Trout in familiar spot atop WAR charts

Angels star continues to thrive in two-strike situations

Trout in familiar spot atop WAR charts

ARLINGTON -- Baseball's 2016 season is more than a quarter old. And while Trevor Story, Bryce Harper and David Ortiz have traded places grabbing the national attention over the first seven weeks, Mike Trout is the one who once again leads position players in Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs.

It is a rite of spring.

"I really believe that every year, every game, every day, he is looking to be better," Angels bench coach Dino Ebel said. "There's never a day, for me, that goes by and he's like, 'Hey, I'm Mike Trout. I'm just showing up and playing tonight.' No. It's, 'I have to do something today to help my team win; I have to get better in this category.' That's who he is. That's what I'm seeing."

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Trout's 3.1 fWAR on Tuesday trailed only Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, with a score of 3.8. Trout is on pace for an 11.2 mark that would represent a career high.

The 24-year-old center fielder began the season with five hits in his first 27 at-bats, and has since posted a 1.048 OPS over a 37-game stretch. He began Tuesday's game with a .325 batting average, sporting an American League-best .413 on-base percentage and slugging .568.

He's on pace for 36 home runs, 112 RBIs and 18 stolen bases, and he sports an otherworldly 1.067 OPS on 0-2 counts -- nearly three times greater than the Major League average in those situations.

"I'm just comfortable hitting there," Trout said of facing two-strike counts. "I don't mind it. I do it a lot."

Since his first full season in 2012, Trout has registered 1,594 plate appearances with two-strike counts, by far the most in the Major Leagues. Hitting with two strikes is extremely difficult in the Major Leagues, even for someone like Trout. But his OPS has increased in that situation each of the last four years, from .676 to .729 to .746 to, this year, .849.

Asked what sticks out about Trout this season, Ebel, who has been coaching Angels outfielders for the past 11 years, noted Trout's calmness, saying he's "more ready for the moment, where maybe earlier in his career he was a little antsy."

It's evident on two-strike counts.

"I'm just trying to get a pitch, not try to do too much with it," said Trout, who has led AL position players in fWAR each of the last four years. "It calms me down a little bit. Just try to make good contact as opposed to swinging so hard."

Worth noting

• Right-handed relievers Al Alburquerque and A.J. Achter each cleared waivers and accepted an outright to Triple-A, allowing the Angels to preserve some bullpen depth. Alburquerque and Achter were both designated for assignment over the weekend.

Andrelton Simmons, who underwent surgery on his left thumb May 10, has been swinging off a tee, fielding grounders and playing catch in Arizona. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Simmons is "still weeks away" from being activated off the disabled list.

• Diminutive second baseman Johnny Giavotella, listed at 5-foot-8, batted fifth for the third straight day on Tuesday. With others struggling, Scioscia wants someone batting behind Albert Pujols who can put the ball in play. Giavotella entered riding a 12-game hitting streak.

• Utility man Cliff Pennington (left hamstring) will play for Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Wednesday and Thursday, with hopes of being activated by Saturday. The Angels would then have to choose between keeping Gregorio Petit or Brendan Ryan on the roster.

• The Angels announced a multiyear partnership with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, making them the sole coffee provider at Angel Stadium. Their products will be available at all concession stands. Starting Friday, extra-inning games at Angel Stadium will give fans a free next-day iced or hot regular coffee at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations throughout Southern California if they bring a ticket stub.

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.