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Did not calling up Mike Trout earlier cost the Angels a playoff spot?

Oct 2, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT

Mike Trout AP

Lost in Mike Trout‘s historic rookie season and the heated AL MVP debate is that the Angels didn’t call him up from Triple-A until April 28 and will likely end up missing the playoffs by 2-3 games.

Obviously there’s no guarantee that having Trout from Opening Day on would have equaled 2-3 more wins for the Angels, but considering they got off to a 6-14 start while playing Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos before his arrival … well, it does make me wonder how differently things may have gone.

Trout dealt with the flu and a minor shoulder injury during spring training, but hit .403 in 20 games at Triple-A before his call-up and hit .355 in his first 20 games for the Angels. With him in the lineup the Angels are 80-56 and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) pegs Trout as being worth about 10 wins more than a hypothetical “replacement-level” outfielder, which basically describes Wells at this point.

At the very least taking 80-100 plate appearances and 150-175 innings defensively from Wells (and/or Bourjos) and giving them to Trout would almost surely mean that the Angels were still alive in the playoff race right now. Hindsight is 20/20, especially considering his spring training ailments, but when talking about one of the greatest rookies in the history of baseball and a narrow playoff miss it’s not such a stretch.

  1. geoknows - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Don’t forget Trout was really sick during spring training and had hardly played. I wouldn’t go too hard on the Angels for thinking he needed to start in the minors to get ramped up.

    • rdj3torrance - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      The 6-14 start was actually a blessing. Trout had time to get healthy and start raking and the rest is history. Now the 5-13 start to August was the killer. CJ Wilson’s bone spurs and Ervin Santana are the ones that need to be questioned if you ask me. Also, nobody thought the Orioles and Athletics would be crashing the postseason. Guarantee you on that day in December when I watched Albert and CJ get introduced, nobody was thinking about a 3rd place finish or the Athletics.

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        Ok, he was sick in spring training. But he was healthy enough by opening day to hit .403 in 20 games in AAA. And in 2011, he hit .326/.414/.544 in the minors and .220/.390/.672(!) in 123 AB in the majors. I do think it’s just hindsight to criticize the Angels here for failing to recognize sooner that he was ready to play. They already had plenty of evidence from 2011 that he was ready to start in the majors, even if they didn’t get to see him much during 2012 spring training.

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:56 PM

        How is a 6-14 start a “blessing”? Those games count just as much as the 5-13 stretch in August. The fact that other guys got hurt or underperformed, or other teams surprised, doesn’t mean it was a good idea for the Angels to leave Trout in AAA for a month.

    • dickclydesdale - Oct 2, 2012 at 9:45 PM

      Pujols bitch ass was in a 2 month slump in april-may, that is why the angels missed the playoffs.

      • chumthumper - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:14 AM

        Missing the playoffs will give Pujols and his wife more time to count the money it wasn’t about.

  2. kpow55 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Being in the best division in the MLB and having to face the Rangers and A’s while teams like Tigers have to play Royals, Indians and Twins kind of hindered them this year.

    Slow start hurts too.

    I know it goes in cycles but this year ALW has been the best. (from MLB: The division’s overall winning percentage is .548. No other division is even close.)

    Next year when Houston rolls in, it should improve the Halo’s record.

    • ezthinking - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:06 PM

      The Angels played a stretch of 3 at NYY, 4 v. Oak , 3 v. Baltimore and 3 at TB in their first 22 games. That’s four playoff teams. They went 4-9 against those.

      They then called up Trout and in the next 12 games they beat Cleveland once, Minnesota 5 times and Toronto twice; 8-4. Playoff bound Texas and Oakland came around again, 2-3 record. Against Detriot 5-5 and 5-3 against the White Sox.

      Maybe, the Angels just were the 6th best team in the league since they were not beating the other playoff teams with or without Trout.

      • rdj3torrance - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:02 PM

        And the early struggles vs eventual contenders happened after a 2-4 start vs KC and Min when the bullpen was super not good in the Pre-Frieri era.

    • lowellrikert71 - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:14 AM

      Don’t be so sure. Houston are good.

      -signed, Phillies’ fans

  3. paperlions - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Well, that….or Santana being horrible….or Haren having a bad back all year….or Pujols starting out really slow….or….you get the idea….the answer is “of course not”….any number of other things could have gone better than they did….

    This is like saying the A’s only made the playoffs because they signed Cespedes….do they make it without him? Probably not….but they also don’t make it without a dozen other things going right.

    It’s baseball….you win or lose due to collective contributions, not because of one thing.

    • stex52 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I took too long to type. We said pretty much the same thing in different ways.

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      The slow start by Pujols and the lousy start by Santana were probably much more important than not having Trout in the lineup. In the first month, the Angels were also having difficulty finding a proper place for Trumbo in the lineup. He is not a third baseman, but they tried to play him at third.

    • Jeremy Fox - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:07 PM

      And because you win or lose due to collective contributions, that means your decisions aren’t open to criticism?

      It’s precisely BECAUSE lots of things need to go right for a baseball team to win that it’s incumbent on the team to do everything it can to maximize its chances. Like playing Mike Trout from day 1.

      Imagine that the A’s had left Trout in AAA the whole year. Would you be ok with that because, hey, if Wilson and Haren and Santana and Pujols had all been healthy and played their best all year, and if the A’s and Orioles had sucked as expected, the Angels still would’ve made the playoffs?

      The post doesn’t say “The ONLY way the Angels would’ve made the playoffs is by calling up Mike Trout from day 1, no matter what else happened with Wilson and Santana and Haren and Pujols and the A’s and the Orioles”. The post says “The Angels might have made the playoffs this year if they’d called up Mike Trout earlier.” Which is true. The fact that the Angels might ALSO have made the playoffs this year if Pujols had started better or Haren had been healthier or the A’s had sucked or whatever is also true, but totally irrelevant to the post.

      • paperlions - Oct 2, 2012 at 7:32 PM

        Of course it was a dumb decision. The question was “Did not calling up Trout result in them missing the playoffs?” The answer is no.

        The “straw the broke the camels back” is no more responsible for the injury than any other straw, all contributed equally….which doesn’t mean you don’t criticize the choice to add more straw, just that you are wrong if you place the blame on that straw.

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 2, 2012 at 8:36 PM

        @paperlions: The post doesn’t place the blame on one straw, and neither did I. The post is just asking “was not calling up Mike Trout one of the straws that broke the camel’s back?” Your point is precisely the same as mine

  4. xjokerz - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    or if pujols wasnt complete trash for the first 2 months ( sorry if i am double posting, my posts are not being posted )

  5. stex52 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Yeah, probably. But you make so many decisions over the course of a season that look small at the time and are all the difference in the end. What if Albert deosn’t stink on ice for the first six weeks? What if Santana holds it together and gets bombed twice fewer? You probably lost more than two games on bad umpire ball-strike calls.

    Probably the only useful thing you can say at this point is that there is an attitude that April games don’t matter as much; you can always make them up in the pennant rush. Problem is, you often can’t.
    They all do really count the same. You thought the kid needed seasoning. He didn’t.

  6. APBA Guy - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Great discussion point. I saw some pre-emptive stuff on the web about a week ago with the take that Trout had been very ill during Spring Training. At the end of April, the Angels were dead last in the AL West, already 9 games behind the then-torrid Rangers.

    No doubt Trout had been sick during Spring. And keep in mind that he had not produced at the MLB level in 2011. So it is understandable that the Angels wanted him to prove himself in the minors in early 2012. Calling him up at 23 games into the season is not an overly long proof period.

    A bigger contributor to the Angels problems was their pitching, particularly Santana (5.16 ERA in 30 starts) and whoever slotted in as starter #5 before Greinke was added. That Haren was so inconsistent did not help either, fighting a balky back all year (4.32 in 29 starts). Then there was the bull pen, pretty much everyone not named Frieri, especially in April and May.

    The Angels are mid-pack in the AL in ERA and runs allowed, basically identical to the Rangers, whose pitching woes have been on display since July. But the Rangers have the #1 offense, having scored 40 more runs than the Angels, which translates to 4 more wins, precisely the shortfall we see in the standings.

    Would Trout have been worth 4 wins in April? Doubtful, he was running about a 2 WAR per month in 2012. And that’s without really dissecting the emphasis on baserunning and defense that the WAR statistic includes, and how realistic those weights are.

    So had the Angels had 20-20 hindsight, or a magic crystal ball, and played a not yet healthy Trout who didn’t exist yet statistically on April 1, they might still be in contention for the wild-card. But not bringing him with the club out of Spring raised very, very few eyebrows at the time.

    • Jeremy Fox - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:09 PM

      He had a .390 OBP and .674 SLG in 123 MLB AB in 2011. How is that not producing?

      And how was Trout not healthy in April, given that he hit .400 in AAA in April before being called up? Are you saying he’d have hit .600 in AAA if he hadn’t been so sick?

      • APBA Guy - Oct 2, 2012 at 7:27 PM

        Dude-you’ve got dyslexia:

        AVG OBP SLG OPS
        2011 .220 .281 .390 .671

        His SLG was .390, not his OBP.
        HIS OPS was .671, not his slugging.

        See a doctor.

  7. seitz26 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Pujols’ turnaround coincided more or less with Trout’s call-up. Not saying there’s causation, but I tend to think some of the hype around Trout took some pressure off of Albert, who was pretty clearly gripping hard after getting off to a rough first two weeks. Torii Hunter getting his family issues sorted out was important too. His OPS was about 100 points higher after his return than before he left. All of those early season elements were the difference at the end of the season.

    • blabidibla - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:56 PM

      Pujols turnaround coincided with Micky Hatcher’s firing.

    • rdj3torrance - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:11 PM

      Indeed. Torii Hunter’s family issues with his kid and the Wells injury actually allowed Trumbo to stay in the lineup without any questions whatsoever and afforded Morales ample playing time at DH to get back in the swing of things. As noted above Hunter came back and had a nice season and strong finish.

  8. jayscarpa - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    They lost six one-run games during that time so, yes, he probably would have made a difference.

  9. Detroit Michael - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Hard to say. Maybe hitting .403 in AAA helped give Trout confidence? Life happens only once, so determining what would have happened is always difficult.

    I’d be inclined to cut Angels management some slack. Given that Trout already had 83 days of 2011 service time, they clearly weren’t economizing on his arbitration or free agency clock by having him spend most of April in the minors. Making a switch before April ended is actually pretty quick reactions.

  10. El Bravo - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Imagine if Dan Haren pitched like he was supposed to and Pujols started the year hot? So many ifs….

    • seitz26 - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      I think calling Pujols’ start “cold” is pretty generous. Comatose is probably more accurate.

    • Maxa - Oct 2, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Yes, but those considerations are a bit different to me. Management doesn’t have much control over whether someone like Pujols has a slump, so it’s not really a question of decision making–it’s just bad luck. But Angels management obviously did have control over when to call up Trout.

  11. icanspeel - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    The short answer is probably yes, but the long answer is you can probably come up with lots of reasons why they fell short. Same can be said for any team that misses playoffs by a few games

  12. randygnyc - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Yes it did. Pujols’ slow start also cost them games.

  13. takingbovadasmoney - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    How can WAR even be used as any sort of supporting data in an argument when every statistical agency uses different statistics and formulas to calculate it?

  14. yahmule - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    There’s no question wasting ABs on the bum triumvirate of Wells/Abreu/Bourjos while Trout was killing it in AAA cost the Angels a playoff berth. Managers make stupid decisions and stick by them way beyond reason. It’s part of the job description.

  15. vallewho - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    …and the MVP.

  16. moogro - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    It would be awesome to look specifically at the games he could have played in after he returned from illness with the games his teammates played center. Did they drop any balls? Crappy routes? Caught stealing? Bad slumps? This article seems like a preamble to that longer article.

  17. theboysofdallas - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Yes it did but Houston is on there way so the halos will most likely miss the attics again

    Mark my words, Houston will be just like the nationals are this year in about 2-3 years

  18. richardf954 - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Would love to see how this guy handles a sophmore slump , With the bar set so high , and the constant media attention and expectations , next year will truly determine what this guy is really made of .

  19. legacybroken - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Forget sophmore slump, Trouts had a second half slump that has only been minimized by two ridiculous months before the slump. Pitchers have figured him out the question is if he is another Jason Heyward who eventually figures it out or become another Jeff Francouer.

    • yahmule - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      Trout in August: .284/.366/.500 with 7 HR and 11 SB.
      Trout in September: .257/.380/.455 with 5 HR and 6 SB.

      Apparently he evens slumps better than anybody else.

    • yahmule - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:01 PM

      I left out July, which is typically considered part of the second half.

      .392/.455/.804 with 10 HR and 9 SB.

      So, yeah, MVP.

  20. seeingwhatsticks - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    No way to know for sure if calling up Trout earlier would have made a difference. What I do know is that it’s completely unfair that a team can finish with 90 wins and not make the playoffs. I think it’s time for Bud to consider expanding the playoffs to include all 30 teams so that a team like the Angels isn’t left out.

    *sarcasm*

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