Mike Trout is chugging along, in a completely different way

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With poor BABIP luck and a lack of power, it’s been all built on plate discipline.

I try not to write about Mike Trout too much; it’s almost like the fact that because I’m a Yankees fan in the way that I’m a Trout fan, my natural inclination to write about what I know and what I like is so often conquered by a desire, as an editor of a site that covers everything, to try to provide as much of a comprehensive look at all of baseball as possible.

Yet at times…. Trout seems to encompass baseball entirely. I had been following his fall from the top of the leaderboards early this month, where he ranked fourth in fWAR in April (only fourth, I know), nearly 1.3 wins behind the leader Cody Bellinger, yet still leading the American League. He “only” had six home runs.

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That is still the case, yet he has climbed, and is now a about a win behind Bellinger, sitting at 3.2 fWAR and a 169 wRC+.

On its face, that actually seems—I don’t know—slightly disappointing? There were times over the past couple of years where it really, truly looked like Trout was a 200 wRC+ true talent hitter, and now he looks a shade under his existing wRC+ baseline, and with a batting average of .281 that is slightly strange.

If you dig really just below the surface, it’s clear that not only is he fine, just chugging along as we would expect, but he has actually improved to an extent that once luck does turn his way, we may very well see that 200 wRC+.

We have seen Trout’s recent tendency to draw more walks and strike out less, which was basically the one knock against him, and now that transformation is fully complete, as his 1.36 BB/K ranks first in all of baseball.

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The reason for that? It’s obviously because he isn’t really swinging at pitches out of the zone, and he’s barely swinging and missing at all, as his 4.1% rate ranks fourth in baseball, right behind the newly-revamped Tommy La Stella.

And that .281 batting average? That will probably turn around, according to Statcast. Not only is his xBA .313, which is higher than any year since 2015, but pretty much every expected stat or batted ball stat backs up that this is likely his most effective year at the plate, despite the bad luck, and mainly his .288 BABIP.

He is barreling the ball at nearly a one-in-five rate (19%), and even though his launch angle is slightly lower than 2017-18 and his exit velocity is in the 70th percentile, none of the expected stats have suffered: an expected .622 slugging percentage is, on the other hand, in the 96th percentile.

That’s on offense, and defensively, it looks like he’s on his usual Outs Above Average pace. With one OAA and an only slighter lower-than-usual 87% catch percentage, that side of the ball likely won’t detract him either.

Even with Bellinger up on Trout by a win, there’s still a competition yet in the projections race, as Trout still leads the other by a half-win in the updated ZiPS projected wins, 9.3 to 8.8. If we were to wrap up that projection in what we know about what should have happened, there’s nothing stopping Trout from boosting that pace, and putting up the ten-win year we know he probably can.

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