs for his second MVP. Ryne Sandberg won his MVP while leading only in runs and triples. Barry Larkin won his MVP without leading the league in a single offensive category.

Modern analysts seem to have this notion that player evaluation used to be a guessing game, that we just blindly picked whoever was leading the league in RBIs. Believe it or not, we did have a good sense of who the best players were, even in the dark days of the 1970s.
   119. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5685632)
It's generally not hard to spot THE best player and the worst players. It's everything in between that is tough.

Now in terms of what writers vote for for MVP I think your examples highlight the fact that writers really loved voting for middle infielders.
   120. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:11 PM (#5685639)
I know, I know, zero decline phase factored in. But, damn.


Seems like we haven't factored in his peak phase yet either.
   121. Ithaca2323 Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:18 PM (#5685649)
This is absurd. I go back to Joe Morgan, who won back-back MVPs in 1975-76 while leading the league only in OBP, walks and slugging. Barry Bonds won his first MVP while leading only in slugging; he added OBP, walks and runs for his second MVP. Ryne Sandberg won his MVP while leading only in runs and triples. Barry Larkin won his MVP without leading the league in a single offensive category.


Now in terms of what writers vote for for MVP I think your examples highlight the fact that writers really loved voting for middle infielders.


Or that they did the old "Best player on the best team" which would likely be every one of those players except for Larkin—whose team was in first place.
   122. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:25 PM (#5685660)

Seems like we haven't factored in his peak phase yet either.


Neyer many years ago had a good article about this in regards to ARod. At the time he had just signed his free agent contract and everyone talking about what his numbers would look like when he hit his prime. He basically asked the question what if this is the best that we will see from him and as it turns out Neyer was largely correct. The real value in a young player being great consistently is that their peak is longer not higher.
   123. PreservedFish Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5685679)
It's probably smart not to expect a superlative young player to improve in his late 20s, but in this case I'm merely referring to Trout's actual results. He set his personal OPS+ record last year, and is exceeding it this year.
   124. Ithaca2323 Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5685687)
This isn't contradicting your point, but I just noticed that he is currently 6th alltime in adjusted OPS+.


Yeah, I was focusing more on the counting stats.

I mean, I think it's absurd, but if you set Trout's O/U for career hits at 2,999.5, I might take the under.
   125. Chokeland Bill Posted: June 04, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5685693)
The real value in a young player being great consistently is that their peak is longer not higher.


Trout actually has gotten better though. His 2017-2018 numbers are notably better than his 2015-2016 numbers. I'd be tempted to write off this year's numbers as just small sample but he did most of the same thing last year (I think before the injury he was at basically the same OPS+ as he is now). If he's a 190 OPS+ guy for the next few years rather than a 175, that's a nice uptick. Especially if this year's defensive bounceback sticks.
   126. Ithaca2323 Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:02 PM (#5685698)
Neyer many years ago had a good article about this in regards to ARod. At the time he had just signed his free agent contract and everyone talking about what his numbers would look like when he hit his prime. He basically asked the question what if this is the best that we will see from him and as it turns out Neyer was largely correct. The real value in a young player being great consistently is that their peak is longer not higher.


I'd wager that his career OPS+ will be higher than 174 at some point in the future.
   127. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:23 PM (#5685715)
I mean, I think it's absurd, but if you set Trout's O/U for career hits at 2,999.5, I might take the under.

Absolutely. Dude only has 1105 hits in his career thus far.
   128. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 04, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5685717)
Now in terms of what writers vote for for MVP I think your examples highlight the fact that writers really loved voting for middle infielders.


Not at all. I was looking for examples of MVPs who didn't lead the league in a triple crown category. It's a lot tougher to get voted MVP as a corner outfielder or first baseman without leading the league in one of those categories.

One thing I noticed while looking for those examples: Guys who win MVP awards for no other reason than leading the league in RBIs, from Boog Powell and Jeff Burroughs to Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard, tend to be more or less forgotten by history. Guys who win MVP awards for being all-around great without leading the league in a triple-crown category, including the guys I mentioned as well as Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente and Robin Yount, tend to go to the Hall of Fame.
   129. Rally Posted: June 04, 2018 at 03:34 PM (#5685751)
Neyer many years ago had a good article about this in regards to ARod. At the time he had just signed his free agent contract and everyone talking about what his numbers would look like when he hit his prime. He basically asked the question what if this is the best that we will see from him and as it turns out Neyer was largely correct. The real value in a young player being great consistently is that their peak is longer not higher.


