Mike Trout is good. You probably already knew this. But how good exactly has he been since his call up in 2011?
Trout has emerged as the best player in baseball at the ripe age of 22. MVP award or not, he has outperformed everybody else in the league by a humongous margin since the beginning of 2012.
Trout has been worth 5.4 more WAR than McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP. Trout has been worth 6 WAR more than 2012 and 2013 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. In fact, if you look back to 2011, Trout is still the best player, even with 500 less plate appearances than the players around him.
This might put it into perspective just how good Mike Trout has been since his arrival at the big league level. Trout hasn’t just been a modern great, he’s been a historic great. Below is a table of the top 10 hitters all time according to wRC+.
See, even Trout can’t believe how good he has been.
Up to this point, Trout’s rate stats in his environment have been top 10 all time. Trout has still so young that a lot of outcomes can happen so this doesn’t mean Trout is already a better hitter than a guy like Pujols. Pujols has already hit his decline phase, which Trout will hit at some point. This is strictly comparing Trout at this stage in his career to some all time greats.
Here are the all of the position players to ever have multiple 10 WAR seasons: Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Mike Trout.
Stan Musial, Rickey Henderson and Jimmie Foxx each only had one 10 WAR season. Alex Rodriguez never had one. Albert Pujols hasn’t had one. Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey Jr. , Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson never had one.
Let that sink in. Trout has posted 2 seasons that were better than any that those players had. Trout’s blend of elite level hitting, elite base running, and great defense from a valuable position have made him an all time legend. If Trout continues this pace for a few more seasons, he’ll be in company with Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. If he regresses a bit, he’ll still be putting up all time great seasons.
One thing to remember regarding Trout: He’s playing in a low scoring run environment. Batting .300 today is like batting .330 in the steroid era. If your OPS is above .900 in today’s game, you’re really doing something right. Trout’s career .948 OPS is incredible in this environment. Factor in his base running and his great defense and it’s easy to see why he has been historically great.
Trout may have hit his peak already. Recent data has shown that position player today tend to peak at the early stages of their career, then start to decline. It’s also very possible that Trout just isn’t a normal ballplayer and may keep up his levels of production for a long time. If I had to guess, he will keep up near this production for 3-5 more years. In his late 20’s, his defense and base running will slip a bit but his offense will continue to be elite. In his 30’s, he will make a move from center field to left field to save his legs and maximize his offense.
Trout doesn’t have to get better to become an all time great. In fact, he can regress and still become an all time great. Lets make a hypothetical scenario of Trout’s WAR over the next 10 years. We’ll dock 0.5 WAR a season after 2014.
This would put Trout at 98.6 career WAR. This puts Trout at 22nd all time, right behind Joe Morgan and ahead of Eddie Mathews. Remember, this is a 10 year outlook so Trout would realistically have more seasons left in him.
Alright, that may be an optimistic outlook on Trout. That’s excluding any injuries, down years or a sharper decline. If you think that’s too optimistic, let’s say Trout declines to an 8 WAR player next year. We’ll dock 0.5 WAR a season just like above.
This would put Trout at 78.6 WAR, which would rank 39th all time. This may be the more reasonable outcome. I’m going to assume that Trout is a supernatural player and he’ll continue to produce like a monster for a few more years. Let’s find a median for these 2 scenarios and say Trout is at 88.6 career WAR at the age of 33. This would put Trout around 30th all time in WAR.
Now, we can assume Trout will still be productive in his mid-later 30’s. Lets say Trout is a league average player from age 34-37, then is replacement level in his last year or so. Trout would end up around 100-110 WAR, which would place him top 20 all time among position players.
I’m blessed to be able to watch Mike Trout play for my team. He’s on a path to all time superstardom, whether he keeps up at this pace or declines some. Angels fans have been treated to some letdown seasons the past few years but we’ve also been given the opportunity to watch an all time great develop right in front of our eyes. Don’t let this opportunity fly by Angels fans. This will be the best player to ever play for the Angels.
I’ll leave you with some 2013 Mike Trout highlights. I mean, who can’t get enough of watching these?