I’m going to preface this by saying Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. However…
For the first time in his entire career, it seems like Mike Trout has some legitimate competition at the top of the MLB totem pole. And the competitor resides just an hour north, in Chavez Ravine.
Cody Bellinger, ladies and gentleman, is the first player in the past six years that has seemed even close to entering the realm of Trout’s ability.
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There have been others in the past that seemed like potential challengers. Mookie Betts the past two seasons in Boston, Jose Altuve in Houston, and even Bryce Harper (not really though) have had times where they’ve matched Trout’s abilities.
For the Dodgers throughout the years, their fans have seemingly tried crowning a new player ever season. First Yasiel Puig, then Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and Bellinger. All the others have regressed to their respective mean, but Bellinger is different.
So it’s been well-documented how insanely good Bellinger has been the first third of this season. His current slashline is .383/.469/.761, and he is leading the league in hits, runs, and RBI’s. He is leading the best team in baseball right now, and has completely revitalized his young career.
And in doing so, he has become the biggest threat to Mike Trout’s throne as the best player in baseball.
Is he already the best? At this current moment, yes. He’s been better than Trout so far this year. I’m quite publicly not a fan of the Dodgers, but when it comes to Bellinger and Walker Buehler, I have a soft spot.
However, he is not the best player in baseball…yet.
A few things go into this.
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First off, for someone to become the best in any sport, it takes sustained success over a 2-3 year period. Even though Kevin Durant has been a better player than LeBron James since 2017, people are just now starting to label him as the best in the league. Patrick Mahomes won NFL MVP last year, but if you ask 100 people who they want to lead their team on a game-winning drive between him and Tom Brady, a large majority of them will select Brady.
So for Bellinger, two months of playing out of his mind isn’t enough to surpass Trout as the best in baseball.
Furthermore, there’s context to these two months. Bellinger has amassed 5.2 WAR while Trout sits at 3.4. Even if we evened out the at-bats (Trout has about 20 less), Trout would still only have roughly 3.8 WAR.
So undeniably, Bellinger has been better this year (obviously). However, Trout has had one of the worst two-month period of his entire career, and has STILL been one of the best players in baseball and has his name in the MVP conversation.
Bellinger has played the best baseball of his life for two months and been worth 1.4 more WAR than Trout. Trout has played his worse baseball, Bellinger has played better than he probably ever will in a two-month period, and they still aren’t really all that different.
This isn’t a knock on Bellinger. He has completely changed his approach at the plate over one offseason, has tapped into the raw power he showed his rookie year, and is driving the ball better than anyone in the league. That being said, even if he’s the 2nd best player (or 3rd depending on how you feel about Christian Yelich) in the MLB, it’s still a distant second behind Trout.
Still though, Bellinger has posed a bigger threat than anyone before. If he keeps this level of play consistent throughout the season, it’ll be a serious topic of discussion throughout the offseason.