How to Improve Upon Greatness. Starring: Mike Trout


Before the season, Fangraphs released it’s ZiPS projections. If you are unfamiliar with ZiPS, you can get info here. The rest of the class and I will carry on while you read and catch up. Go on, we’re not waiting this time.

Along with the release of the projections, fellow writer and nonsense connoisseur, MJ Lloyd, broke down the ZiPS projections as it pertained to the Angels back in January. If you didn’t read that, you should. ZiPS was waaaaay off on the kind of seasons that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton eventually had. They expected decline, but instead got free-fall. Mark Trumbo hit for the expected power, but his BABIP dragged down everything else. ZiPS projected that Ryan Madson would throw 42 innings this season.

/stifles laughter


/laughs uncontrollably

But the most curious, was the projection that ZiPS spit out with regards to yours, mine and my wife’s favorite player, Mike Trout. Cue the blockquote from MJ’s linked article above.

"Mike Trout: 29 HR, 47 SB, .282/.361/.507, .378 wOBA, 8.0 WAR:Why does ZiPS hate Mike Trout in 2013? Maybe we should start off by remembering that Trout basically put up a season that is impossible to have. He missed the first three weeks of the season and still put up what could end up being the best season of his professional career. So ZiPS is being conservative with the 21-year-old. A 61 point drop in Trout’s BABIP causes his slash line to dip and ZiPS projects fewer homer and steals."

Sheesh. Way to hate on the youngster, ZiPS. But, the jokes on Dan Szymborski. Trout’s BABIP is currently sitting at what should be considered a preposterous .391. Except, it isn’t that silly when you consider that last year he carried a BABIP of .388. They expected a 10% walk-rate. Currently, Trout is sporting a walk-rate of 13.9%. They expected a 20.7% strikeout-rate. Trout’s K-rate stands at 18.1%. And, after posting a 10.0 fWAR season in 2012, Trout was projected to post an 8.0 fWAR season in 2013. His current fWAR is 9.4.

Now, here’s the thing about that last one. 10.0 fWAR seasons are kind of rare. The aforementioned Albert Pujols has never had a 10-win season. And he is considered the greatest hitter of this generation. Well, he was, but then, Miguel Cabrera, who, incidentally, has also never had a 10-win season. Fangraphs stats go back to 1871. That’s 142 seasons. That’s thousands of baseball players. Thousands upon thousands. Only 50 times has a player registered a 10-win season.

Of those 50 times that a player has done that, nine of them belong to Babe Ruth. Six belong to Rogers Hornsby. Four belong to Willie Mays. It’s rarefied air, people. They just don’t happen all that regularly. And it’s even less common for a player to post back-to-back 10-win seasons. Along with those three players, only four others have managed to repeat a 10-win season the following year. Ty Cobb in 1910 and 1911, Ted Williams from 1941-1947 (Damnit, World War 2. So much damnit), Mickey Mantle in 1956 and 1957, Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004, Hornsby did it twice (’21-’22 and ’24-’25), Mays did it in 1964 and 1965 and the Babe did it four times between 1920 and 1931.

By my count, that is five Hall of Famers, and one player who may or may not get in depending on how voters feel about PED’s. Are you feeling the weight of Mike Trout’s greatness yet?

If Miguel Cabrera didn’t hit for so much damned power, we would be setting off alarms while dusting off a spot on Trout’s mantle for his first MVP award. As it stands, outside of fWAR, Trout ranks second (or third) in nearly every useful hitting metric available. And since the “but he plays better defense and isn’t a clog on the bases” angle didn’t work last year, don’t expect it to work this year either.

But, there is one thing that Trout is doing differently from last year that some voters used against him. And that was his performance down the stretch.

Last year, Trout became mortal as the calendar flipped from July to August to September. His OPS dropped from 1.259 in July to .866 in August before rebounding back up to .900 in September. Trout was good, but he wasn’t otherworldly down the stretch. In 2013? Well…

That’s ridiculous, y’all. Flat out stupid. His slash line for the second half of the season is .380/.515/.600. It seems like he gets on base every single night, and for 40 straight games earlier this season, he was. It’s just too bad that Miggy has been so much better offensively.

But, Cabrera has been paying hurt lately, and missed four of five games recently. Mike Trout has been playing everyday without missing a beat. Trout won’t catch Miggy in home runs and RBI totals which, although ridiculous, are kind of important to the typewriter-wielding writers of the BBWAA. But, Trout could catch him in OBP. He could catch him in batting average. It’s unlikely, but, it’s not impossible. Mike Trout has been on fire for two months, and shows no signs of slowing down. Meaning maybe, just maybe, he can push his case for MVP.

Granted, he does play for a third place team. And just like last year, writers will point to how well the Tigers did as a team to make it into the playoffs while the Angels squandered their chances in the AL West. But, if that is the argument that they want to go with again, I have two words for them. Andre Dawson. If he can win an MVP for a last place Cubs team in 1987, there’s no reason Trout can’t win one for a third place Angels team.