Mike Trout's one weakness

Jeff Gross

Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball by a wide margin for the last two seasons. However, he was woeful in one aspect in 2013.

At this point, to say that Mike Trout is a great baseball player is a severe understatement. The Millville Meteor is only 22 years old, and he is already 797th on baseball's all-time fWAR leaderboard. Take Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera, the next best player in baseball, and you still have to add another good player such as Carlos Beltran to reach Trout's fWAR total over the last two seasons. By himself, he's better than most outfields in the major leagues. If Trout keeps going at this rate, the internet may not be able to contain the chronicles of his greatness.

However, there was one thing that Trout was bad at in 2013. In fact, he was terrible in this regard—as in second-worst player in baseball terrible.

Trout had a -2.51 Clutch Score in 2013. The only player to perform worse was Hunter Pence, who came in at -2.56. Clutch Score compares a player's performance in high leverage situations with their performance in a context-neutral environment. Going back to 1958, only 18 players have produced a worse clutch score.

Of course, a player has to hit very well overall in order to have a poor clutch score, establishing a high level of context neutral performance. As a contrast, Alcides Escobar had a 1.17 clutch score in 2013 because his overall performance established such a low floor. With Trout, this bar was set very high with his overall performance, hitting .323/.432/.557. However, he hit just .257/.386/.327 in 132 high leverage plate appearances with a good chunk of that on-base percentage coming from seven intentional walks; he also hit just one home run in these high leverage situations.

Due to the low clutch score, Trout had only 4.60 Win Probability Added (WPA), which is still a top 10 showing. However, far lesser players had similar scores -- Ryan Zimmerman, who had just 3.0 fWAR, had 4.50 WPA, and Adrian Gonzalez, who totaled 2.8 fWAR, came in at 4.49 WPA.

Trout shared this affliction with his teammates. Angels hitters had a collective -3.30 Clutch Score which, along with poor pitching, helps explain how a team whose position players had 26.4 fWAR finished with a 78-84 record. In high leverage situations, they hit .251/.325/.370, good for a 90 wRC+; overall, they hit .264/.329/.414 for a 108 wRC+.

In a context neutral environment, the Angels' hitters produced 58 batting runs. As a comparison, the Cardinals' hitters produced 39 batting runs with a 106 wRC+, but, due to the Cards well-documented excellence with runners in scoring position, they scored 50 more runs than the Angels.

Perhaps the Angels' poor hitting in high leverage situations played a role in the David Freese acquisition. Though Freese has an ordinary career clutch score, he had phenomenal postseason numbers, at least until this season. It might just be a sound bite for the less saber-savvy fans, but general manager Jerry DiPoto noted how Freese, "knows how to drive in important runs."

While Clutch Score and Win Probability Added do a good job in looking back at a season and describing how well a player performed in pressure situations, they have little predictive value. The aforementioned Hunter Pence who hit just .224/.269/.318 in high leverage situations in 2013 had the third-highest clutch score in 2012.

Mike Trout is still great, and his poor performance in the clutch last season will likely have no bearing on his career ability to hit in pressure spots. However, at least for one season, baseball's version of Superman struggled at something.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Chris Moran is a former college baseball player and current law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He's also an assistant baseball coach at Wash U. In addition to Beyond The Box Score, he contributes at Prospect Insider and DRaysBay. He went to his first baseball game at age two. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves

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