Strong words from Mike Trout and Justin Turner on the Astros scandal, the Brewers add yet another versatile player, and the Braves extend their GM and manager. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has it all in our latest video:
Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger and Angels outfielder Mike Trout were named the Most Valuable Players of their respective leagues, as announced by the Baseball Writers Association Of America. Full breakdowns of both votes are available on the BBWAA website (National League, American League).
Bellinger received 19 of 30 first-place votes. Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich made a spirited defense of his 2018 MVP Award by finishing second in the balloting, picking up 10 first-place votes and 18 seconds. Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon received the final first-place vote, and his third-place spot in the balloting represents his highest finish in the MVP race following a fifth-place showing in 2014 and a sixth-place result in 2017.
The NL MVP Award adds to an already stuffed trophy case for Bellinger over his three MLB seasons, as the 24-year-old also won Rookie Of The Year honors in 2017, has two All-Star appearances to his name, and won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards earlier this fall. Bellinger hit .305/.406/.629 over 661 PA for the Dodgers, hitting 47 homers and leading all players in bWAR (9.0), while tying for third in fWAR (7.8) with Yelich.
It was expected to be a tight vote between Bellinger and Yelich, with Yelich having the slightly superior hitting numbers despite being limited to 580 PA and 130 games due to recurring back soreness throughout the year, and a fractured kneecap that ended his season on September 10. That late injury could have swung the vote in Bellinger’s favor, and the Dodgers star was also aided by a superlative defensive performance. Bellinger had a cumulative 22 Defensive Runs Saved, +13.7 UZR/150, and +7 Outs Above Average as an outfielder, mostly working in right field but also playing 170 2/3 above-average innings in center. Bellinger also saw some time at first base, adding to his versatility and making him the most dangerous of the Dodgers’ several multi-position weapons.
Trout was himself hampered by a late-season injury, as he didn’t play after September 7 due to a foot injury that required minor surgery. Still, that didn’t stop the Angels superstar from winning the third AL MVP Award of what is already one of the great careers in baseball history. Trout hit a career-best 45 homers while also batting .291/.438/.645 over 600 PA — his on-base percentage led the majors, while his slugging percentage and OPS led the American League. Trout also sat atop the fWAR leaderboard (8.6) while finishing third in bWAR (8.3).
It was a narrow victory for Trout over Astros infielder Alex Bregman, as the two players finished in the top two spots on all 30 ballots, with Trout holding the 17-13 edge in first-place votes. Bregman supporters undoubtedly pointed to the fact that Bregman hit .296/.423/.592 with 41 homers and finished second in both fWAR (8.5) and bWAR (8.4), while also playing in 156 games for a first-place team while Trout’s Angels again missed the postseason. The American League West had a clean sweep on the top three, as Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien finished third in the balloting (22 third-place votes).
The award continues Trout’s astonishing track record in AL MVP voting, as he now has three wins, four runners-up, and a fourth place (in an injury-shortened 2017) over his eight full seasons as a Major League player. Trout becomes just the tenth player in MLB history to win at least three MVP Awards, and since he is showing no signs of slowing down at age 28, he has to be considered a threat to catch or surpass the only player with four or more MVP trophies — seven-time NL MVP Barry Bonds.
The Angels’ Mike Trout, who has been sidelined for the last week due to a neuroma in his right foot, will undergo surgery later this week, the Angels announced. The procedure will remove the neuroma and prematurely end his MVP-caliber season.
Trout, who hasn’t played since September 7, planned to return to the lineup today as a DH, but experienced pain while testing the foot on the field. While Trout and the Angels hoped that he would be able to play out the remainder of the season—if only as a designated hitter—the team has already been eliminated from playoff contention and, with surgery recommended, there’s no reason to push it.
With Trout now on the shelf for the rest of the season, the Angels’ laundry list of injuries only grows: he’ll join Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani to form a trio of offensive cornerstones that won’t return this year, to say nothing of Andrelton Simmons, who has likewise missed considerable time this year. Those injuries have derailed the Halos’ postseason chances after entering the year as a popular choice to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Trout finishes his superb season with 134 games played, notching yet another season of otherworldly numbers, including a career-best 45 home runs. His .291/.438/.645 slash line gives him a 184 OPS+, the third-best mark of his Hall-of-Fame career.
With the Angels’ season effectively over, one of the few remaining questions was whether Trout would capture his third AL MVP Award. He’s already built a sturdy case, leading the AL in WAR, OBP, SLG, and OPS. He’s not likely to be caught on those fronts, though his closest competition, Alex Bregman, will surely benefit from the additional volume. The Yankees’ D.J. LeMahieu has gotten some buzz, while analytics-driven voters could show some love to Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien, though only Bregman figures to have a real shot at taking votes from the injured Trout.
