Mike Trout Is Running Again (Again)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Trout decided he was going to be more aggressive on the bases this year. Last season, Trout lamented that he missed the days when he was a true stolen base threat. It couldn’t have been easy for the former steals leader to watch the effects of the new rules play out around him. Like Mr. Incredible stuck in a dead-end office job, Trout longed for the glory days. I’d imagine that feeling was made all the more painful because he knew deep down that he still had the skills to achieve greatness.

Things are different this season. Last year, the Angels ranked last in the American League in stolen bases. This year, they rank third. They have a new manager and several new coaches. Trout is never one to spark controversy, and he hasn’t blamed any of his past managers for holding him back. Still, former Angels manager Phil Nevin made it clear he wasn’t all that interested in his players stealing last year, while new skipper Ron Washington and first base coach Bo Porter have already spoken about their team taking a more aggressive approach on the bases. Both mentioned Trout in particular, and Trout himself has confirmed that aggressive baserunning is a bigger part of the “game plan” for 2024.

Ahead of the Angels’ home opener earlier this month, Trout shared his stolen base goal for the season: “I think 20-plus would be cool. Thirty would be really cool.” In recent years, he has held back on the bases in an effort to stave off injuries, but he is employing a new philosophy this year: “I think if you’re out there holding back a little, I think sometimes it puts you in a worse position.” Washington took that sentiment a step further, claiming, “You get hurt when you try not to just let your natural ability play.”

I’ll leave it to the medical professionals to determine if a cautious approach can actually increase injury risk, but I will say this: Trout has played it safe for the past several years, and he keeps getting hurt anyway. Maybe it’s time he just tried to be the best version of himself when he is on the field. After all, the best version of Trout is pretty much the best player in baseball.

Trout is still fast. And not just fast for his age or fast for a power hitter, though he is remarkably fast considering his age and skill set. His 28.8 ft/s sprint speed ranks in the 91st percentile this year. In the Statcast era (2015-present), only 44 different players age 30 or older have posted a sprint speed of at least 28.8 ft/s in a season. Trout is one of only 13 to have done so three or more times. Most of the other names on that list are/were fourth outfielders or utility infielders:

Veteran Speedsters
Player Seasons (Age)
Mike Trout 30-32
Peter Bourjos 30-32
Shane Robinson 30-32
Jon Berti 30-33
Kevin Kiermaier 30-33
Phil Gosselin 30, 32-33
Jarrod Dyson 30-31, 33
Eric Young Jr. 30, 32-33
Kristopher Negrón 31-33
Craig Gentry 31-34
Brett Gardner 31, 33-35
Andrew McCutchen 30, 32, 35
Rajai Davis 34-38
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Putting his speed to good use, Trout has already racked up 1.5 baserunning runs (BsR), fifth most in the American League. From 2020-23, he compiled a mere 0.7 BsR, less than half of his total from the current season. His highest BsR for a single month in that time was 0.5, in May 2021. He has not reached 1.0 BsR in a month since July 2018; he has not reached 1.5 in a month since July 2016.

A big part of Trout’s 1.5 BsR comes from stolen bases. He has stolen five bags on five attempts so far this season, matching his total from the previous three years combined. It is only the 12th time in his career he has stolen at least five bases in a month without getting caught, and the first time since 2018. Trout already has three more steals than he had all of last year; no other player (min. 100 PA in 2023) can say the same. Even if you reduce the qualifying threshold to just five plate appearances in 2023, the only player who tops Trout is teammate Jo Adell. Adell has stolen five bases in 18 games so far this year; he stole one in 17 games last season.

In addition to his stolen bases, Trout has already legged out two triples (and a hustle double). He has not had more than two triples in a season since 2018, which was also the last time he had at least two triples in a single month. He accomplished that feat every year between 2012 and 2018, but not again until now. To bring it all together, this is just the eighth time in his career he has had at least five stolen bases and two triples in the same month, and only the fourth time he has done so without being caught stealing. None of his steals or triples have been easy or fluky either. Take a look for yourself.

Here are Trout’s steals:

And here are his triples:

Stolen bases aside, Trout never became overly cautious on the basepaths, at least not to the point where it was detrimental to his club. That said, he has certainly been less aggressive than he once was and less aggressive than you’d expect for a player with his speed. The Statcast baserunning metrics go back to 2016, and from 2016-20, Trout’s advancement attempt rate was above the expected average every year. From 2020-23, it was only above average once. He was actually safe less frequently in those early years, but he still added more value with his legs:

Mike Trout’s Baserunning
Season Baserunning Run Value Attempt % Above Average Safe/Attempt
2016 2 2% 99%
2017 1 8% 96%
2018 0 3% 96%
2019 2 1% 100%
2020 0 0% 100%
2021 0 -2% 100%
2022 0 0% 97%
2023 1 1% 100%
2024 1 14% 100%
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

It’s early enough in the season that a few aggressive plays can swing the numbers pretty wildly, but so far, Trout’s attempt rate above average is 14%, tenth highest among qualified players. In addition to stretching a single into a double and a couple of doubles into triples, he also tested Wilyer Abreu’s arm in right field on April 7, going first to third on a single. Abreu had 97th-percentile arm strength last year, but Trout won the battle:

Here’s where things get really fun. If Trout sticks to his aggressive approach, he has a very good shot at a 30-30 season. He is currently on pace for 65 home runs and 32 steals. Needless to say, achieving a 30-30 season is easier said than done; even Trout has only accomplished the feat once. Yet considering his current paces, his track record, the stolen base environment, and his still-elite speed and power numbers, Trout has a clear path to a 30-30 season – as long he stays healthy.

