Trout Delivers ‘Best Year’ Yet, Wins Player Of The Year

Image credit: Trout’s 1.088 OPS this season was the highest by any American League player since Travis Hafner’s 1.097 in 2006.

In many ways, 2018 was the best year of Mike Trout’s illustrious career. In others, it was his most challenging.

Trout raised his game yet another notch this season, posting a 1.088 OPS that not only led the majors but also was the second-highest by any player this decade. He finished fifth in MLB in batting average (.312), first in on-base percentage (.460), third in slugging percentage (.628) and tied for fourth in home runs (39). And he did it all without making a single error in the field, something no other center fielder who played at least 120 games can claim.

For his all-around excellence, Trout is the 2018 Baseball America Major League Player of the Year.

“I think just the total package, offensively, defensively, this was my best year,” Trout said during the Angels’ final series of the season in Anaheim. “Being up here for seven, eight years now, I‘m facing guys over and over again I’ve seen before. And just knowing my swing, I’m learning how to prevent the long durations without feeling good at the plate. Defensively, what I needed to work on, it’s come together and it’s shown.”

Trout, 27, has now played in 1,065 career games. Through the same amount of games, he has more hits than Cal Ripken Jr., more home runs than Barry Bonds, more runs scored than Ty Cobb and more total bases than Ken Griffey Jr.

And he’s getting better. Trout’s on-base percentage and OPS this season were the best of his career. His home run total and slugging percentage were second-best. He stole 24 bases in 26 attempts, the most successful rate of his career.

Mike Trout Defense
Trout set out to improve his defense this season and became one one of the best center fielders in baseball.

Then there is his defense. In spring training, Trout declared his goal of winning his first Gold Glove this season. He sharpened his skills getting jumps off the bat every day in batting practice during camp, and by the time the regular season rolled around, he noticed a distinct difference.

“I’ve surprised myself a couple times this year with balls I didn’t think I could catch and I caught,” Trout said. “I wouldn’t say it was one particular drill. I think just over time, even in BP when you’re not shagging everything, you’re getting that first step, getting that reaction time and tell yourself catch everything. I think that’s been the biggest thing.”

The results followed. In addition to his errorless play, Trout led all American League center fielders with four double plays started and ranked fourth with seven assists.

According to Fangraphs, Trout’s eight defensive runs saved led all qualified American League center fielders and was tied for third in MLB overall.

Both Trout’s arm and his glove were previously considered the weak points of his game. This year, they became among the best in baseball.

“When Mike evaluates himself and if there’s maybe a deficiency, he takes it on as a personal challenge,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a Gold Glover in center field, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

“I take pride in defense and to see where I ranked, I just told myself I had to be better,” Trout said. “I sat down with (third base and outfield coach) Dino (Ebel) and a couple of the coaches, got some data over the course of last year that compared me with the top center fielders. I tried to base my jumps off theirs and see where I could get better and it worked out.”

 That Trout was already considered the best player in baseball and somehow managed to get even better was impressive, but not surprising for those around him on a daily basis.

“It’s his humility, his open-mindedness and his curiosity,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “Those things help drive him and put him in a position where he’ll grab myself, grab Dino Ebel, grab (hitting coaches Eric Hinske and Paul Sorrento) and say, ‘How can I get better at this? I want to get better at “X” or I want to get better at “Y”, what do you got, what do you have for me?’

“That kind of humility and open-mindedness and curiosity, that doesn’t come around in a lot of players, let alone star players.”

But as much as Trout considers 2018 his most successful year on the field, it was one of his toughest off of it.

In mid-August, Trout’s brother-in-law Aaron Cox, a former pitcher in the Angels’ minor league system, died from what a New Jersey State Police spokesman said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Trout, who was on the disabled list with right wrist inflammation at the time, returned home to New Jersey with his wife for a week to grieve the loss of not just a family member, but also the man Trout described as his best friend.

“It was probably the toughest time of my life so far as a professional,” Trout said. “Just in general in life, you know you have people that pass, family members that pass that are expected to pass out of old age. You never think that a 24-year-old kid can pass.

“It’s bigger than baseball. We come here every day and try to perform at a high level but we still got family and we still have life. To lose a close friend and close family member like that, it was tough.”

When Trout returned to Angel Stadium on Aug. 24, he took the field wearing a jersey with “A. Cox” on the back, honoring his brother-in-law during Players Weekend. 

With Cox’s name on his back, Trout went 2-for-3 with a triple in his return.

“The first couple of days back were tough because obviously I want to be with my family, I want to be with my wife,” Trout said. “(Playing again) kind of got my mind off it a little bit but he played baseball as well, so everything I did on a baseball field, I think about him.

“But it was special when I came back it was Players Weekend and I got to honor him. Obviously, it’s been a tough last couple months for me.”

There was both satisfaction and pain for Trout in 2018. There was development both as a person and a professional.

At the end of it all, what Trout cares about most is that he feels like he’s grown the most he ever has, both as a player and a person.

“Every year I grow more,” Trout said. “Baseball standpoint, every year you learn new things. Once you think you got this game figured out it comes back and kicks you in the butt. You just gotta keep pushing, keep working, and that’s been my mentality since I got up here. And as a life standpoint, life’s short. You gotta love your family, love your friends, respect people. You don’t know what you got ‘til you lose somebody.”

2018 All-MLB Team
C J.T. Realmuto, Marlins .277 .340 .484 477 74 132 30 3 21 74 38 104 3 2
1B Freddie Freeman, Braves .309 .388 .505 618 94 191 44 4 23 98 76 132 10 3
2B Javier Baez, Cubs .290 .326 .554 606 101 176 40 9 34 111 29 167 21 9
3B Jose Ramirez, Indians .270 .387 .552 578 110 156 38 4 39 105 106 80 34 6
SS Manny Machado, Orioles/Dodgers .297 .367 .538 632 84 188 35 3 37 107 70 104 14 2
OF Christian Yelich, Brewers .326 .402 .598 574 118 187 34 7 36 110 68 135 22 4
OF Mike Trout, Angels .312 .460 .628 471 101 147 24 4 39 79 122 124 24 2
OF Mookie Betts, Red Sox .346 .438 .640 520 129 180 47 5 32 80 81 91 30 6
DH J.D. Martinez, Red Sox .333 .402 .629 569 111 188 37 2 43 130 69 146 6 1
SP Jacob deGrom, Mets 10 9 1.70 32 32 0 217 152 48 41 10 46 269 0.91
SP Max Scherzer, Nationals 18 7 2.53 33 33 0 220.2 150 66 62 23 51 300 0.91
SP Justin Verlander, Astros 16 9 2.52 34 34 0 214 152 63 60 28 37 290 0.90
SP Blake Snell, Rays 21 5 1.89 31 31 0 180.2 112 41 38 16 64 221 0.97
SP Aaron Nola, Phillies 17 6 2.39 33 33 0 212.1 149 57 56 17 58 224 0.97
RP Blake Treinen, Athletics 9 2 0.78 68 0 38 80.1 46 12 7 2 21 100 0.83

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