Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are easily the two most polarizing figures in MLB. Both are very young superstars, and both are the center of their franchise. Therefore, what would happen if the two switched teams for a season?
The argument of who is better, Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, used to be a lot closer than it currently is. After an outstanding 2015, many believed Bryce Harper was finally catching Trout’s ability, and would soon pass. However, 2016 saw a huge drop off for Harper, meanwhile Mike Trout remained the phenom he has shown that he is.
In 2015, Harper became the first person to overthrow Trout atop Fangraphs WAR statistic since 2012. Harper posted a 9.5 mark to Trout’s 9.0 with more home runs, runs batted in, runs, and a higher batting average. Really the only thing that Trout was superior in was fielding and stolen bases, but besides that Harper out-performed Trout. Now, Harper didn’t perform at the same level that Trout did – yes, Harper is still very young so we cannot dismiss him as a failure. However, Trout has proven to be more consistently dominant.
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I personally believe that Harper has the higher ceiling, it’s just maintaining that ceiling that has been the problem. Trout has shown that ability to play at his best, despite the fact he plays on a lackluster team. I do think that Kole Calhoun does help Trout out a bunch, but the same can be said for the guys batting in front of Harper.
This all leads to the question: what would happen if Mike Trout and Bryce Harper switched teams? Would they do better as individuals, or worse, and how would the teams fare? To answer this question, we are performing another MLB: The Show simulation. We are using the most up to date rosters, full of free agency signings and the most recent trades. Therefore, the Angels have Cameron Maybin and company, and the Nationals have Adam Eaton and such.
Using a video game as a basis to tell us who is more valuable is obviously absurd, however it does give us our best alternative to real life if this situation were to occur. So, I simulated a season on MLB: The Show, and the results that occurred may surprise you.
In all honesty, I was surprised with how this simulation played out. It should be noted that Trout is rated higher than Harper, 99 rated to Harper’s 97. Outside of power and arm strength, Trout leads Harper in nearly every attribute. However, Harper did produce the better numbers.
Bryce Harper on the Angels was an AL all-star and Silver Slugger. Those were his only accolades, but his numbers did the talking. Harper batted .315 with 48 home runs, 111 runs batted in, and 10 stolen bases. Harper walked 119 times to a low 103 strike outs, and according to the game had a 6.33 WAR. The manner in which the game values WAR is far different from Fangraphs, hence the huge drop off.
These numbers were good enough for some nice rankings for Harper. In the American League Harper ranked 3rd in batting average, 1st in home runs, 4th in runs batted in, 2nd in runs, and 8th in WAR of batters.
Mike Trout put up good numbers, but numbers that weren’t great for him. Trout was also an all-star and Silver Slugger, along with a Gold Glove award. Trout batted .296 with 34 home runs, 98 runs batted in, and 12 stolen bases. He was issued 70 walks to a staggering 165 strike outs, and put together an 8.48 WAR. The reason for such a high WAR is likely due to Trout’s outstanding fielding greatly boosting his production.
Trout managed to rank 17th in batting average, 5th in home runs, 5th in runs batted in, 7th in runs, and 2nd in WAR out of all NL batters.
How did the teams do? Well, they did how you expect they would. The Angels, with Harper, still missed the playoffs. They were 8 games behind the second Wild Card selection with a record of 85-77. Yes, this record is significantly better than last season, but this Angels team played with new additions and couldn’t get further hurt.
As for the Nationals. they went 90-72 and won their division. This record is actually worse than it was last season, and surprised me because they are a better all-around team. In the playoffs they got swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division round, where Mike Trout batted .333 with one home run and 2 runs batted in.
Well there you have it, that is a somewhat realistic outlook on what would occur if the superstars swapped ball clubs. They are both polarizing figures, and honestly are both once in a life time talents. Swapping the two wouldn’t necassirly benefit or hurt either side, as they both bring excellence to the table (assuming Harper plays like 2015 Harper). Many on a team where he has to carry the load Harper will perform better, like the case in 2015. Also, maybe on a team where he can relax a little Trout’s numbers would slightly decrease.