When the Padres signed erstwhile Angels ace Garrett Richards to a two-year, $15.5MM deal in December, expectations were that Richards would return in time to lead their young staff in 2020–and, if everything broke right in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, that Richards might squeeze in a few September frames. Apparently, that vision is coming into focus now, as the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee reports that Richards is expected to take the ball in his club’s matchup with the Brewers on Monday (link). “Getting him healthy on the mound, competing at the big-league level is going to set him up for success next year,” Padres manager Andy Green told Acee. “We look at it like get him on the mound, make sure he knows going into the offseason he’s ready to go and he doesn’t have a question in the back of his mind — that he’s stared down a few major league lineups and he’s been back on the big stage and he’s ready to go.”
Though Richards will be limited to 60-65 pitches on Monday, it will surely be a welcome sight for a San Diego team short on battle-tested rotation options. Aside from Richards, the club will be heading into 2020 with a collection of starters who remain largely unestablished. Though fronted by impressive rookie Chris Paddack, San Diego’s current rotation features recent returnees from injury (Dinelson Lamet), unproven projects (Ronald Bolanos), and stagnating sophomores (Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi). Though the 31-year-old Richards, who has been limited to 138 2/3 frames since the beginning of 2016, could hardly be called a rotational stalwart, he did hold a 3.15 ERA over his last five seasons of pitching–a number which was good enough for third-lowest in the American League during that timeframe.
More notes from just right of the Pacific…
- Angels outfielder Mike Trout was out of today’s lineup as he continues to deal with a foot issue, and MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger relays that the MVP candidate will likely be limited to DH duty in the immediate future (link). Trout underwent a procedure to address a neuroma in his foot last week, and his continued presence in the Los Angeles lineup is largely a question of pain tolerance. The Angels have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but Trout will, hopefully, be able to return to action–if only to stave off a possible MVP run from players like DJ LeMahieu and Alex Bregman.
- Athletics outfielder Stephen Piscotty is ramping up activity, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser reports that Piscotty, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Aug. 25th, was taking batting practice with the team today (link). He had better hurry in his recovery–Oakland entered play today with just a .5-game lead for the top spot in the American League Wild Card race. Piscotty, 28, holds a .252/.312/.416 slash this year in 389 plate appearances, representing roughly league-average offensive output (95 wRC+).
6:07pm: Trout isn’t likely to be sidelined for more than a few days, but may require further offseason medical care to address the foot issue, per skipper Brad Ausmus (via Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group, on Twitter). There’s no concern that playing out the year will cause greater harm.
5:52pm: Angels superstar Mike Trout has undergone a cryoablation procedure on his right foot to “address a neuroma,” per a club announcement. He’s considered day-to-day.
In plain English, the procedure froze some nerve tissue that had been causing pain in or around Trout’s right toe. It is not entirely clear at this point how long the center fielder will be sidelined, but it seems that his own pain tolerance will largely dictate the recovery schedule.
All indications are that this non-invasive approach will not be much of a short or long-term limitation on the game’s greatest player. Medical literature suggests it can take a full month for such a procedure to be fully effective, but that full resumption of activity is possible within a few days.
The Halos will surely exercise caution, lest their franchise icon somehow come down with a more significant malady. Barring a surprise development, the procedure shouldn’t even ding Trout’s chances at securing an American League MVP award. (It’s no surprise that he’s easily pacing all of baseball with 8.7 fWAR to this point.)
MONDAY: An MRI revealed a “small” calf strain, Hoornstra was among those to tweet. Trout’s day-to-day.
SUNDAY, 6:52PM: Trout’s injury isn’t considered to be serious, manager Brad Ausmus told J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). Still, Trout will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his calf problem.
5:31PM: Mike Trout left today’s game after two innings due to what the Angels described as right calf tightness, and the star outfielder’s condition is day-to-day. The injury seemingly wasn’t caused by any obvious play on the field — Trout softly lined to first base in his only at-bat of the game, and he didn’t make any defensive plays during his two innings of work. Trout was replaced in center field prior to the beginning of the third inning.
While the removal could have simply been precautionary in nature, any type of injury to baseball’s best player is certainly worth noting. Trout is in the midst of yet another incredible season, with 30 homers and a .305/.455/.666 slash line over 402 plate appearances. He leads the league in any number of categories, including wRC+ (191), fWAR (6.5), offensive bWAR (5.9), on-base percentage, runs created, and walks. (In fact, Trout’s 77 walks top his 70 strikeouts.)
