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A New Era

Updated on November 17, 2014

The "WAR" Trout Started

Mike Trout’s start to his career is without a doubt one of the best baseball has ever seen. To put it in perspective, the 23 year old is coming off debatably his worst season yet, and that season that included a solid .287 batting average, 36 home runs, a league leading 111 RBIs and a league leading 115 runs scored. Not to mention, Trout won the MVP (unanimously) this season in only his third season of his career. How on Earth can I say that that’s his worst season? Mike Trout's overall numbers are about the same, but his batting average dropped slightly. In 2012 he was 2nd in MVP voting in his rookie season, and in 2013 he was also the MVP runner-up. We’ve seen a plethora of players have a strong rookie season (Trout also won Rookie of the Year in 2012) however, most player’s do not repeat their rookie season if it as tremendous as Trout’s. So far what Mike Trout has done has been utterly remarkable, but it’s not just the numbers he’s posting that are fascinating, Trout is changing what numbers matter to those involved with baseball.

Mike Trout is a five tool player. He has the speed off a leadoff hitter, stealing a league-leading 49 steals in his rookie season. His arm strength and fielding are superior too. Clearly he can hit for average and also power, from what we’ve witnessed throughout the early stages of his career. With all these attributes, it’s no surprise that he led the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2014. What is incredible though is that he also led all of baseball in WAR in both the 2012, 2013 AND 2014. When Mike Trout is in the game, the chances of the Angels winning is much higher than if he were not in the game.


Unlike Any Other

So what makes Mike Trout so much distinctive than any player before? Trout is transcending the way baseball front offices analyze and view the game today. In an era tainted with PED use and inflated numbers, Trout combines speed and power like Mantle or Mays did in the 1950’s. But that’s not all; Trout has changed what stats are important to baseball fans. When Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, Trout still almost won the MVP. The 6’2” centerfielder out of Millville, New Jersey received six of the 28 votes, even though Cabrera accomplished something that hasn’t been seen since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski).

MVP Race

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers closely edged out Trout for the MVP in 2012.
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers closely edged out Trout for the MVP in 2012. | Source

The Modern Analyst's Debate

The WAR versus traditional stats has become an ongoing struggle for baseball analysts. Saber metrics is becoming the norm, and Trout is ushering this era in quickly. Although Cabrera still won the 2012 MVP, the fact that Trout received any first places votes at all shows a shift in the thinking of today’s baseball experts. What Trout is doing isn’t completely unheard of, but it is rare. His presence is so powerful that he is changing the game, along with players like him (Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen, and Robinson Cano).

Saber Metrics in the Past

A good example of how WAR is more important stat than it ever has been is looking at Willie Mays in the 1960s. (Keep in mind WAR was not a known stat at the time, but we can still go back and look at what player’s WAR was in every season) In the 1960s, Willie Mays was the leader in WAR from 1962-1965, four consecutive years. In those four years, he won MVP only once, in 1965. In 1962, the say hey kid was second in MVP voting, but he was 5th and 6th in the other two years.

Even as recently as 2011 one can see a significantly different general opinion on WAR then what it is today. Ryan Braun won the National League MVP that year, but was 9th in the MLB in WAR.

Trout's Stats

Batting Average
Excluding Trout's 2011 season (He only played 40 games) the Angel's outfielder has put up phenomenal numbers.

Trout Changing the Game

Mike Trout did not necessarily win, MVP, but the fact that he was so close truly shows how much the game has changed. The budding outfielder certainly has a bright future ahead of him, and what he has accomplished already has been nothing less than astonishing. Saber metrics are relatively “young” but are rapidly taking hold for managers and scouts all throughout baseball. Watching the game evolve will undeniably be quite interesting in the coming years, and we have one person who deserves a lot of credit for that, the legend in the making: Mike Trout.

Saber Metrics Vs. Traditional Stats

How much do you value WAR and other saber metrics?

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