Mike Trout’s Latest Injury May Leave the Angels Floundering

Mike Trout
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels started off Independence Day by announcing that Mike Trout had suffered a broken hamate bone in his left wrist and will miss at least the next four-to-eight weeks. That cuts short what had been his healthiest season since 2016; Trout had played in 81 of the team’s 87 games, and the costovertebral dysfunction in his back — something that’s going to remain a long-term issue — didn’t prevent him from playing center field daily. That wasn’t the only firework for the Angels, either; later that day, Anthony Rendon fouled a pitch off his lower leg, a painful enough blow that he needed help standing up and getting off the field. And if that weren’t enough for the fans in Orange County, Shohei Ohtani was pulled from his start with a then-undisclosed injury and walked off the field accompanied by a trainer — true horror movie material. His issue, at least, did not turn out to be serious, but it wasn’t the most festive holiday. Dropping the second of three games against the Padres, right after Juan Soto served a small but spicy helping of trash talk, removed any silver lining.

Rendon’s X-rays of his shin came back negative, so for now, his injury is being diagnosed as a shin contusion. It’s still possible he ends up on the Injured List, but it appears that he’s avoided a significant injury. Thankfully for the Angels, they have better depth at third base than just a few months ago after the low-key acquisitions of Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas in recent weeks. Neither are likely to replace the production the Angels are hoping to see from Rendon, but the position will likely not be a disaster in his absence.

Ohtani’s injury is connected to a blister, believed to be the result of the treatment for a cracked fingernail that pushed his start back by a day. Blisters have been tied to pitchers missing significant amounts of playing time; Josh Beckett is a primary example. But if this is just due to Ohtani’s acrylic nail deteriorating over the course of the game, it doesn’t seem like anything concerning. He did, however, indicate that he won’t pitch in the All-Star Game, which stinks for viewers but is pretty small potatoes in the big picture. In any case, we basically already got the big All-Star-esque moment earlier this year, when Ohtani faced off against Trout with the WBC on the line. And even if Ohtani ends up missing a start with the Angels, there’s no problem with him continuing to hit.

But if injuries to Rendon and Ohtani aren’t big deals, the one to Trout most certainly is. The three-time MVP broke the hamate bone in his wrist while swinging at a Nick Martinez pitch in the eighth inning on Monday. While far from a career-affecting injury, it’s one that will keep him out of the lineup for one to two months. The Angels are heavily reliant on the production they get from their two megastars, so losing one of them for somewhere between a third and two-thirds of the remaining season is a particularly unwelcome sight. The team is right around .500 and just four games behind the Yankees for the last wild card spot, so we’re talking about a group with legitimate October aspirations. But the Angels aren’t alone; the Blue Jays, Mariners, Red Sox, and Guardians are all within two games of them in the standings, meaning every win has a lot of playoff leverage.

Tuesday’s game provided a glimpse of what the Angels will look like during Trout’s recovery, with Moustakas at first base, Hunter Renfroe back in the outfield, and Mickey Moniak shifting into center field. How well you feel about the Angels enduring the loss of Trout depends on how confident you are in Moniak’s abilities; if you ask a projection system, the answer will be “not very.” He has undeniably contributed to the Angels this season with the bat, but the fact remains that he also has a bleak professional record in bottom line performance. His 2022 was shortened due to a wrist injury of his own, and while he hit very well in his month in the minors, his cups of coffee with the Angels and Phillies — a .170/.207/.302 line — certainly didn’t shout “breakout candidate” to anyone. Nor did the previous minor league translations for him in ZiPS: .191/.251/.368 in 2021, .210/.250/.348 in 2019.

There are also good reasons to be skeptical of Moniak’s unexpected 2023 line for the Halos. His power has been impressive at times — a 16.7% barrel percentage — but it has been inconsistent, with his hard-hit percentage down around 35%. A big factor in that is that his plate discipline is dreadful, with his out-of-zone swing rate at 49.2%. For context, that’s a worse number than Javier Báez has ever “achieved” over a season, making him about 50% more likely than the average player to swing at an out-of-zone pitch. Whereas someone like Luis Arraez can get a shocking amount of hits in these out-of-zone pitches (.348 BA this year!), that isn’t Moniak, who is hitting .091 on pitches outside the Gameday strike zone — four hits on 105 total out-of-zone pitches at which he’s offered. This approach at the plate is very hard to sustain in the long term.

