Mike Trout missed 43 games this season, most of which were due to injury. Whether it was a rare back condition or rib cage inflammation, the three-time MVP was forced to miss a considerable amount of time in 2022. Still, despite missing all that time, Trout was undoubtedly a top-five player in the American League. He quietly hit 40 home runs — second in the American League — and 70 extra-base hits — tied for third. The AL MVP voters would have you think differently though.
In 2022, Trout finished eighth in AL MVP voting, marking the lowest he’s ever finished for the award in a season where he played enough games to qualify. In fact, for any season where the star outfielder qualified for the award, this was the first time that he failed to finish top 5 in the AL MVP vote. In 2017, when Trout played in just 114 games, and on a per-plate appearance basis, recorded fewer home runs, fewer RBI, fewer hits, a lower slugging percentage, and fewer extra-base hits, he finished fourth.
Now, there are factors that play into this. For one, Ohtani wasn’t around in 2017. His rookie season was 2018, and his breakout season wasn’t until 2021. Trout didn’t have to compete with a two-way phenom five years ago. He also didn’t have to compete with someone who hit 62 home runs. That’s just impossible. So, I’m not saying that Trout should’ve won the award or anything like that, but I understand that the competition in 2022 is much tougher than it was in 2017. That said, the 10-time All-Star still deserved to finish in fifth place.
This obviously wasn’t Trout’s best season. The N.J. native’s walk rate dropped significantly from his last full season in 2019, and his strikeout rate has risen substantially since then as well. Still, this was Trout’s best season in terms of raw power. His home run rate in 2022 (eight percent) was the highest of his career. His extra-base hit percentage (15.98 percent) was the highest of his career. His slugging percentage (.630) was the second-highest of his career. All in all, there’s no denying that 2022 was one of Trout’s best seasons from a raw power standpoint, and by every metric in that category, the former Rookie of the Year was a top-five, maybe even top-three, player in the American League. So, where could the voters have determined Trout unworthy of top-five recognition?
The only logical explanation would be that Trout’s total numbers don’t come anywhere close to those of the people that finished above him. However, that’s not true either. While, among the seven people to finish ahead of him in AL MVP voting, Trout ranks last in hits (124). Ummm...oh, that’s it. Trout didn’t finish dead last in any other category, even the cumulative ones like WAR (6.3 — fifth among the eight who finished above him in MVP voting), walks (54 — sixth), RBI (80 – fifth, and while you might think that’s due to his spot in the Angels’ lineup, he spent 428 of his at-bats this season hitting out of the 2-hole, which isn’t as prime an RBI spot as the 5 or 6-holes, which is where Cleveland’s Andrés Giménez spent most of his time).
The only place where the Millville Miracle really failed to meet the standards of his AL MVP peers was the stolen base category. Trout only had one in 2022. In fairness, his stolen base numbers have dropped drastically from where they were earlier in his career. However, how much did Trout’s lack of stolen bases actually hurt his team’s chances of scoring? Trout’s run-scoring percentage was 31 percent in 2022 — meaning 31 percent of the time, when he reached base, he scored. Considering L.A. ranked 15th in team slugging percentage this season, we can assume that the Angels weren’t just hitting extremely well behind Trout and knocking him in easily without their star having to do much work. Sure, he may have had slightly more help than Rodríguez, Ramírez, or Giménez (17th and 23rd in MLB, respectively), but Judge, Alvarez, and Altuve each had better teammates hitting behind them. Let’s see how Trout stacks up:
2022 Run Scoring Percentage:
- Altuve: 36 percent
- Rodríguez: 34 percent
- Trout: 31 percent
- Judge: 31 percent
- Alvarez: 30 percent
- Ramírez: 29 percent
- Ohtani: 28 percent
- Giménez: 26 percent
Huh, it’s almost like being a prolific base stealer only marginally helps your team score runs. Basically, Trout’s lack of base-stealing prowess shouldn’t affect his value in the eyes of MVP voters. When push comes to shove, Trout can hustle. Among players with at least 100 competitive sprints in 2022, Trout ranked 15th in average sprint speed (29.4 feet per second). The only player ahead of him in that category who also finished ahead of him in MVP voting was Rodríguez (29.8 — sixth in MLB). That basepath speed is highly effective regardless of the ability to steal bases and that’s why Trout came around to score so often, despite not stealing bases as often as his counterparts.
Yes, there’s going to be some bias in the voting based on a player’s team’s success. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. The Angels weren’t good, whereas every other team represented among these eight players reached the playoffs. However, there’s no denying that Trout was a top-five player in the American League this year, and I wish he’d be recognized as such. I believe much of this result has come from voter fatigue. Voters were tired of putting Trout’s name at the top and were looking for any reason to leave him out of their top five, and him missing 43 games was reason enough. It’s a shame.