Why would the Angels want to move Mike Trout off center field?

It’s likely a simple matter of statistics. Catches like the one above have been the exception rather than the rule.

Over the last two seasons, Trout ranks 32nd in Defensive Runs Saved per 1,000 innings in center field. That’s out of the 35 players with the most innings played there in that time.

It goes back farther than that. Trout has posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved total in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five seasons.

Yes, he does have a 21-Runs Saved season to his credit … in 2012. Since then, he’s cost the Angels 24 runs with his defense, per our measures.

Trout doesn’t have any statistical strengths on defense anymore. He ranks a little below-average on shallow, medium, and deep fly balls over the last two seasons (though in Trout’s defense, he was slighly above-average on deep balls in his brief stint last season). That adds up.

And he ranks below-average in throwing. Since 2020, he’s allowed 42 of 61 runners to advance an extra base on balls he’s fielded. That’s a 69% advance rate allowed compared to an average rate of 54% for center fielders last season.

Getting back to Trout’s range, we have numbers that can show that Trout isn’t what he once was in center field. We can compare his 2020-21 out rates to those he had in 2018, his last season with a positive Defensive Runs Saved.

Depth 2018 2020-21
Shallow 58% 48% (88 plays)
Medium 87% 78% (99 plays)
Deep 82% 73% (67 plays)

Trout isn’t making high-value plays and has missed some balls he should have caught.

Over the last two seasons, he has 5 catches on balls that had an out probability of less than or equal to 30% and missed 14 plays on which the out probability was 70%.

Here ‘s one example of the latter:

Comparing ratios of other players with similar innings totals the last two seasons:

Plays Made/Missed by Out Probability (2020-21)

0-30% Plays Made >=70% Plays Missed
Mike Trout 5 14
Guillermo Heredia 6 6
Kike Hernandez 5 3

Worth pointing out: Trout has ranked last and next-to-last in the reaction component of Statcast’s Jump stat the last 2 seasons.

On average, he’s about 2 feet short of where he should be within the first 1.5 seconds of a ball being hit.

Trout’s potential replacement in center field, at least for the short term would be Brandon Marsh. He totaled -3 Runs Saved in 70 games there last season. Jo Adell’s experience in center field, both in the majors and minors, is minimal, though his elite speed could come in handy if they were to give him a try.

That neither player is necessarily a standout would be one reason to keep things as-is.

The other option the Angels would have if they don’t want to move Trout to left field is to tinker with his positioning. (Per Statcast) Trout played an average of 6 feet shallower at home in 2018 (318 feet) than he did in 2020 and 2021 (324 feet).

That would seem like the most logical outcome here given Trout’s reluctance to switch positions. What we seem to have here is a case of the numbers indicating one thing, but player comfort pointing in another direction. Such is the push-and-pull an MLB manager has to deal with both in trying to win and keep his players happy.

The Angels may move Trout around in the outfield – but only within the boundaries of his original position.