Mike Trout, your 2016 American League MVP
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball for the last several years, but has just one American League MVP award to show for it. This season, despite being the best player yet again, everyone wants to talk about all the other AL players that are deserving of the award. But what about Trout? Is “Trout fatigue” a real thing?
Let’s just go ahead and set this one straight from the start: Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. Not only that, but he’s put up the numbers that back this statement up. If you just sat down and looked at the stat sheets, you’d easily come away feeling confident that Trout is your American League MVP in 2016.
But it’s just not that simple. What about Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Altuve? Those guys are having great years, as well, and on playoff contenders, too. I think that’s where the idea of “Trout fatigue” comes from. It’s not so much that people are tired of talking about him as a deserving MVP–again, he’s only actually won the award once–but instead the idea of giving it to a player on an awful team.
Which is not a foreign concept. Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr., Andre Dawson, and Ernie Banks (twice) all won the MVP award on bad teams. You could argue that maybe there were other deserving players on great teams in those years, but in the case of Trout it’s hard to look past how great he’s been. He leads the American League with 8.6 WAR, according to Fangraphs, which is substantially higher than the second-best player (Betts, 7.1 WAR).
Here is how he stacks up in other key categories against the top-five American League players in WAR.
That’s difficult to argue against. In wOBA, Trout is actually second when you look at his ranking among all American League players. David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox designated hitter, comes in slightly ahead with a wOBA of .423 compared to Trout’s .417. The difference is nominal, whereas the difference in WAR is great–Trout leads the offense-only Ortiz in that category, 8.6 to 4.2.
But wOBA, while a good statistic, doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s weighted to more accurately represent the value of certain hits–after all, a single is nowhere near as valuable as a home run–but doesn’t take into account park factors.
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wRC+, on the other hand, does take park factors into account and is the superior statistic. It also might make Trout’s strongest argument (outside of WAR). Of all players in the American League, Trout comes in first with an utterly insane 170 wRC+–which is pretty consistent with the rest of his career, actually. Ortiz is number two at 164, and Donaldson and Altuve come in third at a distant 152.
There’s really just no way to spin this: Trout has been the best player in the American League.
Some might argue that the MVP is not an award for the “best player” but instead for the “most valuable player.” That’s pretty much just arguing semantics at this point, as the best player inherently has the most value. Trout’s 8.6 WAR, which gives him the largest gap between the player on the field and most readily available replacement.
The fact that his team is a complete dumpster fire only makes his majesty even more impressive, in my book. How often do we see players that go into extended slumps when playing for teams that aren’t contending? In the past, some have even admitted that the grind of a 162-game schedule can have a real effect on performance when the team is out of the playoff race. But Trout? He’s hitting for a .920 OPS in the month of September despite a team record of 6-10 in his 16 games.
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There’s no doubt, despite the talk of “Trout fatigue” and the idea of handing an MVP to a player on a woeful team, that Trout has been, and is now, the best player in Major League Baseball. Best player, most valuable, it doesn’t matter how you want to label him. Give that man the 2016 American League MVP award.