His name puts him on the “All-Fish Team” and he’s at the top of everyone’s list of the best players in baseball.
On April 26th of this year, Buster Olney excitedly tweeted a few stats about the ongoing achievements of Mike Trout, the Angels’ great center fielder. A few days later, Trout’s average reached .420.
More on Olney’s tweet later.
Mike Trout has spent 10 full seasons in Major League Baseball, all of them with the usually underperforming Los Angeles Angels. Because his team has made only one trip to the postseason in his career, it’s fairly uncommon to see Trout in a nationally televised game.
That’s why baseball fans around the country may not be familiar with his season and career stats unless they have checked in to watch annual MVP voting in November.
Nobody would argue that Trout isn’t great, but sometimes it’s good to have a reminder of just how amazing the 29-year-old center fielder truly is.
The perpetual MVP candidate
Mike Trout is a three-time American League MVP (more on that in a bit), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg:
He finished second in MVP voting four times!
In each of Trout’s nine full seasons (including 2020), he finished in the top five in AL MVP voting
He also took home Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season
In his rookie year, he was second in MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera, who likely won the award that year because he achieved the first Triple Crown in 35 years.
Mike Trout’s three MVP seasons were pretty impressive as well. Take a look:
Did you know?
Mike Trout is the youngest player ever to have 200+ steals and 250+ home runs.
Some people say there is no player in the history of baseball who is a close comparison for Mike Trout. Some of that has to do with how the game has changed—for instance, Trout steals more bases than most outfielders did in the ’40s and ’50s. But there are also more aspects to Trout’s overall greatness, including baserunning, defensive statistics and advanced stats, that simply weren’t around back then.
The Mickey Mantle comparison
Because he plays the same position, Trout often gets compared to the great Yankee center fielder Mickey Mantle. In the ongoing discussion of greatest center fielders of all time, both players are ranked in the top five* and both started their Major League careers at age 19.
How does Trout stack up against Mantle? Their cumulative averages through their first eight seasons tell a tale of greatness:
FIRST EIGHT SEASONS: AVERAGES
Mantle comes out on top in most categories, including striking out far less than Trout, who struck out 200 times more than Mantle over their first full eight seasons
However, Trout also more than doubled Mantle’s stolen-base output—through age 26, Trout had stolen 186 bases; Mantle, 77
Note: Mantle played in the era of only 154 games in a season, and Trout played in a 60-game season in 2020.
Top Angel in the outfield
It’s fairly safe to say that Mike Trout will go down in history as the greatest Los Angeles Angel to have ever played the game.
At just 29 years old, Mike Trout is already the all-time home run leader in Angels’ franchise history. He also already ranks in the top five in Angels’ history in these categories:
extra base hits
runs batted in
Trout also ranks number one in team history for both on-base percentage and slugging. That means he’s the leader in on-base + slugging percentage (known as OPS) as well.
Will he become an all-time great?
There’s a statistic that was created to compare any current player to a Hall of Fame player who played many more seasons. It averages out two factors: the player’s value to the team over their top seven seasons (their “peak” seasons) and during their ongoing career.
Here’s where Mike Trout ranks against other HOF center fielders when you look at that stat*:
1. Willie Mays
2. Ty Cobb
3. Tris Speaker
4. Mickey Mantle
5. Mike Trout
6. Ken Griffey Jr.
7. Joe DiMaggio
It’s safe to say that Trout belongs in the conversation of greatest players of all time.
Between the lines
Back to Buster Olney, who tweeted on April 26th: “Mike Trout’s slash line in 2021: .393/.521/.804.”
A slash line, if you’re not sure, is a common way to express a hitter’s achievements these days. The three numbers represent batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. A great slash line would be .300/.400/.500, so you can see why Olney was so blown away by Trout’s numbers.
Here are the slash lines for Trout’s MVP seasons:
In times of WAR
Olney also tweeted this:
“(Trout) is about to pass Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount, Brooks Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Pete Rose in career WAR. Trout is 29 years old.”
WAR, which stands for “wins above replacement,” tells you how many more wins a player is a worth for his team when compared to an average replacement player.
Among active players, Mike Trout has the second-highest career WAR in baseball, behind only teammate Albert Pujols, who has played for 10 more seasons. With Pujols’s WAR sitting at an even 100 and Trout at fewer than 25 points behind, it’s safe to say that Trout will eclipse Pujols in the next five years.
With his greatness and power, isn’t Mike Trout the guy you want leading the charge for your team every season?
*For those who want an even deeper understanding of where Trout ranks among other center fielders, you need to know about the “JAWS” metric. Sabermetrician Jay Jaffe developed the Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS) as a way to compare any player against Hall of Fame–caliber players, finding the mean between WAR for their seven peak seasons and their career WAR. Because Trout has not played as many seasons as Mickey Mantle, for example, his WAR (which is a cumulative stat) would not be close to that of a player who has been playing at a high level for more seasons. This is why averaging peak years and total WAR gives you a sense of his excellence. To date, Mike Trout has a career 75.8 war. The WAR from his seven best seasons is 64.9. The average of those two numbers (the JAWS number) is 70.4, which ranks fifth among all center fielders in baseball history.
Resources: Halohangout.com/miketroutgreatplayer; espn.com; baseball-reference/miketrout;
howtheyplay.com/ A-Look-at-How-Mike-Trout-and-Mickey-Mantle-Compare; mlb.com/ mickey-mantle-willie-mays-or-mike-trout; medium.com/@JakenH/what-is-a-slash-line; cbssports.com/mlb/the-elite-300-400-500-slash