Is Mike Trout Playing Hurt? (With Batted Ball Velo Leaders)

Mike Trout hurt his wrist in late July. Since then, in the 101 plate appearances headed into his game last night, the Angels outfielder has hit .224/.347/.388 with two home runs and a caught stealing. He’s been 11% better than league average, but that’s like 50% below average on the Trout scale. Is he still hurt?

Jeff Zimmerman has HURT, a metric that seeks to spot injured position players before the injury is announced. Included in hurt are contact, power, and speed rates. Speed seems to be less than useful in this situation, but with Trout not running, let’s leave it in the mix. Maybe he doesn’t want to run because he doesn’t want to reach that wrist out where it could stepped on or hit by the ball coming in from the catcher.

Let’s split the season into two chunks and see what we see.

Mike Trout, Before and After Wrist Injury
Games K% swSTR% ISO Hard% SBA Spd Score
Before Wrist 97 22.8% 7.8% 0.318 43.2% 14 4.7
After Wrist 24 25.7% 7.8% 0.165 35.6% 1 3.2

Surprising that his contact rates stayed the same while the rest of his game took a step back, but it still looks like Trout’s been playing hurt. He homered in the same game after he was hurt, but then something happened to his power and his strikeout rate and his power in particular.

Most of these numbers are results-based, though. Trout hit a triple in his last game out and upped that isolated slugging percentage 17 points. It’s still just a month-long sample full of noise.

Maybe we can find something more useful if we look at his batted ball velocity. Before the wrist injury, Trout averaged 93.0 mph on his recorded batted balls, good for ninth in baseball. Since, he’s down to 92.9… good for 25th-best. For visual learners, here’s his batted ball exit speed before injury, thanks to BaseballSavant:

chart (2)

and here it is after:

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Hard to really tell a difference here. If you try to slice the data some, you might think that he’s whiffing more against offspeed pitches, and that he’s not hitting those pitches as hard. But he’s had 43 batted balls that recorded a velocity since he hurt his wrist, and splitting that into three categories is probably a bad idea for your sample. And most of these things are things he’s done before — on each linked graph above, you can see that he’s had other months that looked like this.

So, to recap, it looks like Trout’s results have been crap since he was hurt. But if you look at batted ball velocity, he hasn’t dropped off drastically. Maybe this wrist thing isn’t such a big deal. Particularly if you look at his week-by-week average velocity:

chart (1)

Over the last week, Mike Trout’s exit velocity is up to 97.6 mph, or fifth-best in baseball. Of course, now we’re talking about 14 batted balls. Weird things can happen in 14 batted balls. Miguel Sano leads the league with a 103.5 mph velocity on his 11 batted balls this week, but weirder would be third place (Justin Bour, 99.2) or eighth place (Logan Forsythe, 97mph).

If Mike Trout was hurting, he didn’t hurt for very long, and the hurt version of himself was still hitting the ball plenty hard. Now it looks like he’s getting it going again. For his owners, it couldn’t be soon enough.

Let’s finish with a batted ball velocity leaderboard over the last month and a few comments, just for fun.

Leaders, Average Batted Ball Velocity Since July 28
Batter count(*) avg(bbspeed)
Ryan Zimmerman 44 98.9
Chris Davis 37 97.5
Lucas Duda 30 96.8
Nelson Cruz 47 96.4
David Ortiz 53 96.0
David Peralta 48 95.9
Justin Bour 34 95.4
Shin-Soo Choo 35 95.2
Miguel Sano 40 95.0
Howie Kendrick 33 94.8
Jose Bautista 60 94.4
Mark Teixeira 33 94.3
Danny Valencia 40 94.2
Adrian Gonzalez 40 94.1
Adam LaRoche 36 93.9
Josh Donaldson 61 93.6
Ian Desmond 47 93.6
Juan Uribe 30 93.5
Carlos Beltran 46 93.4
Chase Utley 32 93.2
Kyle Schwarber 37 93.2
Mark Trumbo 37 93.0
Manny Machado 63 92.9
Jose Abreu 54 92.9
Mike Trout 43 92.9

Speaking of getting healthy, wowza Ryan Zimmerman. He’s hovering around 70% owned in most leagues, despite hitting for power the last two months. You might as well roster him while he’s healthy, and this is a good sign that he’s healthy. Ditto for Shin-Soo Choo, with this added note: As bad as he’s seemed this year, Choo’s had a .272/.373/.483 line against right-handers in 2015.

Most of the rest of the names are not huge surprises, but look at Justin Bour. His walk rate looked like it does now in the minor leagues, and this suggests that his current power is believable. The guy is built like a house, and it’s not like some people haven’t shown the ability to hit for power in Miami. With velocity and power peaking and his batted ball velocity in good shape, maybe he should be owned in more than single-digit percentages of leagues.

And look at Ian Desmond trying to make good on a lost season. Maybe that last surge in batted ball velocity was enough for the team to try Trea Turner at second instead of short.

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Jackie T.
Jackie T.

Good call on Ryan Zim. He’s been raking and finally looks healthy. Was able to scoop him up just in time for the h2h playoffs. Expecting big things, and his OF/3B/1B eligibility sure comes in handy.