Let’s Put Mike Trout in Some Other Teams’ Lineups

Last week, I had some fun putting Austin Hedges into generic NL and AL lineups. It wouldn’t have been fun for those lineups, of course: Austin Hedges is a terrible hitter! He cost lineups something like 30 runs over a full season, and that’s with him replacing the worst hitter on the team.

So while the mental gymnastics of seeing how much damage Hedges would do was fun, it was a macabre kind of amusement. Look how bad your team could be at offense without being worse at baseball overall! That doesn’t really get the people going.

With this lineup approximating tool assembled, though, there’s no reason to limit its use to Hedges. Instead, let’s put Mike Trout in some lineups — all over lineups — and see if we can create some fun statlines.

I’ll be honest, this exercise started with me wondering what the Astros would look like with Trout. So to start, I plugged Trout into the Astros’ regular lineup. Their team now looks like this:

Troutstros Lineup

First of all, hoo boy. That’s almost too hot to print. I wasn’t really sure where to put everybody; I briefly considered having Altuve bat seventh, and it didn’t even look all that wrong, which should tell you everything you need to know about how good the lineup is. (I left Chirinos in as the catcher because I’m using 2019 season stats for this exercise, but that hardly matters to the results.)

From there, I simulated a season for the lineup. Just for maximum shock value, I had each player play 162 nine-inning games. That’s not realistic, but we’re not going for reality here; we just moved Mike Trout to the Astros with nothing going back the other way, after all. The same goes for regressing the Astros’ stats in some weird attempt to account for sign stealing. We’re not constructing a new world here; just goofing around with some numbers.

With that out of the way, how would the team do? My initial simulation had them scoring 7.5 runs a game, so I went back and double-checked the numbers. Turns out I had a small typo; they actually project to score 7.55 runs per game. Everything about this lineup is comical. 162 games of Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez, performing at his 2019 level? The number eight hitter has a 143 wRC+, for goodness’ sake.

One slight caveat before we begin: because of the way I’m simulating the games, I don’t keep track of which runner is on which base, which means I don’t have run totals for individual players. Also, run-scoring double plays count for RBIs (or RsBI, if you’re one of those people, which, as a side note, I hate you). Aside from that, however, we can count everything. Take a look at Trout’s line in this hypothetical:

Trout’s Astros Line
Mike Trout .291 .438 .645 37 62 143

Wait, uh, what? He projects to hit 62 home runs? Something must be off, right? Projections aren’t that extreme. I left out the reason for it — batting in a lineup that scores 7.5 runs a game means that you bat a lot. Trout projects for 807 plate appearances in this lineup, comfortably ahead of the 772 plate appearances the league-leading Red Sox offense had from the number two spot in the lineup. He just hit 45 home runs in 600 plate appearances — it’s not actually that surprising. We just don’t think of players getting 800 plate appearances because, well, they don’t.

In fact, a lot of Astros have absurd batting lines:

Troutstros Batting Lines
George Springer 825 .292 .383 .591 30 58 138
Mike Trout 807 .291 .438 .645 37 62 143
Michael Brantley 790 .311 .372 .503 50 27 126
Alex Bregman 771 .296 .423 .592 41 46 153
José Altuve 754 .298 .353 .550 37 43 159
Yordan Alvarez 735 .313 .412 .655 52 54 150
Yuli Gurriel 719 .298 .343 .541 47 36 135
Carlos Correa 700 .279 .358 .568 35 46 130
Robinson Chirinos 682 .238 .347 .443 34 27 88

A hypothetical Springer/Trout/Alvarez home run chase would be a lot of fun — if the team swapped Alvarez and Brantley, Alvarez would project for 59 home runs and make it even better. It’s not clear how much fun a team scoring this much would actually be, though; there would be a lot of blowouts, and while juggernauts are a blast, this one might tip over the line to parody. If you merely gave the team league average run prevention, their Pythagorean expectation would be 115 wins.

So yeah, I’m bored. No more Mike Trout in already historically great lineups that get to use their rookie superstar DH for the entire year. What about a team that, instead of maximizing Trout’s potential, spectacularly wastes it?

Step one: take an average NL team and replace their number two hitter with Mike Trout. That’s an excellent offense; adding Trout moves their runs per game projection from 4.75 to 5.11; nearly a six-win improvement over a 162 game season. Trout’s line on this team is fine enough:

Trout, No. 2 NL Batter
Mike Trout 750 .291 .438 .645 34 57 120

But that’s not a misuse of Mike Trout. That’s maximizing his use within an otherwise average lineup, and that’s not particularly fun. Let’s kick it up a notch: Mike Trout spits in his manager’s coffee every morning. Or maybe he leaves dirty socks out on the clubhouse floor. Heck, maybe he’s just plain unpleasant. The manager gets back at him by dropping him to the eighth spot in the lineup.