Los Angeles entered today’s action with a 47-46 record, five games behind Oakland for the final American League wild card slot. Needless to say, the Angels’ playoff chances would take a big hit should Trout have to go on the injured list for any lengthy amount of time. He is such a singular driving force in his team’s success that, if the worst-case scenario occurs and Trout does indeed need a significant IL stint, his absence could convince the Angels front office to explore selling veterans at the trade deadline.
Marcus Stroman has been mentioned as a possible trade target for not only the Astros, but virtually every team in baseball that could be looking for starting pitching help. Houston’s interest in the Blue Jays righty, however, dates back to at least 2017, as Peter Gammons reports (Twitter link) that the Astros heavily evaluated Stroman when exploring pitching targets that summer. Houston “did almost as much work on” Stroman as they did on eventual acquisition Justin Verlander, Gammons writes. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle addressed Gammons’ tweet and the Astros’ pitching needs as part of a mailbag piece, noting that Stroman’s pitching style doesn’t match Houston’s preferred model for a starter, though the Astros don’t hold hard and fast to that model — case in point, their signing of Wade Miley last winter.
Here’s some more from around the AL West…
- Yordan Alvarez left today’s game after three innings due to what the Astros described as “discomfort” in his left knee. (MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart was among those who reported the news.) The injury isn’t thought to be serious, as Alvarez said he could have continued playing, though manager A.J. Hinch said he removed Alvarez “as a precaution” and “we’ll give him a day or two” to get healed up. Alvarez initially suffered the injury after fouling a ball off his knee on Tuesday. The rookie slugger has been nothing short of incredible during his first 65 Major League plate appearances, with seven homers and a .298/.385/.719 slash line.
- Before Mike Trout signed his record-setting extension with the Angels in March, Phillies fans long wondered if the superstar would one day join the Phils to play closer to his hometown of Millville, New Jersey. As Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller writes, however, Trout appreciates keeping some space between his real-life home and his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. “Obviously, a lot of people from home wanted me to come back east. We were thinking about it, my wife and I,” Trout said. “But it’s perfect to be able to go back in the offseason and have a life, be myself and spend time back in my hometown. It’s always good to go back.” The story is well worth a full read for Trout’s loyalty to the Angels, the connection between Trout and Millville, plus the interesting note of how Bryce Harper got in touch with Trout before signing to learn some details about the Philadelphia area, prior to Harper’s deal with the Phillies.
- The Athletics are known to be considering extensions with several of their players, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle adds Ramon Laureano’s name to the list of those under consideration for a long-term deal. “Laser Ramon” has already gained attention for his excellent throwing arm, and has also shown some promise at the plate, entering today hitting .261/.306/.440 with 12 home runs over 314 plate appearances. An extension for Laureano would probably be a relatively inexpensive investment for Oakland, certainly in comparison to the much greater dollar figures it would take for the A’s to extend the likes of Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien. But, there’s also no real rush to extend Laureano yet, as the outfielder has yet to amass even a full year of MLB service time.
We’re now at the 10-year mark since the Angels stumbled on one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. With the 25th pick in the 2009 draft, the club selected a New Jersey-based high schooler named Mike Trout. At the time of Trout’s selection, MLB.com wrote of the 17-year-old:
“Trout is a toolsy high school center fielder who was gaining momentum as the weather in the Northeast warmed up. He looks more like a football safety — his position in high school — than a center fielder, but has the tools to play there with plus speed. He just started switch-hitting to enhance his offensive value, and with some changes to his approach at the plate should hit for some power down the line. There is some rawness with the bat, but he has the kind of upside many teams look for in a high school position player, and was moving into first-round conversations as a result.”
Trout’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate didn’t carry into the pros, but it hasn’t mattered. Now 27, the right-hander has slashed an astounding .306/.419/.575 with 254 home runs and 196 stolen bases in 4,919 plate appearances since he debuted with the Angels in 2011. Among all-time major leaguers who have accrued at least 4,500 trips to the plate, Trout ranks sixth in wRC+ (172), trailing a few players you may have heard of in Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and Barry Bonds, and already sits 67th in fWAR (68.8). Trout looks like a mortal lock to eventually exceed 100 fWAR, something only 20 position players have ever done.
Also a seven-time All-Star, a two-time AL MVP and a Rookie of the Year winner, Trout’s impact has far outweighed anyone else’s from his draft class. The only other current major league notables from the ’09 first round include Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (No. 1), Mets righty Zack Wheeler (No. 6, to the Giants), Rangers lefty Mike Minor (No. 7), Mariners righty Mike Leake (No. 8, to the Reds), Dodgers center fielder A.J. Pollock (No. 18, to the Diamondbacks), Rangers righty Shelby Miller (No. 19, to the Cardinals), Twins righty Kyle Gibson (No. 22) and Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk (No. 24, to the Angels).
