Mike Trout

MLB on Sling: Mike Trout Having Best Season of Career, Soon to Be Robbed of Another MVP

Mike Trout on Sunday went 0-for-5, an exceedingly rare happenstance for the best player in baseball. It was the first time he’d done so since September 7, 2015, and it just the 13th time in his storied career. To put that into context, consider that hit machine Jose Altuve has gone 0-for-5 29 times over the same span. And yet despite this evening of futility, Trout continues to lead the American League with a .457 OBP and a .699 SLG. He’s not just leading the league in these categories, he’s dominating — Altuve is second in OBP at .422, and Aaron Judge is second in SLG at .593.

But because Trout missed 39 games with a broken thumb, his counting stats don’t quite jump off the page. However, Trout at this juncture has played 79 games, essentially half a season, so if you were to simply double his season totals he would have career highs in hits (198), home runs (52), RBI (118), walks (124), total bases (388), and WAR (10.8). Regardless of how you feel about WAR, when a guy tops himself in all those categories, as well as BA, OBP, and SLG, you can be reasonably certain he’s playing the best baseball of his life.

Trout’s ability to return to form without missing a beat has also has him in position to maintain his streak of having the best career WAR for any player his age – at the end of each full season, Trout has had higher career WAR than anyone else every through that age, and if he can muster 1.9 WAR the rest of the way, he will again surpass Ty Cobb. He already has more WAR through age 25 than Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds combined.

Since his return from the injury, the Angels have gone 19-13, improving their record to 64-60 and elbowing their way into the Wild Card race, where they find themselves tied with the Minnesota Twins for the second spot and the right to face the New York Yankees. The postseason remains the lone black mark on Trout’s career, as he went 1-for-12 in his only playoff series, a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the 2014 Kansas City Royals.

But it even if Trout maintains his current pace, reaches 8.1 WAR on the season, stays ahead of Cobb, and gets the Angels into the playoffs, there’s almost no hope of him winning a third MVP award. Despite recent rumblings about Chris Sale’s chance of pulling off the Cy-MVP double play, the reality is that the MVP is Altuve’s to lose. Altuve is the best player on the best team, leads the league in hits, stolen bases, batting average, OPS+, total bases and WAR. Trout’s already lost two MVP races when he was clearly the best player in baseball, what’s one more? He’ll still have one more crack at Stan Musial’s record as the youngest ever 3-time MVP award winner.

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10pm ET on ESPN

Wednesday, Aug. 23

Texas Rangers vs Los Angeles Angels

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New York Mets vs Washington Nationals

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Kansas City Royals vs Cleveland Indians

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Seattle Mariners vs New York Yankees

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference