Mike Trout on WAR

You won’t get Mike Trout to say he should win the Most Valuable Player award this year because his Wins Above Replacement total is higher than another player’s. But if you listen closely to him describing his game, you will hear the basic constructs for the argument that can be made in his favor. It’s a simple one.

Ask Mike Trout about the MVP award, as I did before Tuesday night’s game against the Athletics, and he shrugs: “It would be nice to have an MVP, but it’s just the way people look at it. For me, I take pride in my defense and baserunning, just trying to put pressure on their defense, either running that extra base or trying to cut down that ball in the gap.” By baserunning runs above average — a stat that includes stolen bases but also measures a player’s ability to take the extra base — Trout is fourth in the league this season. He’s one of four players in the top thirty in BsR that pairs that speed with real power, too.

It becomes a refrain. Offense is great, baserunning is big for the Angels’ outfielder, “but defense is even bigger.” Mike Trout is the fourth-best left fielder by UZR/150. Even with the numbers not liking his defense in as much this season, he adds value with his glove.

For a player that keeps the balls from the home runs he’s stolen, outfield defense is obviously important to him. Maybe the bad numbers in center are just a one-year blip — he doesn’t prepare any differently (“Just take some reps in left, some reps in center”) and it’s the position that he plays in his heart. “You get to run the outfield, you get priority over everybody,” he says, “center field is different… I like it more.” His work there last season was so superlative that he’s still the fifth-best qualified defensive center fielder in baseball since the start of 2012.

When Mike Trout gets in trouble, he gets a little pull happy. But even though pulling the ball can lead to more power, he’s not going to bite. “No, I’m not trying to change my approach, I’m going to stay up the middle.” Trout is fourth in baseball in combined pull plus opposite field percentage. Only Chris Davis has hit more home runs to center field (15 to his 14), which may not be surprising given Trout’s home runs the last two nights. Trout’s power doesn’t suffer much overall anyway — he’s got the 11th-best isolated power in the game this season — but going to all fields is how he does business.

That sort of approach (“Just trying to get line drives”) leads to a great batting average on balls in play if you follow the Joey Votto Theory of Baseball. So Mike Trout leads baseball, and second place Votto, with a .384 BABIP since the beginning of last season. He’s second in baseball in BABIP this year. That, along with the third-best walk rate in baseball this season, gives Trout the second-best on-base percentage in the game.

If you ask the player about the WAR or the MVP, you won’t get too far. But his philosophy about the game is clear: “I just go out there and take pride in my game and have some fun, do everything I can to help the team win.” It just so happens that when you take the sum of all those different parts, that sum looks like the most impressive in the game.



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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.


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FeslenR
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FeslenR

Mike Trout should win it, but….insert proper description here about those who vote for the awards.

Jason B
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Jason B

To be fair, a non-awful case can be made for Cabrera this year.

ReuschelCakes
Guest
ReuschelCakes

1. There is a higher repeat hurdle for MVP; especially where there are viable alternatives
2. No Triple Crown
3. Vote-sharing with KKKrush Davis
4. Trout’s oWAR spread to Cabrera is higher in 2013
5. Trout is moving up the 3 triple crown categories on a relative basis

I think there is a compelling argument to be made that Trout wins in 2013.

yolo
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yolo

the “KKKrush Davis” thing is confusing as hell and i don’t get if i should be offended or not

thirteenthirteen
Guest
thirteenthirteen

I don’t get it either, but why would YOU be offended? Are you Chris Davis?

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Well, thirteenthirteen, you may not be familiar with the acronym “KKK,” but quite a few of us are.

Sn0wman
Member
Sn0wman

I’m going to guess that was meant to refer to strikeouts rather than the KKK. I’d hope so, anyway.

thirteenthirteen
Guest
thirteenthirteen

Um, yeah, I know what the KKK is, super smarty pants. I just don’t see why you should be offended that someone else is implicated that Chris Davis is a racist. It’s an accusation against Chris Davis, not you.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

It’s not a reference to Chris Davis being a racist, it’s just a poorly thought out reference to Ks.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

But back to your original point:

“I think there is a compelling argument to be made that Trout wins in 2013.”

No. A compelling case that he *should* win? Absolutely. But that “Trout wins”? Zero chance. 0.0000000000%. I will be glad to wager any amount that you’re comfortable with.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

They are going to instead choose to, quite reasonably, recognize the best untainted offensive performance of the last 20 years?

(Barry Bonds’ 1992 season was 21 years ago)

BMarkham
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BMarkham

heh, I was going to say Albert Pujols says hi, but he’s even having a better season than any Pujols season. Wow. He’s only very marginally ahead of Pujols’ 2003 and 2008 seasons though.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Marginally ahead by wOBA. He’s well ahead by wRC+.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

I agree with your point (that Cabrera will win, and quite reasonably so) but I would be really careful trying to say definitively who is or is not clean. It’s a fool’s errand.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

I’m not saying that he’s clean, just that he hasn’t been tainted.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Cabrera has had 618 plate appearanes with a .347/.443/.653 slash and .461 wOBA and 195 wRC+.

In 1994, in 517 plate appearances, Frank Thomas had a .353/.487/.729 slash for a .499 wOBA and a wRC+ of 205.

Perhaps you don’t consider that a full season since it was only 113 games, but it was enough plate appearances for me to gauge the season. Also, as the most outspoken critic of steroids in his time, I am willing to consider his season “untainted.”

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

I guess I missed that one because I set it to 600+ appearances.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Unfortunately Fangraphs doesn’t have partial season wRC+ values, but seeing as how his first half line of .365/.458/.674 comes out to a 206 wRC+, I think his line of .359/.452/.678 after 113 games would be a 204 or a 205.

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