The Halos lucked out in landing Trout immediately after Grichuk, who never took an at-bat with the franchise. In 2013, four years after the Angels drafted Grichuk, they traded him to the Cardinals in a package for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas. Grichuk has since become a respectable pro, one whom the Jays signed to an extension worth a guaranteed $52MM in April, while Trout has emerged as a lock to end up with a plaque in Cooperstown. And Trout may have never been an Angel if not for longtime big league first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Angels acquired Teixeira from the Braves in July 2008, and after Tex enjoyed an excellent few months in Anaheim, he left for the Yankees in free agency during the ensuing offseason. The Angels, for their trouble, received the compensatory pick they’d use to select Trout.
“It was crazy. It was unbelievable,” Trout told MLBTR contributor Chuck Wasserstrom in regards to draft night. “There was a lot of stuff going through my mind. You’re anxious, you’re excited, you’re obviously nervous. You want to get picked. You know … hopefully be selected in the top three rounds. But being picked, well … if you’re up there on the first day, it obviously means something.”
This past March, almost a full decade after they took Trout, the Angels extended him on a record contract worth $360MM over 10 years. Trout’s now in line to spend his entire 20s and 30s in Anaheim, which the club likely never expected when it took a flier on him in the crapshoot known as the draft. On Monday, 10 years after the Trout selection, the Dodgers grabbed Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese 25th overall. Another Trout? Highly doubtful, but they can dream.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
If you’re an offensive player in baseball, there is nothing more important than avoiding outs. Common sense indicates the more you get on base – whether with a hit, a walk or a hit by a pitch – the better your team’s chances are of scoring and ultimately winning. That’s why on-base percentage is more useful than batting average or slugging percentage, two other conventional stats that help define a hitter’s value.
Just six qualified hitters reached the .400-OBP mark in 2018. The group included the best player in baseball, another potential Hall of Famer, each league’s MVP, an elite hitter who helped his team to a championship and a potential star in the making. Let’s take a look at how that six-man club is doing in 2019…
Mike Trout, Angels (2018 OBP: .460):
Here’s the “best player in baseball” mentioned above. The 27-year-old Trout has reached 45.5 percent of the time through 231 plate appearances, putting him right in line with last year’s league-best effort. He’s also on track for his fifth straight season with at least a .400 OBP. Trout was a .312 hitter in 2018 who walked 20.4 percent of the time. His average has noticeably dropped (to .283), but his walk rate is up a bit and opposing pitchers have helped Trout’s cause by already hitting him six times. He wore 10 pitches last year in 378 more PA.
Mookie Betts, Red Sox (2018 OBP: .438):
Betts got on base a bit less than Trout last season, but the Boston superstar led the sport in fWAR en route to AL MVP honors. While Betts hasn’t been quite as sharp this year, he has still avoided outs at a phenomenal clip (.400 in 255 trips to the plate). The 26-year-old has walked 14-plus percent of the time for the second consecutive season, but a 55-point decline in batting average (.346 to .291) and a 54-point BABIP drop (.368 to .314) have hurt his OBP. Plus, Betts isn’t on pace to match the eight HBPs he totaled in 2018, having picked up only two so far.
Joey Votto, Reds (2018 OBP: .417):
Votto’s the “potential Hall of Famer” named in the opening. The hitting savant has managed a remarkable .424 OBP dating back to his 2007 debut, in part because he has drawn nearly as many walks as strikeouts. However, that hasn’t been the case in 2019. Now in his age-35 season, Votto’s walk rate is at a pedestrian-by-his-standards 11.6 percent – down nearly 5 points from his career mark – while his strikeouts have soared. Putting the ball in play less helps explain why Votto, a lifetime .309 hitter, has only mustered a .242 average this season. Worse, Statcast credits Votto with a .229 expected average, indicating a rebound may not be on the way. Despite his newfound woes, Votto has still put up an above-average .340 OBP in 215 PA this year, but it’s nothing to get excited about in the venerable first baseman’s case.
Brandon Nimmo, Mets (2018 OBP: .404):
Nimmo’s far and away the least accomplished member of this list, but that doesn’t take away that the 26-year-old was a stupendous offensive player in 2018. As only a .264 hitter, though, his high OBP came thanks in part to a league-leading 22 HBPs over 433 PA. Nimmo has not been a magnet for pitches this year, however, having taken three in 130 trips to the plate. He’s also batting a mere .200 and has seen his BABIP fall from .351 to .288. Nimmo is collecting walks at a terrific clip (16.1 percent), but his .344 OBP is still a 60-point drop-off from last season.
