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Angels' Mike Trout has tough act to follow — his own

Rookie outfielder put up so many impressive statistics that his challenge in the future will be to just play baseball and let the numbers fall where they may, Manager Mike Scioscia says.

October 03, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

SEATTLE -- When Torii Hunter reflects on Mike Trout's historic rookie season, it's not the .326 average, .399 on-base percentage, .564 slugging percentage, 30 home runs, 129 runs, 49 stolen bases, the highlight-reel catches and All-Star selection that jump out the most.

"It's how humble he is," Hunter said. "He never got caught up in the limelight. It's unbelievable. It's going to help him a lot in the future because he won't expect things from people, or expect somebody to say this about him. He's just going to work and have fun and treat people the way he wants to be treated."

Trout singled and doubled in the Angels' 12-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, putting the finishing touches on a prolific season that made the 21-year-old outfielder a lock to be selected American League rookie of the year and a front-runner with Detroit triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera for most valuable player.

Trout is the first major league player to hit 30 home runs, score 125 runs and steal 45 bases in a season and to hit .320 or above with 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases. Only Joe DiMaggio (132 in 1936) and Ted Williams (131 in 1939) scored more runs as rookies.

"I just go out there and have fun, try to do my thing every day, and whatever happens, happens," Trout said in his typical aw-shucks fashion. "Did I surprise myself? Yeah, maybe a little bit. I'm just going out there and playing."

Trout's value can be quantified by traditional statistics and the fact that the Angels were 6-14 when he was called up from triple A on April 28 and 83-59 since.

"We wouldn't have been in the position to even try to get a wild-card spot without him," Hunter said.

His value can also be quantified by a new statistic known as Wins Above Replacement, which measures a player's overall contribution, factoring in offense, defense and baserunning.

Trout leads the major leagues with a 10.7 WAR. Only three players posted a better WAR at age 25 or younger, Babe Ruth (11.6 in 1920), Lou Gehrig (11.5 in 1927) and Mickey Mantle (11.1 in 1957 and 11.0 in 1956).

Some distinguished company, for sure.

"I had no idea what WAR was, I just heard it for the first time this year," Trout said. "It's pretty crazy, all the statistics that can add up to being one and comparing me to others."

Trout could join Fred Lynn in 1975 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 as the only players to win MVP and rookie of the year in the same season. If he pulls off the rare double, it will raise the question: What does he do for an encore?

"I think his challenge is not to say, 'Hey, I hit 30 homers, I have to hit 40. I hit .325, I've got to hit .340. I scored 130 runs, I've got to score 150,' " Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has to play baseball and let the numbers fall where they do.

"Mike is not doing anything he's not capable of. He's playing to his potential at a very young age. His challenge will be consistency. He has the ability to do what he did this year for a long time, and that's what's exciting about him."

As great a season as he had, Trout said there's room for improvement. His strikeouts (139) were a little high, though they're a byproduct of working counts, and he wants to improve his reads, arm strength and accuracy in the outfield.

But if Trout can put up 2012-like numbers for years to come, "he'll probably be the greatest player who ever lived," Hunter said. "Can you get any higher than this? It's impressive what he's done."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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