Mike Trout’s greatness is all-encompassing and unrelenting. There are no holes to be poked in it, and no complaints to be made about how he chooses to deploy his skills every day. If you were, however, some kind of sick freak who believes that Trout could be doing more to help his team win, you might say that he should be stealing more bases.
Trout would tend to agree. After leading the league with 49 steals in 2012, his stolen base numbers went on a steady yearly decline, all the way down to 11 in 2015. He vowed to swipe more bags at the start of the 2016 season and mostly followed through, taking 30. Last year, he managed to steal 22 in 114 games. So far this season, he’s maintained his commitment to reinvesting in his speed. He’s got 10 steals so far, and shouldn’t have much trouble reaching 40-plus steals if he stays healthy.
What this looks like on a day-to-day basis is teams having to deal with yet another way in which Trout can grind them into the dirt. Yesterday’s game between the Angels and Rays provided a good example. In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Angels up 2-1 and their hitters not doing much to threaten the Rays pitchers, Trout drew a walk. Then he stole second base. Then he stole third base. And then, with one out and Zack Cozart at the plate, Trout tagged up and scored on a fly out to short right field.
(Not that you really need precise numbers to tell you that Mike Trout is very fast, but the 30 ft./sec. sprint speed being cited in the video up there puts him in the company of the fastest players in the league.)
Last week, ESPN’s Sam Miller wrote a highly entertaining piece about how Trout is on pace to have the greatest season in MLB history, and how he’s likely going to pull it off without doing something crazy like hitting 60 dingers or batting .400. Miller explains how so much of Trout’s greatness exists in the margins, and in his ability to put pressure on his opponents at all times he is on the field, not just when he’s standing in the batter’s box. Those two steals and the run scored in yesterday’s fifth inning constituted such a moment. There will be many more to come.