Christian Yelich, Brewers (2018 OBP: .402):
We arrive at the other MVP on this list. What’s Yelich, 26, doing for an encore? Well, he ranks third in the majors in OBP (.425), in part because his walk rate has climbed from 10.4 percent to 15.1. Yelich has also logged a .314 average even though his BABIP has sunk 87 points since last year.
J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (2018 OBP: .402):
Martinez, described above as “an elite hitter who helped his team to a championship,” has been closer to very good than great this season. A .375 BABIP/.330 average helped drive Martinez’s OBP last season, but he’s at .315/.298 in those categories through 219 PA this season. Consequently, the 31-year-old has “only” reached base 37.9 percent of the time. But Martinez is striking out a lot less, which bodes well, and Statcast puts his expected average at .321. Another .400-OBP season certainly isn’t out of the question for Martinez.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Stephen Strasburg generated headlines as the consensus first overall pick of the 2009 draft, though that draft has taken on a different historic import almost ten years later, as that was the night Mike Trout officially became a Major League player. MLB.com’s Jim Callis looks back at the 2009 draft with a decade of hindsight, re-drafting the first round with the top players who were selected (and signed contracts) from that year’s class. In this scenario, the Nationals take Trout first overall instead of Strasburg, who falls to the Pirates with the fourth overall pick. The Mariners take Nolan Arenado with the second pick, while the Padres take Paul Goldschmidt third overall.
The actual draft spots of these superstars (Trout went 25th overall, Arenado in the second round, and Goldschmidt not until the eighth round) is indicative of the draft’s unpredictable nature, as teams and pundits simply never know which unheralded youngster might develop into a gem. Callis includes several interesting notes and scouting opinions about various players at the time of the 2009 draft, including the item that only the Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Tigers were known to be linked to Trout, among teams who had a chance to select him before the Angels. Many clubs didn’t have interest due to rumors that Trout was seeking a $2.5MM draft bonus, which would’ve exceeded the slot price for all but the top five picks, though in the end Trout signed with the Angels for the $1.215MM league-recommended slot price attached to the 25th overall selection.
More from around the baseball world…
- Correcting one of his own reports from the offseason, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) notes that the Twins “were very much in on” Charlie Morton before the veteran righty signed a two-year, $30MM deal with the Rays. Since Morton was only looking for a short-term deal as he nears the end of his career, he fit the model of what the Twins were looking for this past winter, as the club inked the likes of Nelson Cruz, Martin Perez, Jonathan Schoop, and Marwin Gonzalez to contracts consisting of no more than one or two guaranteed years. It isn’t known how close Morton and the Twins might have come to an agreement, though the Rays did have a geographical ace up their sleeve, as Morton has stated that the Rays’ close proximity to his family’s home in Florida was a factor in his decision. Given that the Twins have already posted the best record in baseball, it’s hard to imagine how much better things could have been for the club with Morton in the rotation.
- After two seasons as an important weapon out of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, Archie Bradley has struggled to a 4.63 ERA over 23 1/3 innings in 2019. As a result, manager Torey Lovullo told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro and other media that Bradley will continue to handled carefully so he can get back on track, and likely won’t see many high-leverage moments. “We might get him some (appearances with) multiple innings to continue to develop a feel. We might give him some really short spurts to walk off the mound and have a good result,” Lovullo said. While a .409 BABIP is a big factor in Bradley’s issues, a lack of control has been his biggest problem, as his 5.79 BB/9 is more than double his walk numbers from the previous two seasons.
- Marlins fans bemoan the fire sale that saw the likes of Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, and Dee Gordon leave the team over the last 18 months, yet as The Athletic’s Marc Carig (subscription required) observes, Miami also parted ways with a wealth of pitching talent in recent years. Luis Castillo, Domingo German, Trevor Williams, and Chris Paddack were all somewhat unheralded prospects when the Fish traded them in various deals for veterans who ultimately didn’t help the team return to contention. Between all of these names and some other notables (Derek Dietrich, Nick Wittgren, Anthony DeSclafani), Carig comprises a startling what-if of a 2019 Marlins roster that would be on pace to win 102 games, as per Baseball Reference WAR calculations. “By simply securing the talent, they’d accomplished the hardest part of assembling a dynasty,” Carig writes. “Then, all of it slipped away. No team bats 1.000 when it comes to trades. Few teams hit near .000. For a period, the Marlins were seemingly one of those.”