It was Mike Trout’s birthday Wednesday night and for the second straight year he hit a home run to celebrate. Trout is now a whopping 22 years old.
A year after he put up an historic season where he finished second in American League MVP voting to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Trout has been even better, by a noticeable margin. In 2012 he finished with a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value of 10.9 — the 21st best single-season total in baseball history.
Here’s the crazy part, Trout seems poised to blow past his totals across the board in 2013. A year ago he finished with a .326/.399/.564 line with 30 homers and 83 RBIs after getting called up to the Angels in late April. This season he’s at .333/.424/.580 with 20 homers and 70 RBIs. Trout is one of three players along with Cabrera and Chris Davis with an OPS north of 1.000. His post-All-Star Break line is a eye-catching .394/.544/.667.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, what with natural progression and all. Still, the mind starts to wonder just how good Trout will be when it’s all said and done a 15-20 years down the road. He could easily end up as the first post-steroid era immortal, or at least one guy we can assume was clean all his career even if he did show up to Spring Training this year bulked up.
Perhaps the best indicator of Trout’s growth is he’s already accumulated 67 base on balls, which both leads the American League and matches his total from his sterling 2012 campaign.
In short, whether you write for the Baseball Prospectus or happen to be Hawk Harrelson we can all agree Trout just might be pretty good at this baseball thing.
Of course if we extrapolate this further, it likely means another old-school/new-school debate when awards are handed out. Chances are we’ll have a repeat of the Cabrera/Trout argument. Cabrera won’t defend his Triple Crown, but has still amassed 33 home runs with 102 RBIs along wit a .359/.453/.668 line, although oddly enough the Tigers are 7-1 in games he hasn’t played.
Anyways, let’s hope the torches and pitch forks are where everybody left them last year.
What’s funny is the writers voting had no problem awarding the 2010 Cy Young to Felix Hernandez with a 13-12 record, but for MVPs and the offensive stats used to measure batters there is still a large schism. Maybe it’s the dynamic of the awards. The Cy Young goes to the best pitcher independent of team performance, unlike the MVP in many instances.
Anticipate baseball writers, pundits, analysts, twitter-ers, armchair lefty specialists, etc. coming up with their own, personal and specific definition of “most valuable” and how that applies to Trout on a team that’s 51-62 and 13 games out of a playoff spot. Fun closing fact, the 2013 Angels trotted out on Opening Day the top WAR finisher in 2009 (Albert Pujols), 2010 (Josh Hamilton) and 2012 (Trout), and yet were out of contention seemingly by the end of April.