How Mike Trout’s Injury Impacts the Angels’ Projected Wins, Playoff Odds, World Series Odds & More
Omar Rawlings/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Trout
For the fifth consecutive season, Mike Trout will miss more than 10% of the Angels’ regular-season schedule. The superstar has not played a full season since 2016.
Trout missed 46 days in 2017 with a torn thumb ligament, 22 days in 2018 with a wrist injury, had season-ending surgery for a 2019 foot injury, and missed seven games last year (out of 60) with various maladies.
To be fair, the 2020 Angels (26-34) were terrible, and Trout might have played closer to 60 games if his team was more competitive. But the fact remains: the 29-year-old center fielder no longer seems as durable as he once was.
Below, I’ll examine the possible timelines for Trout’s return, the possible replacements that the Angels will play in his stead, and how their 2021 outlook changes depending upon how many games he can play.
The Angels have stated that Trout will miss 6-to-8 weeks with a calf strain. It’s only the second leg injury that he’s suffered in his career; Trout missed five days with a hamstring strain in 2017.
Based upon historical injury data (all injuries since 2009) from Just A Guy Fantasy Sports, players who sustain a lower leg strain miss 34.7 days, on average, with a median of 23 days missed.
Here’s how leg strains have compared to other types of lower leg injuries (doesn’t include knee or foot):
It’s never easy to replace a superstar talent.
Directly, the Angels can try replace Trout with backup center fielder and former Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares. However, Lagares (careeer 81 wRC+) is very poor hitter and a bench player for a reason.
The Angels are also a desperate club looking for a lift, so “getting by” until Trout returns isn’t really an option. They need to make up ground.
I would expect the Angels to call up former top prospect Jo Adell in the near future — whether he’s ready or not. Adell struggled over 38 games as a 21-year-old last season (84 wRC+, 40.4% strikeout rate, -5 DRS in right field), and he’s a natural corner outfielder, but he should have the speed to handle center field (in theory) and played four games there (0 DRS) last season. However, his defensive metrics from last season aren’t at all encouraging.
Adell has four home runs to start off his 2021 campaign in Triple-A , but he’s also hitting .193 with 21 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances (40.3% strikeout rate) — matching his struggles at the big league level last season. Until Adell shows better plate discipline, it’s hard to justify the call, but the Angels may not have a choice.
Taylor Ward (74 wRC+) started in center field for the Angels on Tuesday night. It was his first career start at the position, and he’s been a below-average defender per DRS (-14) at every position he has played in the big leagues. Ward doesn’t look like a long-term solution, but he might be the best solution on the current big-league roster.
If the Angels want to get another big bat into their lineup, perhaps they take a defensive hit and try to find a spot for another top prospect: Brandon Marsh. However, MLB Pipeline’s No. 53 overall prospect has only played 101 games in the high minors, and perhaps the Angels think his bat needs more seasoning.
That being said, Marsh has played some center field in the minors, and he could be the most productive replacement for Trout within the Angels’ organization.
Per Steamer600 projections, here is how Trout’s production compares to each of his potential replacements:
Keep in mind, Marsh and Ward return positive WAR projections only if you assume that they are playing their natural positions — rather than center field — which makes the calculus here a bit more difficult. But I think Marsh is potentially the most logical replacement, service-clock concerns aside.
Either way, the Angels are replacing a hitter who is 60% better than league-average with a hitter who is below average — at a position where it’s difficult to find any offensive production to begin with.
Furthermore, while Trout is a below-average defender at the position, (-4 DRS in 2019, -9 DRS in 2020, -2 DRS in 2021) the Angels don’t necessarily have a major defensive upgrade they can install in his place. And if anything, they’re taking a bigger defensive hit at the position in order to get a more productive bat in the lineup.
Lagares was arguably the best defender in baseball from 2013 to 2014 (52 DRS led MLB; Andrelton Simmons ranked second with 49), but his level slipped to below-average by the end of the 2019 campaign. And while Lagares might bring above-average defense to a corner spot, its difficult to project him as anything more than a scratch center fielder.
Games Played and Expected Wins
I projected the Angels as a 80.2 win team before Opening Day. ATC projections had them at 80.4 wins, Davenport put them at 78 wins, FanGraphs forecasted 84.4 wins, and PECOTA estimated 87 wins.
The Angels have obviously underperformed relative to even the lowest expectations, with 18 wins through their first 40 games, good for a 73 win-pace. And without Mike Trout in their lineup, things are even bleaker.
Even if Trout played every game the remainder of the season, my prorated projection would still place the Angels at 77.4 wins.
Without Trout in their lineup whatsoever, I make the Angels as a true-talent 76.7 win team (over a full 162 game season).
As a result, here is how many games I would project the Angels to win, depending upon the percentage of 122 remaining games that Mike Trout plays the rest of the way:
Game-to-Game and World Series Projections
Prior to Tuesday’s games, FanGraphs playoff odds had the Angels at 16.6% to make the playoffs, 6.6% to win the AL West, and 0.8% to win the World Series. PECOTA projected the Angels’ playoff chances at 19.6%, with a 9.3% chance of winning their division, and a 1.9% chance of winning the World Series.
I would expect the Angels to lose about one-quarter win per week that Trout misses — or roughly one win per month, and I would reduce their playoff, divisional, and World Series odds downward by roughly one third, based upon the expected length of the IL stint.