Over the last 8 years, one word has become the nightmare of all Major League pitchers, Trout. Selected in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Angels, Mike Trout made his MLB debut in 2011, but his run of dominance started in 2012. Here is a screenshot of his Baseball-Reference page, which has become so stacked statistically that it's basically taken on a life of its own.
The jokes about Trout are too obvious, and this one is my favorite, putting a jab at the Angels' division rivals.
Mike Trout just vibrates all on his own when he senses an off-speed pitch coming. No buzzer required.— Michael Baumann (@MichaelBaumann) January 16, 2020
It's quite clear that Trout is the best hitter in Major League Baseball, as he's near, or at the top of all major metrics, both traditional and sabermetric. As seen here in the Baseball-Reference screenshot, he's won 7 Silver Sluggers and 3 MVP's, and there's a lot of bold there too. He is one of ten men to have more than 3000 PA's since 1947 (Integration era) AND a career slash of .300/.400/.500 or better, and only one other guy on that list has a career OPS of 1.000 or better. In addition to Trout and this man, there is one other player since integration with a 1.000 OPS.
So this begs the question, are these really Mike Trout's peers? I'd argue that they're not for different reasons. Williams was a pure hitter, he didn't field super well, and he didn't run well, his job was to hit and hit some more, while Trout obviously is a five tool player. And when it comes to Bonds, his career OPS ballooned up to what it was because of his ungodly late career surge, which was aided by steroids. While Bonds was a phenomenal ballplayer even before his roids, there are three players that better compare to Trout.
Trout, Mays, Mantle, and Junior all played center field, which provides an easier comparison.
Starting with simple stats, each of these players' careers through 9 seasons looked like
The numbers that pop out are Trout and Mantle's OPS, Trout and Mays' stolen bases, and Trout's strikeouts. It's easy to tell that Trout is similar to these guys just based on the closeness of their stats, but that doesn't tell the full story. All of these players here have a similar amount of plate appearances so while it is a fair comparison to use just counting stats, there are better stats to use.
Mays and Mantle played in the exact same era, but in different leagues, Griffey and Trout played in completely different eras to each other and to Mays and Mantle, so it would be unreliable to solely focus on stats like OPS, which doesn't account for park and era factors. Luckily, there is something called the Plus Scale, which adjusts stats for era and park to make average 100 no matter what. Another neat thing about the Plus Scale is that somebody with a 123 OPS+ has an OPS 23% higher than league average, and somebody with a 89 OPS+ has an OPS that is 11% lower than league average. The Plus Scale accompanies many stats, most notably for us, OPS, K%, BB%, and wRC. The one stat out of these that is different is K%+. while on the other stats, higher is better, in K%+, higher indicates that you strike out more and thus have a higher strikeout rate, implying that a higher K%+ is actually worse. Fangraphs.com provides the best variety of + Scale Statistics, but they don't provide OPS+, so I'll be typing these out myself.
The main takeaways from these stats are that
They say a run saved with defense is just as good as a run earned on offense, and I couldn't agree more. The best stats to measure defense today are Ultimate Zone Rating, Defensive Runs Saved, and Outs Above Average, however, none of those three statistics are available for anybody but Trout, so we'll resort to Total Zone. Once again, Fangraphs contains the best Total Zone measurements, but for Trout, we'll use his Baseball Reference Total Zone because Fangraphs stopped calculating it
Mays and Griffey have numbers so outrageously high, that it makes Trout's year in-year out Gold Glove calibre defense look normal. While Mantle lags behind here like a truck in an Indycar race. The truth with that, is that Mantle had injury problems that took away much of his speed, which for his debut, was legendary, but he never recovered fully after multiple injuries. He was by no means a bad defender, but not to the level that Trout is, let alone Griffey and Mays, who are two of the greatest defenders of Center Field in the game's history.
When it comes to Mays, his most famous moment was on defense. Mays made "The Catch" in the 1954 World Series-robbing Vic Wertz of an extra base hit, and preventing Larry Doby from tagging and scoring from second in the Polo Grounds-one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.
WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement, is calculated differently by different sites, and is generally considered the best all-encompassing stat for determining a player's value. Trout's most famous statistic is his over 70 bWAR in just 8 full seasons, which makes him about as valuable as Derek Jeter-who played 20 seasons and got into the Hall of Fame with all but one vote on the first ballot-for his entire career.
So what WAR will we be looking at? We will be looking at both bWAR (and its' factors) and fWAR (and its' factors), so let's start with fWAR.
fWAR uses Batting Runs, Fielding Runs, and Base Runs to determine how many more wins a player contributes than a replacement level player
The easy takeaways from fWAR are that Trout is a far more valuable base runner than any of the other players and that Griffey's positional adjustment boosted him loads while Mantle's sunk him.
Next up is bWAR, which is divided into the same categories, Batting, Baserunning, Fielding, and an Adjustment. To avoid confusion, look only at the categories that say "Rbat, Rbaser, Rfield, Rpos, WAR, oWAR, and dWAR"
When It comes to WAR, nobody is more valuable than Trout. He's a Hall of Famer the moment that he steps on the field for his tenth season next year, but what has made him so special?
The greatest website in existence is a tie between SportsCastr and Tecmo Hole, but in second place, lives Baseball Savant. Baseball Savant is the home of Statcast on the internet. For those of you who don't know, Statcast is the next evolution in baseball statistics. Exit Velocity and Launch Angle help determine the Expected Stats on offense, and Spin Rate is an awesome tracker for pitchers. Unsurprisingly, Trout dominates the Statcast leaderboards, as shown here by many of his pertinent Statcast numbers being in the Top Percentiles of the league.
Another thing that Baseball Savant does is it has a register of the Statcast numbers AND video of every single pitch. This is where my stream comes in, here is a breakdown of a few awesome Mike Trout plate appearances and a look at Trout's Statcast hot zones.
When you're the best player in baseball, you're simply just able to do stuff that others can't, am I right...
Mike Trout is special, and in our time, he's unparalleled. We should be cherishing this man a lot more than we do. The Angels are sure to be an exciting team in 2020 with Trout, two way star Shohei Ohtani (who I might write something about soon), free agent signing Anthony Rendon, the vacuum Andrelton Simmons, and the rotten corpse of Albert Pujols being trotted out every day because his contract is too expensive to shed. But then again, maybe it's a good thing that Trout flies under the radar despite everybody knowing he's the best, maybe he wouldn't be the best if he knew he was being marketed like LeBron James or Tiger Woods. Point being is that we should appreciate Mike Trout for who he is, a baseball god, and nothing else.