Just when it appeared clear that Mike Trout, the best player in baseball for five years running, was playing at a new and somehow even better level in 2017, Trout tore the UCL in his left thumb sliding into second base on Sunday. Trout, with a 1.203 OPS in tow, hit the disabled list for the first time in his Major League career and will undergo surgery to repair the torn ligament.
The most optimistic projections for Trout’s recovery would have the outfielder returning to action just after the All-Star Game, the first he’ll miss in his big-league tenure. Trout tends to reward the most optimistic projections, but this type of injury represents new territory for the 25-year-old, and it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be back before August.
Trout heads to the disabled list the Major League leader in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS+ and runs created while second in home runs and total bases despite missing six games earlier this month with a hamstring issue. He posted a 1.038 OPS in his last week before the injury, meaning Trout still has not produced an OPS of .988 or less in a calendar week this season.
Trout, in short, has been phenomenal this season, somehow outplaying even the impossible standard he set over his first five big-league campaigns. The smart bet in baseball is almost always against the unprecedented, but Trout spent the first two months of 2017 teasing the notion that he might be reaching single-season heights that, to borrow a phrase a friend used in a long-running text chain about Trout’s achievements, rank among “the anomalously good:” One of the best years in baseball history, on par with the best performances of Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.
Through the Angels’ first 53 games, Trout — despite missing those six games already –established a pace for 49 homers, 31 steals, 10.9 WAR, and a 1.203 OPS.
Now, sadly, the baseball world will need to wait to determine whether Trout was simply playing the best baseball of his life for those two months or whether he’s now playing the best baseball of anyone’s life. Trout looked inhuman in 2017, but now his season will be marred by injury, one of the pathetic trappings of humanity.