A Home Run Streak Highlights Mike Trout’s Up-and-Down Season by Jay Jaffe September 12, 2022 © Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports It’s been a strange season for Mike Trout, one that’s featured a hot start, an epic slump that accompanied the worst losing streak in franchise history, and a diagnosis of a long-term back injury followed by an absence of 30 games. The good news is that since returning to activity on August 19, he’s gradually recovered his form, and this past week he set a career best by homering in six straight games. Trout began his streak on September 4 with an eighth-inning homer off the Astros’ Brandon Bielak — the only run the Angel scored in a 9-1 loss — but his next three came against the Tigers (Tyler Alexander, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Will Vest), all in wins. He continued the streak with a homer off the Astros’ Lance McCullers Jr. in a loss on Friday night, but his three-run second-inning shot off José Urquidy on Saturday helped power the Halos to a victory. In the annals of Halos history, that last home run lifted Trout past Bobby Bonds, who homered in five straight games for the Angels from August 2–7, 1977. The streak additionally pushed Trout past the Rangers’ Corey Seager (July 8-12) for the longest of this year. Trout had already surpassed his personal best of homers in four straight games, set in 2017 (May 12–15) and matched in ’19 (April 4–7). On the seventh day, Trout rested. Manager Phil Nevin gave him a day off on Sunday, his first since September 1 and just his second since returning from the IL. That left his streak tied for ninth all-time, at least temporarily: Most Consecutive Games with a Home Run Player Tm Strk Start End Consec Games HR Dale Long PIT 5/19/1956 5/28/1956 8 8 Don Mattingly NYY 7/8/1987 7/18/1987 8 10 Ken Griffey Jr. SEA 7/20/1993 7/28/1993 8 8 Jim Thome CLE 6/25/2002 7/3/2002 7 7 Barry Bonds SFG 4/12/2004 4/20/2004 7 8 Kevin Mench TEX 4/21/2006 4/28/2006 7 7 Kendrys Morales TOR 8/19/2018 8/26/2018 7 8 Joey Votto CIN 7/24/2021 7/30/2021 7 9 26 times, including seven since 2006 6 Carlos Pena TBR 6/6/2010 6/12/2010 6 7 Chris Davis BAL 9/26/2012 10/2/2012 6 7 Nolan Arenado COL 9/1/2015 9/5/2015 6 6 Giancarlo Stanton MIA 8/10/2017 8/15/2017 6 6 Matt Carpenter STL 7/14/2018 7/21/2018 6 8 Paul Goldschmidt STL 7/22/2019 7/27/2019 6 6 Mike Trout LAA 9/4/2022 9/10/2022 6 6 SOURCE: Baseball-Reference Amid the home run boom of recent years, we’ve seen about one player a year put together a six- or seven-game homer streak. You’d have to go back to Arenado’s streak in 2015 to find one in a year when teams hit fewer home runs per game than this year (1.08), though the fact that his streak took place entirely in Colorado makes it worth acknowledging Davis’ streak in 2012 as the last one that took place under less conducive conditions. Not that it particularly matters. While the move to sit Trout on Sunday was not a popular one with fans given how hot he’s been, the 31-year-old slugger had already had his off-day pushed back from the Detroit series, and so his day off was overdue, at least in the eyes of the Angels. Understandably, they’re being mindful of Trout’s recent history. After playing just 36 games last year due to a right calf strain, he went on the IL just before the All-Star break following a bout of upper back spasms and then a diagnosis of left rib cage inflammation. The injury knocked him out of the All-Star Game, and just before he returned in late July, Angels head athletic trainer Mike Frostad told reporters that Trout’s injury, described as costovertebral dysfunction at T5 and likely caused by the extra work he had been putting in to fix his swing amid a slump, would probably be something he’ll have to monitor for the rest of his career. Trout was forced to clarify the dire-sounding description, saying, “I think [Frostad] meant I have to stay on top of my routine that I do on a daily basis to prevent it from coming back… It’s rare for a baseball player… I appreciate all the prayer requests, but my career isn’t over.” A few days later, Trout said that Dr. Robert Watkins, a spine specialist, told him that the injury had essentially healed and cleared him to begin rotational work. It took nearly another three weeks for Trout to return to the lineup, but since then, he’s hit .317/.372/.734 for a 209 wRC+ in 86 PA, and overall, he’s at .280/.369/.629 for a 177 wRC+, five points above his career mark. His 412 PA leaves him 22 short of the threshold for qualifying, but among American League hitters with at least 400 PA, only Aaron Judge has a higher slugging percentage or wRC+. All of which is rather reassuring given the