A-Rod had some improvement left at that time. His best OPS+ at that point were 161 in his first full season, and 163 in his walk year. He later hit 173 and 176 in his Yankee MVP years. His HR high with Seattle was 42, he hit 50+ 3 times after leaving. 5 year OPS+ from 1996-2000: 143. With Yankees, 2005-2009: 155

Career 138 OPS+ when he left Seattle, It was 147 at his peak before decline dropped him to 140.

That's as a hitter. As a complete player his two biggest years were his walk year in Seattle, then a 3 way tie between 1996 and his 2 Yankee MVP seasons. For that he can thank either age and defensive decline, or Derek Jeter.
   130. Rally Posted: June 04, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5685758)
Here are the best OPS+ through age 25, minimum 3000 PA. Plus Ted Williams, who missed the PA requirement due to WW2.

OPS+ through age 25, highest career OPS+ at the end of any season, final OPS+

Cobb 180,185,168
Mick 174,177,172
Trout 172,?,?
Foxx 171,175,163
Ted 190,197,190
Albert 167,172,151 and dropping.

So based on history we should expect Trout's career OPS+ to be higher by a few points than it is now, but drop to somewhere in the 160-170 range when he retires.
   131. Booey Posted: June 04, 2018 at 03:52 PM (#5685768)
Modern analysts seem to have this notion that player evaluation used to be a guessing game, that we just blindly picked whoever was leading the league in RBIs. Believe it or not, we did have a good sense of who the best players were, even in the dark days of the 1970s.


Because it seems like half the time, that's exactly what they did. For every Joe Morgan or Rickey Henderson who were recognized as being the best even without racking up the ribbies, there were guys like Don Baylor and George Bell and Andre Dawson and Mo Vaughn and Juan Gonzalez who were awarded for nothing more than homers and rbi's. While I agree that most of those guys seemed to be forgotten shortly after (Dawson, obviously, is in the HOF), if the writers realized they'd made a mistake with them, why did they keep making the same mistake over and over again (different writers in different decades, I know)? It seems like they didn't learn anything.

Guys who win MVP awards for being all-around great without leading the league in a triple-crown category, including the guys I mentioned as well as Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente and Robin Yount, tend to go to the Hall of Fame.

Robinson might be a bad example.
   132. DavidFoss Posted: June 04, 2018 at 04:04 PM (#5685780)
Robinson might be a bad example.

He's a fun example. He led the league in each category only once. He just lucked out with the timing. I assume they might be talking about his other MVP.
   133. dlf Posted: June 04, 2018 at 04:16 PM (#5685790)
Robinson might be a bad example.


He was "only" second in ribbies in his first MVP year ... and third in HR and sixth in BA ... for a team that went from 20 games under .500 to the World Series. Clemente was also second in ribbies in his MVP year and Yount, playing SS in his first MVP year, was all the way down to 4th place.
   134. Booey Posted: June 04, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5685822)
He was "only" second in ribbies in his first MVP year ... and third in HR and sixth in BA ... for a team that went from 20 games under .500 to the World Series. Clemente was also second in ribbies in his MVP year and Yount, playing SS in his first MVP year, was all the way down to 4th place.


Yeah, Robinson hit .324-37-124 (in the 60's), Clemente .317-29-119 (ditto), and Yount .331-29-114 (as a SS) in the TC categories in their first MVP seasons. You could argue that they won those awards because of their numbers in the Triple Crown categories, not despite them. For Clemente and Yount it was the highest power (HR and rbi) numbers of their careers (and BA for Yount, for that matter).
   135. cardsfanboy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 05:43 PM (#5685845)
One thing I noticed while looking for those examples: Guys who win MVP awards for no other reason than leading the league in RBIs, from Boog Powell and Jeff Burroughs to Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard, tend to be more or less forgotten by history. Guys who win MVP awards for being all-around great without leading the league in a triple-crown category, including the guys I mentioned as well as Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente and Robin Yount, tend to go to the Hall of Fame.


That is not an endorsement that the writers know what they are doing though, in fact it's pretty much a strong suggestion that they don't, and that the owners/gm know what they are doing as they aren't holding onto these rbi guys after their prime.
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