The Angels have Mike Trout, undoubtedly the greatest player in generations. The Angels finished below .500 for the third consecutive year. These two sentences shouldn’t both be true simultaneously, but incredibly, they are. They finished 80-82 this season, matching their 2017 record exactly. In fact, the only time Trout ever reached the postseason was 2014, and even then they were swept in the ALDS.
If the team can’t consistently reach the playoffs with the one and only Mike Trout, then there’s really no hope for them. If they could somehow clone Trout and his 9.8 fWAR, only then would they have a chance. In that sci-fi scenario, how many Trout clones would’ve gotten them into the postseason this year?
Before we get too deep into this, let’s lay down a few rules. First, playing time for additional Trouts has to come at the expense of other players. This impacts their projected win total with each duplicate. Second, they can’t all play center field, so the doppelgangers need to play elsewhere. We’ll fill in defensively where it makes the most sense. Third, increased wins for the Angels mean decreased wins from other teams, especially other AL West opponents, so their win-loss records will adjust accordingly. With Mike Trout #1, the AL West standings finished like this:
- Houston Astros 103-59
- Oakland A’s 97-65 (Wild Card)
- Seattle Mariners 89-73
- Los Angeles Angels 80-82
- Texas Rangers 67-95
Mike Trout #2
We start off with a pretty easy decision to put the second Trout in right field. Moving to an outfield corner is a transition nearly all center fielders make at some point in time, and the real-life Trout probably will transition in a few years. While this is a sensible defensive move, Angels regular right fielder Kole Calhoun had an awful season, hitting .208/.283/.369 with a 79 wRC+. He had a perfect 0.0 fWAR in just about the same amount of playing time as Trout, so this is a simple addition of ten wins for the Angels without any real subtraction.
The primary team that the Angels are chasing is Oakland, who earned the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The Angels actually took the season series against the A’s, 10-9. With a second Trout, we’ll assume one of their additional ten wins came at Oakland’s expense, as well as each of the other AL West teams. They still aren’t in the playoffs yet, but the standings now look like this:
- Houston Astros 102-60
- Oakland A’s 96-66 (Wild Card)
- Los Angeles Angels 90-72
- Seattle Mariners 88-74
- Texas Rangers 66-96
Mike Trout #3
With three Trouts, the logical choice is to put them all in the outfield, thereby making the third one a left fielder. This one stings a little bit, as he replaces Justin Upton. The Angels acquired Upton in a trade last year, then signed him to a five-year deal early in free agency. That move likely wouldn’t have happened with three Trouts in development, so in our thought experiment, Upton spends 2018 elsewhere. The addition of ten wins from another Trout is offset by the loss of Upton’s 3.1 fWAR season.
The good news is the Angels have won the second Wild Card spot! They’ll head to New York and take on the Yankees in a game that the real-life A’s lost, 7-2.
- Houston Astros 101-61
- Los Angeles Angels 97-65 (Wild Card)
- Oakland A’s 95-67
- Seattle Mariners 87-75
- Texas Rangers 65-97
All the same, we’ll continue the experiment to try and dethrone the Astros from atop the AL West.
Mike Trout #4
Now that we have an all Trout outfield, finding a defensive home becomes more difficult. Rather than teach Trout #4 how to play the infield, he’ll just DH instead. That means Shohei Ohtani is strictly a pitcher and Albert Pujols plays nearly all his games at first base. This requires win adjustments for several players. Without any defensive contributions whatsoever, this Trout is only worth nine wins instead of ten. He also comes at the expense of Ohtani’s bat, which was worth nearly three wins (2.8 fWAR). Pujols has to play twice as much defensively, which comes at the expense of Jefry Marte and Jose Fernandez. Altogether, we’ll estimate this subtracts another win.
In total, Trout #4 is worth a net gain of five wins. That’s a smaller gain than the other Trouts gave us, so we’ll only take division wins from the Mariners and Rangers this time. It’s still enough to crown them division champions. Since the cloning machine is already fired up, let’s keep going until the Angels have the best record in baseball.
- Los Angeles Angels 102-60
- Houston Astros 101-61 (Wild Card)
- Oakland A’s 95-67
- Seattle Mariners 86-76
- Texas Rangers 64-98
Mike Trout #5
The Orange County Register
Angels agree to buyout with Pujols
February 3, 2018
ANAHEIM- The Los Angeles Angels have reached a separation agreement with first baseman Albert Pujols. The 38-year-old first baseman was under contract for another four years and $114M through 2021.
Terms of the agreement were not released, but Pujols is no longer under contract with the organization. Whether he will continue his baseball career elsewhere is unclear.
“I’d like to thank the Angels organization, the coaches, my teammates, and especially the fans for all the support you have given me over the past six years,” said Pujols in a statement released to the press. “It’s been an honor to give you my best effort everyday. I will always consider myself an Angel.”
General Manager Billy Eppler thanked Pujols for his service in a press conference held at team headquarters. When asked who will play first base, he replied, “We’ve got a Mike Trout cloning machine that runs on solar power. Who knows who we’ll cut next!”
Owner Artie Moreno could not be reached for comment.
Trout would probably be a good first baseman, simply because he’s good at everything he does on a baseball field. Still with the combined loss of defensive prowess from playing a completely unnatural position, and the absence of Pujols (worth -0.2 fWAR), this Trout gains the Angels 8 wins.
Stepping back into the real world for a moment, the best record in baseball belongs to the Boston Red Sox at 108-54. They swept the season series against the Angels, 6-0. At this point in our experiment, the Angels have added 30 wins, 18 of which have come from the AL West. It’s fair to assume the Angels would’ve taken at least one game from Boston as well. Therefore, the five-Trout Angels are 110-52, while the zero-Trout Red Sox (unless Mookie Betts counts as a Trout) are 107-55. All hail the MLB regular season champion Los Angeles Angels!
For continuity’s sake, the
final five-Trout AL West standings are:
- Los Angeles Angels 110-52
- Houston Astros 100-62 (Wild Card)
- Oakland A’s 94-68
- Seattle Mariners 85-77
- Texas Rangers 63-99
-Daniel R. Epstein