Mike Trout in Perspective

Trout sliding

With a few games left in the 2012 MLB season the conversation has centered on two things: the playoff race and the battle for post-season awards. While the other awards have generated some debate, it’s the American League MVP vote that has garnered the most attention. Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is attempting to become the first player in either league to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, while Angels outfielder Mike Trout is enjoying the best rookie campaign in baseball history.

Trout Cabrera

While old media types like The New York Times Bill Madden argue that Trout is only the favorite of  nerds and stat geeks, the fact is that Cabrera benefits from an overly romanticized view of the Triple Crown. There are legitimate arguments against using WAR (Wins Against Replacement) as the only statistic to measure player value (including flawed defensive metrics), but that is no less arbitrary than the three offensive statistics that baseball writers decided were important a century ago. WAR has become the go-to measure of player value, as it includes both offensive and defensive components to provide a sense of how valuable a player has been to his team. We acknowledge the brilliance of Cabrera’s 2012 season, but we don’t understand why he would win the award over the Angels phenomenal rookie.

Trout jumping

In order to give some perspective into how good Trout has been in 2012, we’ve compiled a list of statistics and accomplishments that argue in his favor.

  • Trout leads the league with 127 runs, 19 more than the next closest player.
  • He posted an OPS+ (offense plus slugging, adjusted for ballpark and league) of 167 to Cabrera’s 165.
  • Trout leads the league in stolen bases (48) while only being caught 4 times.
  • Trout’s WAR of 10.4 is nearly four wins more than Cabrera’s, at 6.6.
  • The best previous rookie WAR was 8.5  by the Phillies Dick Allen, in 1964.
  • The last rookie to post a WAR over 7 was Ichiro with 7.5 in 2001, at age 27.
  • The last player to lead the league with a WAR over 10 and not win the MVP was Alex Rodriguez, who posted a 10.1 in his final season in Seattle, but finished 3rd in the MVP voting.
  • The last player to post a league-leading WAR higher than Trout’s and not win the MVP was Willie Mays in 1964.
  • The last player to do so in the AL was Babe Ruth in 1927.
  • Trout’s 2012 WAR is the 24th highest all time. He is the youngest player to ever break 10.
  • Every player with a better single season WAR is in the Hall of Fame, except Barry Bonds.
  • Eliminating defense, Trout still has produced .9 more WAR than Cabrera.
  • The Angels were 7-14 at the time of Trout’s promotion and are currently 88-71.
  • Detroit is 86-73, and will only make the playoffs thanks to the awful AL Central.
  • The Angels were an astounding 24 games over .500 in games Trout appeared in (79-55) while the Tigers were only 11 games over .500 in games Cabrera appeared in  (84-73).

Trout hitting

The old writers who make up most of the BBWAA tend to overrate playoff appearances in their MVP vote, but it’s hard to argue that Detroit has been better than the Angels this season based on their record. When factoring in the teams’ records in their appearances, the difference becomes even more stark. When writers like CBS’s Scott Miller argue that Cabrera did more to carry his team the numbers clearly do not back him up. In what has been a surprising and exciting baseball season, there has been no more valuable player than Mike Trout.