Los Angeles Angels: Unpopular Opinion – Mike Trout Is NOT the Best Player in Baseball
Since his arrival upon the MLB landscape, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has been often regarded as the best in baseball. However, this may not be the case.
Mike Trout is undeniably the face of baseball. The man seems to be able to do it all: rob home runs, steal bases, and crush the ball. While undoubtedly Trout has been one of baseball’s best since his arrival, he is no longer the best. Back in 2014 this argument would hold no merit as Trout crafted two historic seasons to begin his career. Since then, the strikeout rate has been alarmingly high, and his fielding isn’t actually as great as people perceive. However, to prove that Trout isn’t the best in baseball we must take it deeper, beyond pure statistics. This is today’s unpopular opinion: Mike Trout is not the best player in MLB.
Now, when arguing against Trout not many statistics are in my favor. He has led MLB in WAR since his arrival, and is in the top 10 in nearly every batting statistic. In order to merit any argument, the holes in his game must be showcased, and it must go deeper than just pure statistics.
First, Trout’s Achilles heel has always been his strikeout rate. Out of the WAR leaders since 2012, Mike Trout is the only player that has above a 20 percent strikeout rate within the top five, and only four other players join him in the top 20 (Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Evan Longoria, and Freddie Freeman). Personally, I think the best pure hitter in baseball would always put the ball in play, and work the count. Jose Altuve, another candidate for the AL MVP, hits the ball hard and only has a 10.2 percent strikeout rate.
Mike Trout 746
Wade Boggs 745
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 16, 2016
Another statistical disadvantage for Mike Trout has been his recent defensive numbers. Since 2014, Trout has posted a -5.6 Def statistic. This means that Trout statistically allows on average five more runs than the league average. According to FanGraphs, a -5.6 rating accounts for a player being “Below Average” in fielding. Another common misconception about Trout is his base running. Although he does present natural speed, Trout isn’t the league-leading stolen base king that people perceive. Since 2014, Trout ranks 21st in stolen bases, which is definitely great but doesn’t live up to the hype around him.
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The biggest counterpoint to everything I’ve said is the simply fact that Mike Trout has led MLB in WAR since he has stepped foot on the diamond. It’s hard to argue against a statistic that literally means wins above replacement. However, there are several impacts that cause this. He plays in a high impact position that generates a lot of potential. His team has a lackluster line up where he must carry the load in an already hitter-friendly ball park. He plays in a division that lacks quality pitching. These factors definitely have somewhat of an influence on his numbers.
Outside of Felix Hernandez, Trout can’t hit quality pitchers. Trout bats .067 against Justin Verlander, .091 against Gio Gonzalez, .143 against Jon Lester, and the list goes on and on. Perhaps in a great lineup where he doesn’t have to pick up the entire load, his numbers wouldn’t be so monstrous. Look at 2014 when the Angels led the league in wins. Although he won the MVP, that was Trout’s statistically WORST year. Perhaps if he had to face Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke in his division his numbers wouldn’t be so high. It’s impossible to tell until Trout himself finds his way out of Anaheim.
That poses the question: who is the best player in baseball? Myself, being biased would say Clayton Kershaw. Realistically, Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve, or Mookie Betts also all belong in the mix. While there is no doubt that Mike Trout is phenomenal, he has noticeable advantages making his job perhaps a bit easier. But hey, that’s just my unpopular opinion.