Trout celebrates birthday in style

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

Mike Trout hits another birthday home run Wednesday against the Rangers.

Mike Trout turned 22 years old on Wednesday and celebrated his birthday in grand fashion.

After homering on his 21st birthday last season, Trout homered again Wednesday, becoming the youngest player in Major League history to hit a home run on his birthday in consecutive seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the first player in Los Angeles Angels franchise history to hit a home run on his birthday in consecutive seasons.

Let’s put Trout’s career in historical perspective. Is it possible he’s actually having a better season than his standout rookie year?

Hall of Fame company

An argument can be made that Trout’s career is off to the best start by any position player in MLB history.

Only Mel Ott, who did it in more than an additional season’s worth of games, compiled more Wins Above Replacement through his age-21 season than Trout. And Trout will likely pass him by the end of the year.

Most Wins Above Replacement
Through Age-21 Season, MLB History

Stripping out Trout’s total skillset through WAR and just looking at his hitting still ranks him among the game’s best young hitters of all time.

OPS+ is a statistic that adjusts a player’s OPS for the league average and his home park.

No player has a higher OPS+ through his age-21 season than Trout; the four names behind him are all in the Hall of Fame (Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb).

One of the attributes that sets Trout apart is his rare combination of power and speed.

He’s the only player in modern MLB history with at least 50 home runs and 70 stolen bases prior to his 22nd birthday, according to Elias.

Not only has Trout been able to steal bases at a high clip, he’s done so efficiently. Since 1951, when caught stealing became an official stat in both leagues, Trout’s 89.5 percent success rate is the highest of any player to debut since then (minimum 75 attempts).

Trout is improving

If there was any knock on Trout last season, it was that he struck out too much. Problem solved.

Trout has lowered his strikeout rate from 21.8 percent last year – which ranked 106th out of 144 qualified hitters - to 16.7 percent this year. Only six players have seen a bigger drop from last season to this season.

Mike Trout
Last 2 Seasons

Trout’s drop in his strikeout rate has coincided with an increase in his walk rate. He already has more walks this season (67) than he did all of last season. He’s walking 13 percent of the time (t-8th in MLB), up from 10.5 percent last year.

One factor that has contributed to the spike in his walk rate is that he’s seeing fewer strikes (49 percent in the zone this year, down from 51.1 last year).

However, he’s also made strides with his plate discipline, particularly with pitches below the zone. He’s chasing just 24.4 percent of those pitches this year, well below his rate of 30.6 last year.

If there was one area Trout could be pitched to last year, it was up in the zone. His .257 average against pitches in the upper half of the zone ranked 108th out of 144 qualified players.

He’s made strides in that area this year, making more contact and hitting for more power. He’s hitting .304 on those pitches this year and already has more extra-base hits (23) than all of last year (20).