On May 21st, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout became the youngest American League player to hit for the cycle since 1930 at 21 years old.
The second year phenom won AL rookie of the year in 2012 and he also finished second for the league’s MVP award, behind only Miguel Cabrera.
But will Trout be able to dethrone the reigning MVP for the title in 2013?
As of May 22nd, the Angel in the outfield is hitting .297 with 34 RBI.
He has avoided the sophomore slump in nearly every facet as he continues to devour the MLB pitcher by pitcher. He has been considered one of the best in the game since he played his first full season a year ago.
It is only fitting, that the one man who stands in his way of becoming the second youngest MVP award winner in the history of baseball, (Vida Blue in 1971 was younger by about a week), is one of the men he idolized coming into the game.
“Coming into the year, my goal was to be the best player and to make the most impact on the field,” Trout said on a conference call with LA Times writer Mike DiGiovanna after being named Rookie of the Year. “To be in the MVP talk with guys like Cabrera, it’s an incredible feeling, a hard one to explain.”
But as impressive as Mike Trout was in 2012, no one could dispute the force that was Cabrera. The Detroit Tigers infielder became the first player to win the Triple Crown since 1967; he led the league in batting average, home runs, and RBI. He made his team one of the most exciting to watch, and helped pave the way for them into just their second World Series in 29 years.
Now, one year later, both are just as hot as they were in 2012.
Cabrera is hitting an amazing .383 after more than a quarter of the season and has already racked up 50 RBI. In fact, his numbers at this time last year weren’t as good as they are this year. Let me reiterate, he won the first Triple Crown in 45 years and is playing better in the following season.
On May 22nd, 2012, Cabrera was hitting .304 with an on-base percentage of .362. 365 days later, his batting average sits an incredible 79 points higher, and his on-base nearly 100 at .456. His team is again fighting for a divisional title and he is possibly going to become the first ever player to win the Triple Crown two years in a row.
So how can Trout ever beat this guy?
First off, he has to make sure this second Triple Crown doesn’t happen. Obviously a Triple Crown winner is going to be named MVP. Trout’s best chance at keeping up is his through home runs. Cabrera is currently edging him out twelve to nine but there’s still plenty of time left.
Trout just needs to keep hitting them at home. Angel Stadium of Anaheim has a far shorter left field porch than it does right. At just 330 ft. it puts the right handed Trout in a perfect spot to keep putting them over. It’s no Yankees Stadium, but that stadium combined with Trout’s power could produce a lot of runs.
Of course, he’ll have to start hitting the ball a little better too.
Not that he hasn’t been hitting well. A nearly .300 average at this point in the year is a fine place to be. But if there is one complaint to be had about the New Jersey native it is the frequency of his strikeouts. Having already gone down 42 times on strikes, Trout is striking-out nearly one out of every four at-bats. His competitor, Gallant Fox, has only 25.
To this point with his production, no one is scoffing at Trout’s strikeouts. In fact, it seems few people are noticing at all. This is because as one scout put it, he is “slump proof”.
“He’s slump proof because he runs so well,” said the scout. “I don’t think an 0-for-20 is possible with him, because if he puts the ball in play, he’s going to get his hits.”
“It’s almost logical that Trout had a lot of strikeouts”, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto told ESPN’s Buster Olney, “because he goes so deep into counts”.
Last season he averaged 4.08 pitches per plate appearance.
But it is a fact that they are now occurring at the same rate as they do for Ryan Howard. It’s something that’s going to happen with young players, there’s no denying that. but an MVP contender gets on base. Lowering that number and continuing to work the count is a necessity if he’s going to beat Sir Barton.
Finally, Trout just needs to keep being himself. Keep being the humble east coast kid who happens to be playing like a baseball God. Keep setting records from day-to-day but always acknowledge the work of your teammates first.
Keep playing like the veteran even when surrounded by Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Keep it up, and the Secretariat may have to watch his back.