It has become increasingly difficult for Mike Trout to surprise the baseball world as the perennial MVP candidate consistently makes the game an even better sport every time he steps on the field. Following a shortened 2020 season, much anticipation led into the full 162-game 2021 season, which would be one of the few times thus far Trout would lead a star studded supporting cast on offense that many predicted could win the AL West.
April was one of the best single months across Trout’s career as he recorded a hit in 11 of his first 13 games (31 total hits - ranking 6th in MLB) while collectively slashing .425/.523/.781 with 6 HR, 14 RBI, 18 R, 8 Doubles and 14 Walks. These numbers translated into top MLB stats as Trout ranked first in the league in On-Base Percentage, while trailing only Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins in Batting Average, Slugging Percentage and OPS. The Millville, NJ native cracked his first home run of the season on April 5 against the Houston Astros (4th Inning vs. Luis Garcia), starting a mini streak of three consecutive games with hitting a home run.
First of the season for the man, the myth, the legend: @MikeTrout! pic.twitter.com/rDR9r0P15N— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) April 6, 2021
The first week of May was slightly less impactful as Trout batted only .280 (7-for-25) with 2 HR and 4 RBI, lowering his batting average to a still impressive .388. The remainder of May became an unforgettable blur going hitless in five consecutive games and returning to Angel Stadium on May 17 versus the Cleveland Indians to only exit the game in the first inning after injuring his Right calf while running the bases. He was placed on the 10-day Injured List and given a 6-8 week projection to heal, but what many fans and the Angels organization did not know at the time was this would be the final time anyone would see Trout in action in 2021.
With this blow to the Halos as a whole, it made scratching towards the playoffs and even finishing with an above .500 record an uphill battle. Trying to fill a large hole in the lineup everyday is not easy, especially when that hole happens to be the face of baseball. However, as the calendar turned to July and even into August it became more apparent that even though Trout was resuming limited baseball activities, his chances at going 100% were slim to none. Questions piled in daily to Joe Maddon and Perry Minasian, but as they remained coy in their responses, it was Trout himself on September 25 to give the final word that his season was indeed finished.
Here’s Mike Trout on season ending injury.— Soto ⚾️ (@SotoP_23) September 25, 2021
Even with disappointment written all over his face, Trout still continued to be a leader in the clubhouse by coaching fellow teammates, bringing a relaxed and fun personality to the dugout during the game and most importantly, showing up for the fans. He was the biggest hit (pun clearly intended) when the Angels traveled to Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series. The impact and inspiration he brought speaks volumes to how he is the exact same person on the field as he is off the field.
Everyone: *gets excited when @MikeTrout picks up a bat*— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 22, 2021
Us: same pic.twitter.com/Y2Wijs4CuX
2021 STATS + ACHIEVEMENTS
36 Games / 117 AB / .333 Avg. / .446 OBP / .624 SLG / 1.090 OPS / 39 H / 8 HR / 18 RBI / 23 R / 8 2B / 1 3B / 27 BB / 2 SB / 1.8 WAR
- 2021 American League All-Star (9th Career Selection)
- 2021 Roberto Clemente Nominee
MVP on AND off the field. @MikeTrout is the Angels Roberto Clemente nominee for the 2021 season.— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) September 14, 2021
#WeBelieve | @Angels pic.twitter.com/Sq4tPFPMLd
BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
It is no shock that Trout continues to torch the Texas Rangers in the batter’s box. In 166 career games, Trout has a split of .332/.452/.625 with 40 HR, 113 RBI, 32 Doubles and 11 Triples. April 20 was no different as Trout led the charge once again in a division showdown against the Rangers at The Big A. After a leadoff double to start the bottom of the fourth, the right-hander scratched the Angels second run of the game on a wild pitch during an Albert Pujols at-bat. The power stroke found Trout’s bat in the bottom of the sixth with a solo blast (446 ft / 115.5 Exit Velocity) to left center field, for a 3-1 lead. To the amazement of players and fans, this home run was Trout’s hardest-hit home run of the Statcast era.
Before the Angels secured a 6-2 win, Trout added a single in the eighth to complete his second three-hit night of the season to this point. The outfielder would finish with three three-plus hitting nights and a total of 10 multi-hit games.
BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
As Trout only played in 36 games, it is only fair to look at how he continues to improve defensively in the outfield. We have heard for years that when it comes to making adjustments/improvements in his game, Trout almost always points to his defense which based on Statcast metrics would be the biggest area of focus. Just five years ago Trout had an OAA (Outs Above Average) of -5, ranking 123rd amongst all MLB outfielders with 250+ attempts at making plays. As the book closed on the 2021 season, Trout put five years of hard work on display and steadily worked his way to a +1 OAA rating through 62 attempts. He also increased his route efficiency from 0.7 to 1 in this five-year span (2016-2021), which may not sound like a huge jump, but it led all of MLB through his last game on May 17. To top it all off, 2021 was the fourth season in his 11-year career where he did not make a single error in center field.
catch a trout < a @MikeTrout catch #LAASpring pic.twitter.com/v73ExR0QBf— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) March 20, 2021
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
Trout is an ultimate competitor and for anyone to expect less than an MVP-type season for a player who missed 4+ months of last season would be delusional. We saw last year how badly he wanted to be out in the field playing even though his body would not perform at 110% that he is used to on a daily basis. With the emergence of Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, Trout will have support in the outfield that could potentially open up the question of what defensive position he will return to when Opening Day kicks off. As the old quote says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, meaning the Angels should leave Trout in center field and place the supporting pieces around the best player in baseball.
When healthy, the Angels lineup is lethal especially if Trout, Ohtani, Rendon and Walsh are clicking on all cylinders. Angels fans are used to seeing Trout put up record-breaking numbers and it is not out of the realm of thinking that Trout could do the same in 2022 to make up for lost time from last year. As he enters his age 30 season, Trout still has nine years remaining on his massive 12-year, $426.5 million deal, making it more imperative the Halos force a “Win Now” mentality and not take their foot off the gas in the quest to return to the postseason.