With Mike Trout’s impending return coming today, the Angels look forward to reinserting him into a lineup that’s found its groove.
The Los Angeles Angels were handed a deathly blow to their postseason hopes on May 28th against the Miami Marlins. When their star player, Mike Trout, slid headfirst into second base and emerged with a ruptured ligament in his left thumb that would require surgery, the Angels should have entered a freefall.
All of us thought their season was over. Without Mike Trout, they had no chance. Considering the makeup of their roster, stuck with bad albatross contracts, poor pitchers, and below-average hitters, even Mike Trout would not be enough for them to win ballgames.
Consider Trout’s statistics pre-injury. He was batting .337 with a .461 OBP, and yet the Angels sat at 26-27, stuck in the purgatory of mediocrity. Despite Trout’s MVP-like performance, the Angels seemed to be going nowhere. With Trout not playing, the Angels seemed destined to fall out of the postseason race for one of the AL Wild Card spots. However, thanks to improvements from the other hitters, the team, while still sitting at a mediocre 45-47 record, has still remained in the conversation for the playoffs.
Prior to Trout’s DL stint, the rest of the Angels hitters had been proving why the majority of them deserved to be in Triple-A. Through May 28th, the Angels’ hitters, excluding Trout, were batting a cumulative .226 with a .298 OBP. With Trout, the Angels were scoring 4.02 runs per game, 26th in the league.
In the month of June, however, with Trout out completely, they managed to score more runs. They averaged 4.8 runs per game, moving up to 16th in the league. Although it is a modest improvement, their increase in run production has helped the Angels win more ballgames.
Their increase in runs is a result of a newfound aggressive approach at the plate. Three of the Angels most improved hitters — Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin, and Andrelton Simmons — are swinging at more pitches and making harder contact with Trout out of the lineup:
Once Mike Trout hit the disabled list, Calhoun began to hit the baseball harder, which has not only led to an increase in his home run production, but his batting average as well. With Trout, Calhoun was batting .209, but since May 29th, Calhoun has been batting .323. He is swinging more often, making harder contact, and as a result, contributing more on the offensive end.
Andrelton Simmons has also swung more frequently than he did with Trout. However, Simmons has improved his offensive value in other ways. His batting average was .279 when Trout was out, which is a modest improvement from the beginning of the year. He has also accumulated more RBIs due to him being moved to the fifth spot in the Angels batting order and benefiting from hitting behind Albert Pujols.
While Calhoun was taking over as the Angels premier slugger, and Simmons was increasing his productivity in a prime spot of the order, Maybin carried a batting average of .307 in the month of June and found himself in the leadoff spot in the Angels lineup.
Their OPS numbers display the results of their increased productivity:
Besides Albert Pujols, who is considered by many to be the second-best hitter on the team, all of the Angels regulars have improved. The timing of the Angels’ hitters improvement is convenient as it allows them to tread water until Mike Trout returns from the DL.
Another line of evidence for the Angels’ newfound aggressiveness is on the basepaths. In the 53 games when Trout played, the Angels had 37 stolen bases, 10 of them by Trout. Without him, the Angels have stolen the same number of bases in a mere 29 games. Because of the team’s willingness to steal bases, they’ve catapulted themselves into first in steals.
Thanks to Andrelton Simmons, Eric Young Jr., and especially Cameron Maybin, the Angels have created more runs on the basepaths than they did with Trout in the lineup. Cameron Maybin, in particular, has been phenomenal for the Angels on the basepaths this season, but especially in the month of June. It was during this time when he set the Angels record for most stolen bases in a single game:
Through Mike Trout’s injury, the Angels have found their identity. Through collective aggressiveness, the Angels have found a way to continue to remain relevant in the American League Postseason Race. With Trout due to return today, Angels fans can look forward to seeing their star player back on the field.
*(All data has been retrieved from ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com, and FanGraphs.com)
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