After watching anything for a prolonged period of time, it is inevitable that that thing, no matter how incredible, will become normalized and lose some of its luster. Our brains can be a bummer that way. Given that, it’s important to take a step back from time to time to re-instill some of that initial sense of wonder that can get lost along the way.
Enter Mike Trout.
A post about what kind of player Trout might be at age 40 would be a fun one, and it will probably be written eventually, but this isn’t it. Instead, this post dives briefly into the latest round number Trout has achieved in career value (i.e. 40 Wins Above Replacement) and attempts to put that number into a context that appropriately conveys his near-unprecedented greatness—that helps restore the sense of wonder.
First, the general awesomeness of the feat. When Trout hit the 40-WAR benchmark a few weeks back, he became one of just 322 position players in MLB history to reach the plateau, putting him among the top 2% of non-pitchers to ever play the game. If he were to retire this weekend, he would finish his career with more WAR than at least 16 Hall of Fame hitters and all but 23 active players.
Trout’s raw WAR total alone is worthy of awe, but it’s his precociousness that makes the feat truly spectacular. Of the 322 position players to get to 40 wins, Trout is now one of only three to do so before playing a single game in his age-25 season:
Seemingly not content to just be in such rarefied air, Trout is also getting there quicker than anyone else. He’s already surpassed A-Rod and Ken Griffey Jr. in through-age-24 value despite playing in 91 and 146 fewer games, respectively, and he’s likely to eclipse Mickey Mantle before the week is out despite the Mick’s 100-game headstart. If Trout can continue his absurd career pace of 7.9 WAR per 600 PA, he will have Ty Cobb in his sights by mid-September this year, a full 80 games ahead of the Georgia Peach.
Passing Cobb will also put Trout atop another WAR leaderboard, that of the most valuable position player in Angels franchise history. AFTER JUST FIVE SEASONS, Trout has already transcended the value of Tim Salmon‘s 14 years in Anaheim (40.5 WAR) and has now only Jim Fregosi‘s 11 years as a Halo (45.9 WAR) left to conquer. Barring disaster/injury, Trout will pass Fregosi late this season and then catch Chuck Finley (52.2 WAR) for the all-time franchise crown shortly after the 2017 All-Star break—i.e. a month before his 26th birthday.
The magnitude of everything Trout has done and is doing on the baseball diamond can be overwhelming almost to the point of incomprehension. Even the most highly regarded projection systems don’t know what to do with him, terminally underselling what he’ll do in any given season and spitting out comparable players (Mark McGwire, anyone?) that seem to have less in common with him every year. These things, along with the data outlined above, all point to a player who is on a singular path.
Trout isn’t quite into the realm of unprecedented success, but he is well on his way there. In the midst of a potentially lost Angels season, that should be more than enough reason to keep watching.