ups and downs of Trout’s season. Though he hit .302/.402/.636 for a 190 wRC+ through the end of May, from May 29 through June 5, he went 0-for-26 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and nine strikeouts — a career-worst hitless streak that surpassed an 0-for-21 skid in May 2018. Worse, this year’s 0-fer coincided with losses five through 11 in the Angels’ franchise record-setting 14-game losing streak. They fell below .500 for good after losing to the Phillies on June 5, at 27-28, and two days later, manager Joe Maddon was fired. On June 7, the same day that Maddon was fired and Nevin took over, Trout began a binge in which he homered nine times in 13 games, not that it helped the Angels turn things around; they went 5-8 in that span. In the first week of July, he fell into another slump, this time going 2-for-22 with one walk and 13 strikeouts. In that one, unlike the full 0-fer, he did hit the ball hard when he made contact, averaging 99.7 mph on his nine batted ball events, with seven of them 95 mph or better, though just two of them were barreled. Trout said he began to feel his injury during the team’s series with the Marlins (July 5-6), which coincided with the extra swings he had been taking. If there’s a concern, it’s that Trout has not been hitting the ball all that hard lately. Since returning, he’s averaged just an 89.6 mph exit velocity, with a 17.2% barrel rate and 39.7% hard-hit rate, and his rolling hard-hit rate on his last 50 batted balls has been mostly falling since July 10, just before he went on the IL: Trout’s overall Statcast numbers are still quite strong, though the incomplete nature of his past two seasons — with 53 games played in 2020 due to the pandemic and then just 36 last year due to the calf strain — makes comparisons a bit more difficult. Aggregating those two seasons together while keeping in mind that they’re still less than a full season’s worth (and likewise for this year), here’s what his numbers look like since 2018: Mike Trout Statcast Hitting Season Events EV Barrel% HardHit% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA 2018 352 91.2 15.3% 46.0% .312 .294 .628 .602 .447 .434 2019 354 90.9 17.5% 43.8% .291 .310 .645 .678 .436 .460 2020-21 223 93.1 16.1% 54.3% .301 .295 .598 .612 .423 .427 2022 243 91.8 20.2% 50.6% .280 .260 .629 .583 .418 .395 Trout’s average exit velocity and hard-hit rate aren’t up to what he did in the 2020-21 stretch, but they’re ahead of just about everything else he’s done in the Statcast era save for his 2015 EV of 92.9 mph. This year’s exit velocity is in the 90th percentile, while Trout’s barrel rate is in the 99th percentile (third behind only Judge and Kyle Schwarber) and his hard-hit rate in the 96th percentile; those last two are both career highs in terms of the raw numbers if not the rankings. In that light, what we’ve seen out of Trout since his return may simply be regression rather than a sign of impending doom. One thing that does stand out about Trout’s numbers, and that harkens back to his slumps, is that he’s walking 10.9% of the time and swinging at 26.3% of pitches outside of the zone; respectively those are his lowest and highest marks since 2012. Those fit the pattern of a player who’s pressing, and it’s also worth noting that for much of this season, Trout has been hitting in front of Shohei Ohtani, who [checks notes] is pretty good as well. He’s been less likely to be pitched around; his 1.5% intentional walk rate is half his mark from 2018-21. Meanwhile, his overall swinging strike rate of 11.9% is a career high, well above his average of 7.2%, and his rates on four-seam fastballs (12.2%) and curves (12.4%) are both about double his norms. Perhaps it’s a transient thing, but it bears monitoring. Still, the most unsettling aspect of Trout’s season is his inability to go wire to wire without a trip to the IL. He hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2016, and has played in just 68% of all Angels games over the past six seasons, the equivalent of 110 games over a 162-game season; he’s at 70.7% this year. He’s missed the equivalent of about two full seasons in that time, and while that’s not likely to make a difference as far as whether he’s eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, it could cost him some upper-level milestones. Odds are, he’d already be past 400 home runs by now (he’s at 344), for example. Those absences aren’t helping the Angels, either. They have enough problems without piling on here (not that they deserve a pass), but for the moment — and for the rest of the season — we can simply hope that Trout stays healthy and continues to remind us that he’s still Mike Trout.