- Amidst an MLB season already off to an exciting start, it’s been surprisingly easy to overlook the simple fact that Mike Trout is still the best baseball player on the planet, and it’s not all that close.
- Trout hit a 524-foot home run on Wednesday night as a reminder to anyone who had forgotten about him and currently leads the majors in homers.
- What’s even more impressive is that Trout still seems to be getting better – already the best player in the sport, he still has plenty of room to improve before his peak.
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and he has been for some time.
Since being called up at to the majors at the age of 19, Trout has won two AL MVP awards and finished second three times. His only other year eligible for the award was last season when he finished a disappointing – for him – fourth.
Trout’s excellence is so high that many fans have almost become immune to it – like fish unaware of the water they swim in, we too can easily overlook the greatness that Trout plays with for 162 games a year.
Then he does something like this, and we are all forced to turn our attention to Trout’s greatness once again.
Mike Trout just hit a 524-foot home run. pic.twitter.com/TIuNJYrsOD
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) May 3, 2018
Above, you see Trout hitting a ball a whopping 524 feet for his Major League-leading 11th home run of the season. He’s currently on pace to hit 59 this season – for perspective, highly touted Yankees sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are both on pace to fall short of 40.
Most of the attention paid to the Angels this season so far has been to highlight the play of new two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who has rightfully been praised for both his power and the plate and his dominant putaway ability that could set him up to be one of the next generational pitchers.
But as Ohtani has generated headlines and captured the collective imagination of the baseball world, Trout has been plugging away, improving his game at the margins despite the fact that it’s difficult to think of what aspects of his five-tool game could need improving.
One place where it comes through clearly is in his eye at the plate and swing selection. As baseball statistician Ryan M. Spaeder points out, Trout has steadily improved at the plate, taking just 106 plate appearances to reach ten home runs this season – a career low by a reasonably dramatic degree.
#Angels Mike Trout plate appearances to 10 home runs:
2011 – 5 HR in 135 PA
2012 – 266
2013 – 214
2014 – 212
2015 – 152
2016 – 176
2017 – 143
2018 – 106
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) April 25, 2018
Additionally, Trout has continued his streak of essentially breaking WAR as a statistic. While WAR works as a good barometer to comparing players in different situations across the league, Trout has always stuck out as an anomaly.
Among active position players, Trout is seventh in career WAR. The six players that come above him – Pujols, Beltre, Cabrera, Cano, Utley, and Suzuki – have all had storied careers that have consisted of at least 14 seasons in the majors. Keep in mind; WAR is a counting statistic – Trout has put his name among theirs in just his seventh full season in the big leagues.
Trout’s WAR dominance is evident this year yet again, with him standing alone with 2.49 wins above replacement, almost 0.3 wins ahead of the player in second place. Players ranked 2nd-10th in WAR all fall between 2.2 and 1.98. By this metric – a metric specifically designed to be an all-around evaluation of what a player contributes to his team – Trout is on a level by himself.
The 2018 MLB season is still quite young, and the Angels still have plenty of work to do before they can claim the AL West title from the reigning World Series Champion Astros. But with whatever stories the season brings, remember the fact that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. And just in case you do forget, chances are he’ll send a 500-foot reminder in your direction sooner rather than later.
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