Meet Mike Trout 2.0: A Slugging Machine

The Angels star began his career as Mickey Mantle’s statistical doppelgänger—an all-around great hitter. Now in his 30s, he has become a pure power hitter.
Trout has changed his approach at the plate, launching more homers than we’re used to seeing from him.
Trout has changed his approach at the plate, launching more homers than we’re used to seeing from him. / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
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On an otherwise nondescript 1-for-4 night in a quotidian Los Angeles Angels loss, 7–5 in Cincinnati last Saturday, something momentous happened to Mike Trout, though few noticed. His career batting average fell below .300 for the first time since July 2, 2012, his rookie season.

And it’s not coming back.

Neither is the Trout who won three MVP awards.

Turning 33 in August, and leading the majors in home runs, Trout is well into a whole new phase in his career.

Trout 2.0 is a very different hitter than the original. He is such a pull-heavy, flyball-cranking, power-hitting machine that if he stays healthy this year, he is likely to hit a career-high 50 home runs—maybe even push 60. The costs of that increased power are more strikeouts and fewer hits.

Trout’s career average fell to .2996 in that game in Cincinnati, so rounding up still credits him with a .300 average. He enters a game Friday night against Minnesota at .2995. Like most players, even the greats, his average is not going up as he ages.

It has been a weird start for Trout. Yes, he has those 10 home runs—but only 13 RBIs, thanks to a .100 batting average with runners in scoring position. He has not hit a three-run homer in more than a calendar year.

Angels manager Ron Washington moved him to the leadoff spot this week and Trout responded with a home run in his first at-bat there. It’s a fine idea to briefly shake up a cold team and a cold hitter, but it makes no sense long term. You don’t guarantee your best hitter one of his four or five plate appearances a night with nobody on base and bat him behind a .281 OBP in the ninth spot.

Does a .300 batting average even matter? In an analytics age, not nearly as much as it used to mean. But historically? Yes, it’s still an imprimatur of hitting excellence. Mickey Mantle was a career .300 hitter until his final 61 games in 1968, when he hit .238 to finish at .298.

“Falling under .300,” the Mick said, “was the biggest disappointment of my career.”

Until injuries mounted, Trout was Mantle’s statistical doppelganger. It appears he will track Mantle in his 30s, at least as his batting average sinks.

Trout by Age

Mantle by Age

It is part of the normal aging curve, even for all-time greats. Hank Aaron hit .320 in his 20s and .292 after age 30, though incredibly he got on base at nearly the same rate (.375, .373) and his OPS+ dipped only slightly (158, 152).

Ted Williams was one of the greatest older hitters ever, but even his batting average fell from .354 in his 20s to .336 after age 30. His OBP, slugging and OPS+ declined only slightly.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit .299 before age 30 and .262 after, with an OPS+ that plummeted from 149 to 117.

If you want an unnatural outlier, check out the freakish growth in Barry Bonds’s numbers.

Bonds by Age

Trout is up against the normal aging curve. But he also has decided to become a very different hitter, which is why his home run rate is skyrocketing.

In his 30s, Trout has become much more of a flyball hitter, which means more power, a lot more strikeouts, fewer walks and fewer hits. The change in profile is drastic, the equivalent of morphing from an Albert Pujols profile to a Max Muncy one—only with a bigger home run rate.

Trout Hitting Profile by Age

Trout was once the best player in baseball for years, including the best hitter. He has become one of the best sluggers in baseball. Since 2019, Trout has averaged 46 homers for every 150 games. More and more of those homers are going to the pull side.

Trout Home Run Spray Charts by Age

Trout has hit five opposite field home runs from 2021-24—two fewer than he hit in ‘15 alone.

While pulling the ball more, Trout also is hitting it with more loft. Other than 2021, when he played in only 36 games, Trout has been adding to his launch angle as he ages, especially this year. Using 12 degrees, the average MLB launch angle, as the baseline, here is a look at Trout’s increasing launch angle:

When you swing with that much loft you are vulnerable to pitches at the top of the zone. That’s always been the case for Trout. It may be more obvious for Trout 2.0:

Trout by Pitch Height in Zone, 2022-24

Trout is the best low-ball hitter in baseball. When pitchers make mistakes over the plate to him, he hammers them for extra bases, not singles. In his 30s, Trout is slugging an absurd .784 when pitchers attack him in the zone middle and down.

So get used to it, folks. Trout 2.0 has a swing and an approach that have turned him into a great home run hitter. His career high is 45—in 134 games in 2019, his last MVP season. Give him 150 games, and Trout is a good bet for 50. Forget .300. He has become the player most likely to threaten the American League home run record of 62 by Aaron Judge.


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Tom Verducci

TOM VERDUCCI

Tom Verducci is a senior baseball writer for Sports Illustrated. He’s covered Major League Baseball since 1981. Tom also has been an analyst for Fox and the MLB Network; a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author; and co-host of The Book of Joe podcast with Joe Maddon. A five-time Emmy Award winner across three categories (studio analyst, reporter, short form writing) and nominated in a fourth (game analyst), he’s garnered many honorifics over the years, including three-time National Sportswriter of the Year; two-time National Magazine Award finalist; and Penn State Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Tom is a member of the National Sports Media Hall of Fame, Baseball Writers Association of America (including past New York chapter chairman) and a Baseball Hall of Fame voter since 1993. He also is the only writer to be a game analyst for World Series telecasts.