I still remember where I was that day. I just about had a conniption when Mike Trout made his signature catch that afternoon at Camden Yards. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I spent the next couple of weeks studying every article, replay, angle, and evaluation of the catch. I was convinced it was one of the greatest catches of all time. It was the day that I knew he would win the Gold Glove.
Let’s all just re-watch it one last time. Even six years later, it still gets my heart racing excitedly.
This season was ruined by the Angels not making it to the playoffs and Mike Trout being snubbed of his Gold Glove and his MVP.
Every season afterward, we saw a new version of Trout. That year, he was Billy Hamilton with a hit tool, but in 2013, he was Joey Votto with speed. 2014 showed that he was Aaron Judge without a juiced ball. In 2015, he fixed his flaws from the previous season and 2016 had him start stealing again. 2017 was a super-combination of most of the above before his tragic fall to the DL.
Now, Trout has re-added that lost piece. At least for me, this “new” addition to Trout’s arsenal is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love in the first place.
OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher published an article that Mike Trout was on a mission to improve his defense and win a Gold Glove a couple weeks ago. He has proven in the past that when he says he intends to do something, he diligently works at it.
It still comes as a surprise that just 3 weeks into the 2018 season, the buff 26 year-old is one of the top defensive outfielders in the game again.
The defensive statistics that have been bashing him since 2013 are now hailing him as a top Gold Glove candidate in the outfield. According to Fangraphs, his Defensive Score is at 1.5, tied for first in the AL among all outfielders with Byron Freaking Buxton. This is partially due to the number of innings played, but Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) — Fangraphs’ defensive statistic of choice — also thinks highly of his range.
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is even higher on Trout though. Amongst the entire American League, Mike Trout has the second highest runs saved at 5; third in the majors. According to DRS, his range is among the most elite in baseball at this exact moment. Thanks to a magnificent showing in this statistic, Baseball-Reference now has him back atop the Wins Above Replacement Leaderboard where he is most comfortable, as of April 16th. The defensive portion of that leaderboard places him in the top 3.
Notice how he’s even ahead of Andrelton Simmons (the DRS King) on that list? Simmons only has 3 so far in the season.
Here is some small sample size fun that you can take from this information:
If you take Trout’s 5 DRS and project that across an entire season (say, 1300 defensive innings?), you get 44.52 DRS. Here is a list of the best defensive seasons since DRS became a stat.
Quietly ignoring the fact that Corey Dickerson has 7 and Jean Segura has 6, we can safely assume that Mike Trout’s 5 will extrapolate to him having the greatest defensive season of all time! Not too shabby.
The praise of Mike Trout’s range appears to be heavily influenced by the number of opportunities he’s catching that should probably not be caught. He has already caught 13 balls outside of what is his “zone” and has made some spectacular plays on those. He is also diving more frequently and catching what are considered “wall balls” thanks to his extreme depth, which usually fall for doubles or triples and are generally more beneficial to one’s statistics than taking away the odd single here and there.
If you’re one of those wondering why these numbers matter, according to Fletcher:
Both DRS and UZR are among the metrics baked into the Society of American Baseball Research’s Defensive Index (SDI), which accounts for about 25 percent of the Gold Glove selection process.
As for that other 75%? Well, I think he passes the eye test too.
Every year, we say that he can’t get better. Every year, he proves us wrong. Trout will improve in some way every single year, ad infinitum. I expect that over the offseason, he’ll tell us he wants to work on his pitching to keep up with Ohtani. I can no longer be surprised because I fully anticipate that anything he says is possible.