There's something of an old joke in baseball's badytical circles that goes like this:
"Q: How long should you wait for the season before it is not too early to see the Wins Above Replacement leaderboards?"
"R: When Mike Trout is on top of them."
The humor is obvious: when the best baseball player is at the top of the metric list that pretends to show the best baseball players, then maybe enough baseball has been played so you can try to understand something of WAR.
Friends, today is that day. It's only on April 8. The Trout Angels have played only about six percent of their season. But when you see the FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement leaderboards, you'll see the only name that matters above the list. The best player in the game is where you expect it to be.
2019 wins over replacement leaders, FanGraphs
1.2 – Trout, angels
1.1 – Tim Beckham, Mariners
1.0 – Cody Bellinger, Dodgers / Anthony Rendon, Nationals / Christian Yelich, Brewers
Now, the warnings here should be obvious, since a handful of teams have not yet had a game at home, that even Trout can not maintain a base percentage of .581 all year long, which FanGraphs has not had even with a defensive value, making it a measure of hitting, running base and position. It's very early.
Still, there are signs here. Trout homered five homers in four games. Beckham is a shortstop hitting .400 / .489 / .825. Bellinger, Rendon and Yelich are established stars who reach a combined average of .406 / .488 / .934. There is at least something in this.
That being the case, and because Trout is at his best at 27 years of age, and comes from his best batting season: his OB4 of .460 was a record in his career, and his .628 slugging basically He equaled the record of 2017, which leads to the best career brands in OPS, OPS + and wRC +, and as Literally Mike Trout is in this beginning, he can at least ask the question. You can ask: Will this be the year that ends up being the best of all time?
It is not an exaggeration to ask. Not with your history, and not with facts like this …
Since @ESPNStatsInfo: Mike Trout just had the third best OPS for a player in a four-game series. Babe Ruth No. 1 in 1921 (8-12, 6 HR, 6 BB) and Mickey Mantle No. 2 in 1962 (6-11, 5 HR, 6 BB). Oh, Ruth also started and won a game in her series!
– David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) April 8, 2019
… and this.
Barry Bonds set the OPS season record in 2004 at 1,422.
Through 10 games …
12 hits, 11 walks, 4 HR, 3 strikeouts
.429 / .590 / 1,000
11 hits, 11 walks, 5 HR, 3 strikeouts
.393 / .581 / 1,000
– Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) April 8, 2019
So, what do you need to do to get there?
A lot, really.
What is the best season of all time?
Conveniently, both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference share an agreement on what was the best season in Babe Ruth's history in 1923. (FanGraphs says 15 WAR, Baseball-Reference says 14.1) That year, Ruth hit .393 / .545 / .764 with 41 home runs, around 10 percent of the American League total, but his courage was driven by his defense, as he established his best performance in starts and outs, in addition to posting his second badists.
Ruth, according to FanGraphs, has the only four seasons of 13 WAR or more. Only 25 seasons have reached 11 WAR or more, and only three of them have arrived in the last four decades, all belonging to Barry Bonds. Trout's best rating was 10.2 WAR in 2013, but given what we know about how unimportant a tenth WAR really is, it essentially tied that mark in 2012, 2016 and 2018.
Now, if we really want to go crazy with & # 39; in the rhythm & # 39; – in the same entertaining but not in any realistic way that Bellinger is in the rhythm & # 39; for 97 home runs, we could see The Trout 1.2 WAR for every 10 rhythm games, make some quick calculations and create 19.2 WAR. If Trout keeps having one of his best weeks over and over again, he would have the best season ever, for a decent difference.
That, of course, is not going to happen. Instead, let's consider the first 10 games of the season as "cumulative." That is, let's give him those 1.2 WARs in 10 games, and let's just think about what could happen in the 152 remaining games. Let's start that season, which is not as crazy as it might sound; Remember, the Red Sox and the Cubs have not played in the local whites yet.
We do not know, obviously, how it is going to develop. We do not know what will suddenly improve from nowhere this year, just as he decided to improve his defense last year and then did. But we've already seen enough of Trout in his almost 5,000 plate appearances in his career to know what he's capable of.
Let's play a fun game of & # 39; what would happen if? & # 39; We will badume that he will participate in 150 games this year, because nobody plays 162. The funny thing here is that even the "worst result" of Trout will be really good.
What if he has his worst season?
The question is: Trout's "worst" season was in 2017. He finished fourth in his career in the American League MVP vote: what a disappointment! – when hitting & # 39; alone & # 39; .306 / .442 / .629 with 31 homers and, thanks to a defense below the standards, only 6.9 WAR. Of course, he did it in only 114 games, due to a thumb injury.
If we applied that rhythm to another 140 sets of trout, we would get: 8.5 WAR. Add that to your 1.2, and that's 9.7 WAR. It's unfair that it's so good.
What if it has its middle season?
The "average" season of Trout is a line of .307 / .417 / .576 and 9.2 WAR. Due to the year shortened by injuries, that's actually his pace in more than 140 games, so over the 1.2 WAR: 10.4 WAR.
What if he has his projected season?
It was projected that the trout would endure a season of WAR 8.6; The projections are notoriously conservative. That WAR per game in more than 140 additional games is 8.3 WAR, so over the current WAR 1.2, that's 9.5 WAR. That's dissappointing! However, the projections are not supposed to project historical greatness.
What if he has his best season?
His seasons of 2012 and 2013 were essentially tied in this respect, with 10.1 WAR and 10.2 WAR. Keep in mind that in the last half century, since the beginning of the divisional division in 1969, only seven men have reached that mark apart from Trout – Bonds (five times), Joe Morgan, Cal Ripken Jr., Mookie Betts, Buster Posey , Rickey Henderson and Alex Rodriguez, and only Bonds and Trout did it more than once.
We will take the rhythm of 2012, because he did it in only 139 games, after having spent the first month of the season in Triple-A. Conveniently, those are basically the 140 games we're looking for; add the 1.2 that is deposited, and that's 11.3 WAR.
What if he has a better season than the best?
That sounds crazy. Trout is already the best player that is not of the Bonds that you will see, and it is not fair to wait more.
Except … he has been giving more. His offensive performance has increased in each of the last five seasons. As we noted earlier, his defense improved last year. It is not unlikely that his best season has not been seen yet.
Trout's ridiculous start to 2019 biases this, but actually improved his wOBA a little each year of 2014-18.
2014 – .402
2015 – .415
2016 – .418
2017 – .437
2018 – .447 pic.twitter.com/lPq633vsR4
– Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) April 8, 2019
Now we're on the back of the math envelope, but if we take the WAR of 9.8 from last year, we increase its offensive enough to have a rate of 11 WAR, then add the 1.2 WAR, maybe we're looking at a 12 WAR season. It's crazy, historically good. Their still Not close enough to Ruth.
You may be saying now that the good start has not changed your expected results much, and that is true. (Do not forget also that your "hot start" had a different feeling before the Rangers came to town, when he was hitting & # 39; .294 / .480 / .412 without a homer in his first six games). It is difficult for some damage games to significantly change a full season projection. All this is in the WAR range of 9 to 11.
But above all, it's because this has been a nice few days for Trout, not an otherworldly value like when Kendrys Morales hit a home run in seven consecutive games last year. He maybe not always is good; He is not that far, either. He is very legitimately one of the best players in the history of the game. That's why you can even talk about "how can he match the powerful Ruth?" Without sounding ridiculous. They belong in the same sentence.
Mike Petriello is an badyst at MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.