So what’s the bottom line? Here are the ZiPS AL West projected standings, assuming Trout misses two months — I will provide the numbers for one month out and the whole shebang afterward — as of Wednesday morning.

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL West (Trout Out For Two Months)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 90 72 .556 45.6% 29.1% 74.7% 8.2%
Texas Rangers 89 73 1 .549 37.5% 31.7% 69.1% 3.7%
Seattle Mariners 85 77 5 .525 12.6% 25.0% 37.6% 3.2%
Los Angeles Angels 81 81 9 .500 4.3% 12.8% 17.1% 0.8%
Oakland A’s 60 102 30 .370 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

ZiPS didn’t assume perfect health for Trout without the injury, and his projection is certainly a bit diminished by his rather ordinary superstar-level season so far. But even with those caveats, ZiPS sees the Angels without him as struggling to finish above .500, going slightly below that mark from here on out. For comparison, here are what the projected standings would look like without this injury:

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL West (Trout Uninjured)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 90 72 .556 43.5% 28.8% 72.3% 7.7%
Texas Rangers 89 73 1 .549 35.6% 31.0% 66.6% 3.5%
Seattle Mariners 84 78 6 .519 11.7% 23.5% 35.2% 3.0%
Los Angeles Angels 83 79 7 .512 9.1% 20.4% 29.5% 1.8%
Oakland A’s 60 102 30 .370 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

The Angels only lost a (rounded) two wins on average, but that’s enough to cut their playoff probability by nearly half and their World Series probability slightly more than half thanks to the larger hit to their division title chances. Basically, The Snap of Trout’s hamate bone was the Angels’ 2023 season getting Infinity Gauntleted.

Here are the promised projected standings with a one-month recovery and with Trout done for the season:

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL West (Trout Out for One Month)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 90 72 .556 44.9% 28.7% 73.5% 8.0%
Texas Rangers 89 73 1 .549 36.6% 31.3% 67.9% 3.6%
Seattle Mariners 84 78 6 .519 12.2% 24.4% 36.6% 3.1%
Los Angeles Angels 82 80 8 .506 6.3% 16.6% 22.8% 1.2%
Oakland A’s 60 102 30 .370 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL West (Trout Out for Season)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 90 72 .556 46.2% 29.3% 75.5% 8.3%
Texas Rangers 89 73 1 .549 38.1% 32.1% 70.1% 3.8%
Seattle Mariners 85 77 5 .525 13.0% 25.8% 38.7% 3.3%
Los Angeles Angels 80 82 10 .494 2.8% 9.7% 12.4% 0.5%
Oakland A’s 60 102 30 .370 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

Naturally, Trout having some kind of setback and missing the season would be a disaster, but even losing him for one month is a sizable hit.

Before Trout’s injury, I was insistent that the Angels needed to be aggressive buyers this deadline. With Ohtani heading toward free agency, a lot of competition for the wild card slots, and some real serious holes on the roster, all the incentives lined up for a big splashy late July swap. Without Trout, the need to acquire talent becomes even more urgent. Failing that, it’s increasingly likely that we’ll never see baseball’s best player of the last decade and his successor for that title play together in the playoffs, and that would be a real shame.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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10 months ago

I went back to the ZiPS projections for the AL for this year to look at the comments to see what I said back then. I expressed what must be the mildest concern about the Angels’ projection of 85 wins, due to Mike Trout’s injury history. So I can’t take credit for calling this or anything. But 3CardMonty’s comment here takes home first prize:

Every year the Angels look decent on paper and every year they find new ways to be bad. One of these years they will actually meet their projections. Maybe this is all some Scioscia Devil Magic debt from all those years earlier in the century when they were projected to be bad but inexplicably won 95 games. Whatever it is it’s hilarious.”

Cool Lester Smoothmember
10 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

They need Jeff Mathis back at catcher!