He may play for the division rival Angels, but Mike Trout is amazing. His all-time WAR of 60.7 is already better than 74 position players in the Hall of Fame. In a career filled with Louvre-worthy seasons, 2018 is becoming his Mona Lisa.
About three weeks ago, before George Hill and J.R. Smith smeared his work with graffiti, LeBron James was painting an NBA Finals masterpiece that instantly elevated his all-time status.
Already in the midst of his greatest postseason, James dropped 51 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists against a Warriors team that may go down as the best ever.
It was a performance that gripped even the most casual of sports fans. A performance that made four future Hall of Famers on the other team look like college kids. A performance put forth by … the second-most-dominant athlete in America.
LeBron fans don’t want to hear this, but the King’s crown lacks the luster of another man’s halo. Mariners fans don’t want to hear this either, but the country’s best sportsman plays for the team nearest them in the wild-card chase.
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Even if the average American wouldn’t recognize him if he walked by, Mike Trout’s deeds deserve the ultimate recognition. He isn’t just outclassing his peers, he’s on his way to outclassing anyone who’s ever played his sport.
Are you aware of how ridiculous Trout’s season has been so far? Do you realize he’s making even the ‘roided up version of Barry Bonds look like an also-ran?
Through 74 games, his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) — the all-encompassing stat used to determine a baseball player’s true value — is 6.5. If he maintains that pace throughout the year, he’ll finish with a WAR of 14.2, the best ever for a position player.
Yes, that would best Babe Ruth’s 14.1 WAR from 1923 (according to Baseball Reference), which is 1.2 more wins than his second-most productive year. It would clobber the 11.9 WAR Bonds posted during his 73 home-run season, which was once considered unsurpassable in the modern era.
Trout’s all-time WAR of 60.7 is already better than 74 position players in the Hall of Fame, not to mention Ichiro’s. But in a career filled with Louvre-worthy seasons, 2018 is becoming his Mona Lisa.
So far, the Angels center fielder leads Major League Baseball in home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158), total bases (177) and intentional walks (9). He has also stolen 13 bases while being caught just once, boasts a career-high .335 batting average, a career-best .682 slugging percentage, and has a 0.9 defensive WAR, which is on pace for his best yet.
Imagine LeBron averaging 42-12-12 on 62 percent shooting and you might have an NBA equivalent of what Trout is doing. The only reason he isn’t carrying the Angels (39-35) to the top of the standings is because his teammates can’t pass him the ball.
Perhaps that’s why the 26-year-old doesn’t have a brand resembling that of James or Tom Brady or even Tiger Woods. The nature of his sport doesn’t allow him to single-handedly lead his team to a title.
He can’t “take over” in the final three innings the way a quarterback can in the final quarter. The best he can do is take his turn.
But that shouldn’t distract from the transcendent dominance Trout has displayed over the past two and a half months. It shouldn’t detract from the fact that, in his past eight games, he has recorded just seven outs.
Currently, Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain leads the National League with a WAR of 3.7. If he goes on to win his league’s MVP, the metrics may still end up saying that Trout was twice as good as him this year.
It’s unlikely that those pulling for the M’s will be pulling too hard for Trout, but one can still appreciate greatness in a rival. And considering Trout recently homered four times in a three-game series Seattle swept, such appreciation may be easier than previously thought.
The fact is, baseball has quietly produced a player that might have more natural ability than any active athlete in the world. And that player is in the midst of a season that might go down as the greatest in baseball’s 100-year-plus history.
That’s a feat worth keeping an eye on and a treat worth enjoying. Trout may not be the biggest sports star in the country, but right now, he is the best.