Mike Trout dives into third base for a triple against the Texas Rangers. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)
Mike Trout is doing things a rookie big leaguer isn't supposed to be doing.
An All-Star at 20, he's putting up numbers that haven't been seen in baseball for decades.
According to the Angels, only one other player in major league history had as many hits (111), runs batted in (49) and stolen bases (31) as Trout in his first 77 games of a season:
Ty Cobb in 1911.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Trout is another thing that he isn't supposed to be doing: getting better.
A player's first season in the big leagues can often be a roller coaster of inconsistency. It's common for a player to fall into a rookie slump once scouts find a weakness and pitchers make the necessary adjustments.
Even Trout's teammates wondered aloud if a rookie could maintain the .350 batting average he had at the All-Star break.
That time has swiftly passed.
"Guys try to find holes, but Trout has the ability to put the barrel on the ball no matter where they throw it," said Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, who knows how intently pitchers work to break down an opposing hitter.
As a result, Trout's production in his third full month as an Angels starter isn't sinking; it's surging. His numbers in July are on pace to obliterate the ones he posted in May and June.
Facing teams that have now seen him a second and third time, Trout is the only player who ranks in the top five in the majors in hits, runs, home runs, stolen bases and batting average over the last 30 days.
"I try to stay on top of guys for what their holes are, including guys on our team," Wilson said. "Watching him, you just don't see any."
That's the prevailing opinion around baseball. Trout appears able to hit anything. Trout hit in 15 consecutive games earlier this month, a streak no first-year player had accomplished since Roy Hartsfield in 1950.
What's more, Trout is making the right in-game adjustments against the pitchers he faces. For example, his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) goes up with every plate appearance he makes in a game — .745 in his first, 1.108 in his second, then 1.323 and 1.474.
"For me, seeing the pitcher a second a third time has really been the key," Trout said Monday. "Because then I get to see what they've got, and anticipate how they're going to play me."
Last July, the Angels brought Trout up from the minors at age 19 and he hit only .163 before being sent back down. A month later, they brought him back and he surged, batting better than .300 for a stretch before slumping again toward the end of the year.
Because he had fewer than 130 at-bats last season, Trout is still considered a rookie.
What experience he took into this season has paid off.
"My confidence has definitely increased because I'm getting more at-bats [and] playing every day and just getting more comfortable," Trout said. "I'm feeling pretty good out there right now."
Teammates say Trout's patience at the plate this season shows a maturity beyond his years. He isn't afraid to wait for the right pitch. If it doesn't come, he'll happily take a walk, as he did during one plate appearance Sunday against Texas — on 12 pitches.
"He has such a good idea for what he needs to do each time up and the adjustments he makes at the plate and in the game," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "He asks questions of the veteran guys, and I can tell you as a veteran guy, that's what you need to do."
Trout has also shown a propensity to let his skills do his talking. On Wednesday, Kansas City Royals starter Luke Hochevar hit Trout with a pitch and was ejected when umpire Bob Davidson ruled it intentional. Trout just flipped his bat away and ran to first base, then, in his next at-bat, drilled a slider from Royals reliever Louis Coleman over the wall in left-center field for his 16th home run.
Since May 1, Trout leads all major league players with 110 hits, 73 runs and 144 times on base. But success hasn't changed his approach. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Trout is just as likely now to put in extra time working on every intricate detail of his game as he was when he arrived.
In the clubhouse, teammates note how he has been able to stay grounded, earning respect among veterans.
"You would think a 20-year-old would get a big head with all of the things people say about him," Wilson said. "He keeps an even keel. If I was that good at 20, my head wouldn't even fit into this clubhouse."
No big league player has ever finished the season with a .340 batting average, 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases — something within Trout's reach.
So is the American League most-valuable-player award, which would make him only the third rookie ever to claim it.
"He has the potential to do it," Scioscia said. "He's not playing over his head, that's for sure."
Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.