By now, you may have heard through the grapevine that Mike Trout is having one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. Dead ball or live ball or a Real Live Dead ball, it doesn’t matter. Mike Trout is not putting up video game numbers — video games are putting up Mike Trout numbers. It is outright silly what he is doing to the game we all hold dear.
Let’s review an example that I submitted earlier this evening.
You are not misreading that. As of right this moment, Trout is so far ahead of the pack that the only two players ahead of his OPS of 1.147 who have strode to the plate at least 5 times are former Angels Ryan Schimpf and Curt Casali. That is seemingly unreal.
It hasn’t always been so easy though. For the mind-blowing probability-defying performance that Trout has delivered has been in spite of one of the all-time worst (and arguably the absolute worst) extended stretches of his career. During the ten-game stretch from May 8th through May 17th, Mike Trout had 40 Plate Appearances and he came through with 3 hits. Every one of those three was a single. His slash line was this atrocity:
Recalling that Trout has had 318 Plate Appearances over the course of the 2018 season and that the above slash line was produced across 40 of those, this means that just over 12.5% of the entire season was consecutively spent producing a 50 wRC+. That is so bad that the then-struggling Ian Kinsler surpassed Trout’s Total Bases over that stretch with exactly one hit against the Minnesota Twins.
By the end of the stretch, Trout’s slash line had dropped from .336/.458/.720 to .290/.431/.600. While the latter is a magnificent line, it was nowhere remotely near the rate he had been producing at.
Sam Miller conveniently wrote the article I linked earlier about Trout currently being on pace for the greatest season of all time on the last day of this stretch.
Since May 18th, Trout has gone off to the tune of a .388/.504/.827 slash line. That would be a 1.331 OPS over 31 days which treads rather heavily into “nuts” territory, especially when the fact that Trout primarily plays in heavily pitcher friendly parks is considered. As a result of this level of play, which is rarely sustained over a couple weeks let alone a full month, he has almost entirely recovered from the mid-May slump that appeared to gift the MVP to a Mookie Betts.
And yet, this past month encompassed another slump. From June 5th through June 10th, Trout went 2-19. This time though, he only would take two walks. This stretch saw a .105/.190/.105 slash and a -12 wRC+. Meanwhile, Kole Calhoun put up a better wRC+ in that stretch just by not even playing. This slump, unlike the previous one, would be mostly overshadowed by victories and Kinsler heroics, but it was even worse than the last.
Over the week since the 11th, Trout is OPSing over 2.000. Disgusting.
While simultaneously creating an all-time season, Trout has spent 61 plate appearances’ worth of slumps posting a .102/.279/.102. That is almost 20% of Trout’s 2018 season. Meanwhile, somewhere around 80% of it has been spent hitting the ball with so much authority that Eric Cartman would blush. This level of streakiness is unusual for Trout, who is known for being a pillar of consistency.
The most important takeaway that I can derive from this is that Mike Trout has a nigh-limitless margin for error offensively as he creates the greatest season we will ever see. No matter how hard he crashes, he manages to pull the pieces back together in a fashion more effective than the one prior.
Is this meant to imply that Trout will continue to slug over 1.000 for several weeks before the worst slump we’ve seen yet? It is improbable. However, 80% of the season has been spent crushing at a rate that would put Trout among the greatest offensive seasons of all time alone and overcoming the adversity of the absolute worst periods of his entire career. If you factor in his defense and baserunning, then “pace” for the greatest season in major league history might just be a synonym for “inevitability.”