A tenth of a run vanishes from the team’s offense, and Trout’s line gets cut down to mortal size somewhat:

Trout, No. 8 NL Batter
Mike Trout 644 .291 .438 .645 29 49 116

Forty-nine home runs and 116 RBI out of the number eight spot in a lineup would be fun, but this is too unrealistic even for me. My model doesn’t include intentional walks, but put a pitcher behind Trout and he might average four free passes a game. Our manager might be vindictive and petty, but he’s not willing to go that far; instead, he drops Trout to ninth:

Trout, No. 9 NL Batter
Mike Trout 623 .291 .438 .645 29 48 104

Can’t walk Trout if the pitcher has already batted! It’s so crazy, it just might work. Of course, no, it doesn’t work. It costs the team another 0.03 runs of scoring a game; they’re still above average, because 623 plate appearances of Mike Trout will help you no matter the location in the lineup, but they’ve largely wasted his talents.

Trout is reasonably location-proof. Bat him ninth in an NL lineup and he would still get his home runs, although he’s unlikely to play all 162 games; pro-rate it down to 150, and his counting stats would suffer slightly more. The floor is still high, of course — he’s Mike Trout — but getting so little out of the best player in the game is at least a fun thought exercise.

What’s that, you say? We should go from the unrealistic to the absurd? Alright, fiiiiiiiiine, let’s make an entire lineup of Trouts. Feast your eyes on this:

Oops, All Trouts
Mike Trout 885 .291 .438 .645 41 67 173
Mike Trout 867 .291 .438 .645 40 66 176
Mike Trout 849 .291 .438 .645 39 65 183
Mike Trout 831 .291 .438 .645 38 64 190
Mike Trout 813 .291 .438 .645 38 63 185
Mike Trout 795 .291 .438 .645 36 61 177
Mike Trout 777 .291 .438 .645 36 60 174
Mike Trout 759 .291 .438 .645 35 58 169
Mike Trout 741 .291 .438 .645 34 57 166

So many Trouts — so many Trouts — would have absurd seasons. That’s about what you would expect on a team that scores nearly 10 runs a game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. My personal favorite is the Trout batting ninth. He gets 140 fewer plate appearances than his leadoff friend, but still hits 57 bombs and drives in 166 runs. One of the best offensive seasons of all time — and also the ninth-best line on his team.

There’s a lesson somewhere in all of this about the value of stacking. Adding one Trout to the NL lineup is worth something like 0.3 runs per game, even if you add him in the optimal spot. But adding nine Trouts — even with one of them having to bat ninth — is worth more than five runs. Even after accounting for the fact that some Trouts get to replace worse hitters, the effect is non-linear. Offensive prowess stacks together, and having one good hitter makes it more valuable to have another good hitter.

But who wants lessons? Lessons are overrated, and it’s winter break even if you are still in school. Instead, picture the all-Trout team, playing nine innings in every game for some silly reason even though they’re usually lapping the competition. Give them the 2019 Orioles pitching staff, for all it matters; they’d still be a 120-win team. If nothing else, I’d like to live in that universe just to see the MVP ballots, because surely some writer would toss José Abreu a token fifth-place vote anyway, and that would be much funnier in a literal sea of Trouts.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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2 years ago

It’s not RBIs or RsBI, it’s simply RBI, because the plural is already contained in the acronym.

2 years ago
Reply to  olethros

^You’re one of those people, which, as a side note, he hates

Jimmy von Albademember
2 years ago
Reply to  olethros

Do you pluralize laser as laser?

2 years ago

I agree with your goal, but that’s a false comparison. Which word in the acronym for laser are you pluralizing?

2 years ago
Reply to  DH

In thinking about it more, the more apt comparison is revolution per minute, which is typically pluralized as rpms. On the other hand, miles per hour isn’t mphs. So :shrug:

2 years ago
Reply to  DH

I mean, I believe the answer is that people still pronounce the words that mph stands for, its a short form not an acronym. The way people use RBI is like it’s a word unto itself, and laser even more so. And in conclusion, that’s the reason that if you say RsBI or, to a lesser extent, RBIs, you are maniac who should not be allowed to leave the house or go on the internet.

2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Clemens

I have to admit that I was advocating for saying RBIs but then screwed up my comment. Oh well.

2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Clemens

RBIs is fine for the same reason POWs (and several other English words) are fine.

Chris Kmember
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Clemens

Mr. [Clemens], I don’t use the word ‘[villain]’ lightly, but you are the greatest [villian] in American history.

2 years ago
Reply to  olethros

“RBI” is the thing that we’re pluralizing, so RBIs makes sense. No need to be a pedant about this.

2 years ago
Reply to  D-Wiz

“No need to be a pedant about this”

Pedants don’t let pesky things like ‘need’ get in the way

2 years ago
Reply to  DH

Seriously. The is a site dedicated to abject baseball nerdery. Being pedantic is fundamental!

2 years ago
Reply to  olethros

Everytime I read RsBI it comes out in a pirate voice in my head