Trout only needs 20 more home runs over the next 137 games, a rate of one homer every 6.85 contests. He has homered at a higher pace every year since his first full season in 2012. The steals are less of a sure thing, but if Trout wants to swipe 30 bags, he has all the skills to get there. Eighteen players stole 30 or more bases last year. Here’s how 2024 Trout compares to those players in sprint speed and projected OBP:

Runners with 30-plus Stolen Bases in 2023
Player Stolen Bases OBP Sprint Speed
Mike Trout 5 .354 (FGDC projection) 28.8
Ronald Acuña Jr. 73 .416 28.0
Esteury Ruiz 67 .309 29.6
Corbin Carroll 54 .362 30.1
Bobby Witt Jr. 49 .319 30.5
CJ Abrams 47 .300 28.6
Nico Hoerner 43 .346 28.5
Ha-Seong Kim 38 .351 28.5
Julio Rodríguez 37 .333 29.6
Elly De La Cruz 35 .300 30.5
Willi Castro 33 .339 28.6
Josh Lowe 32 .335 28.7
Jorge Mateo 32 .267 30.1
Francisco Lindor 31 .336 28.1
Bryson Stott 31 .329 28.8
Trea Turner 30 .320 30.3
Wander Franco 30 .344 27.5
Kyle Tucker 30 .369 26.6
Andrés Giménez 30 .314 29.2

Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time Trout has inspired false hope with his early-season stolen base numbers. I was planning to title this post “Mike Trout Is Running Again,” but a quick Google search came up with two previous articles already published under (essentially) the same headline: one from 2015 and another from 2018. In April 2015, Trout stole six bases in six attempts. He then swiped just five bases in 12 attempts over the rest of the season. His downturn wasn’t quite as dramatic in 2018, but once again, he started the year with 30-plus stolen base momentum before falling off the pace. He took 12 bags over his first 50 games but only stole 12 more over his final 90. This has happened before, and all we can do is wait and see if this year will be different.

If Trout can keep it up, he will become the 15th player in history with multiple 30-30 seasons. He would be just the seventh player to accomplish the feat in both his 20s and his 30s, and only the sixth player to have a 30-30 season at age 32 or older. Only one player, Barry Bonds, has had a 30-30 season at an age older than Trout is now:

Oldest Players with a 30-30 Season
Player Season HR SB Age
Bobby Bonds 1978 31 43 32 in March ’78
Barry Larkin 1996 33 36 32 in April ’96
Ken Williams 1922 39 37 32 in June ’22
Dante Bichette 1996 31 31 33 in November ’96
Mike Trout 2024 ? ? 33 in August ’24
Barry Bonds 1997 40 37 33 in July ’97
SOURCE: Stathead Baseball

What’s more, if Trout has a 30-30 campaign in 2024, there will be a 12-year gap between his first and second such seasons. Currently, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Bobby Bonds share the record for longest gap between 30-30 seasons at four years. Meanwhile, Bobby Bonds also holds the record for the longest period between his first and last 30-30 seasons at nine years (1969-1978). Simply put, it’s incredibly rare for a player to maintain elite speed and power for as long as Trout has. Heck, there hasn’t been a player who had 30-steal seasons more than 12 years apart since Kenny Lofton (Lofton had his first in 1992 and his last in 2006). On top of all that, I could also point out that if Trout steals a couple of bases this weekend against the Twins, he would be on pace to become the oldest player in history with a 40-40 season.

I know that dreaming on a 40-40 season might be too optimistic. In fact, there is a part of me that feels like anything I could write about Trout at this point in the year would be too optimistic, given his extensive injury history. Dreaming on Trout’s potential used to be this website’s bread and butter, but these days, everything you read about Trout has to come with a disclaimer: “Warning: Injury prone!” Still, I’ve decided to take a page out of Trout’s own book. I could have played it safe and avoided writing about what he might accomplish this season. But instead, I’m going to make the most of writing about him while he’s healthy. Like Trout’s aggressive baserunning, it might be risky, but it’s also a lot more fun.

Leo is a writer for FanGraphs and MLB Trade Rumors as well as an editor for Just Baseball. His work has also been featured at Baseball Prospectus, Pitcher List, and SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @morgensternmlb.

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1 month ago

Mike Trout decided he was going to be more aggressive on the bases this year.”

I think Mike Trout decided he was going to try to win games on his own this year given the team that he is on. Hopefully he can stay healthy long enough for it to matter.

1 month ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

It would help if any of the fast-to-the-majors guys they’ve put on the major league roster would hit. Neto and Schanuel look awful. Moniak and Rendon don’t look so hot either, although I think we all knew that somewhere deep down inside.

1 month ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I have hopes for Neto and Schanuel. ZiPS projects Rendon at 114 OPS+ but that seems wildly optimistic. Moniak autocorrects to miniskirt

1 month ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

What hopes are there for Schanuel? He’s an outlier in average exit velo on the bad side. He has never shown power and likely won’t even show power. To make that work at first, he’d have to be god on the field and I don’t think he’s that either. Schanuel was a last ditch effort to try and compete with Ohtani last year, he was the only draft player that could have contributed at all last year that the Angels could get. Schanuel is another move in a long string of foolishly short-sighted draft picks the Angels have made.

1 month ago
Reply to  kingharbaugh

Neither Neto nor Schanuel has massive upside, but they’re both perfectly capable of 2-3 WAR seasons. Schanuel controls the strike zone pretty well. They can be over .500 with Trout plus a bunch of 2-3 WAR players. They don’t actually have that but it’s a valid plan.

1 month ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

Controls the strike zone, good contact. There is the possibility he’ll grow into some power with the right coaching. It’s the last part that concerns me.

1 month ago
Reply to  kingharbaugh

“God on the field”? …don’t you mean Bugs Bunny?