Mike Trout Should Win the MVP. But He Won’t

Well, the title of this article sure doesn’t leave much of the content up to the imagination, does it? I’m just getting right after the subject before you even open the page. Kinda rude of me, huh. But either way, you read the title, and you know what I’m writing about. So here we go.

Ever since Mike Trout played his first full Major League season in 2012, the American League MVP has become the most hotly contested and controversial award in baseball. So let’s quickly take a look at the recent history of the American League MVP.

2012: Miguel Cabrera becomes the first man to win the triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and was voted MVP in a landslide. The man he beat out? Trout, who posted a mind-boggling 10.8 WAR on the strength of other worldly defense and base running  – compared to Cabrera’s 7.2 WAR – and began the now unavoidable ‘old school vs new school’ debate.

2013: You thought we could escape the same scenario, didn’t you? Nope, we couldn’t. Trout put up another terrific all around season at 9.3 WAR, while Cabrera upped his 2012 numbers, posting a 1.078 OPS and a 7.3 WAR in only 148 games. Cabrera hit more home runs, drove in more runs, had a higher batting average, and his team won more games. You know what happened, Cabrera won again.

2014: Now, the thing that those two previous seasons included was Cabrera’s Tigers making consecutive ALCS’s. Trout’s Angels didn’t make the playoffs until this season, when they happened to lead the league in wins at 98. Trout put up his worst season to date, with career worsts in WAR, (a paltry 7.9), OPS, (.939…….just awful), and a career high strikeout total of 184, (okay, this one is actually pretty bad without my sarcasm). Trout won the MVP in a landslide because his team made the playoffs. MVP voting is stupid – we’ll get to that.

2015: It’s almost getting boring to see Mike Trout post 9 WAR seasons, as he did in 2015 at 9.4. Trout’s OPS was a career high .991, and everything was roses. But, alas, Trout’s Angels only won 85 games and missed the playoffs. Josh Donaldson, on the strength of 41 home runs and an 8.8 WAR, won the MVP. How many games did Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays win, you ask? 95, and a division title.

Is that another excuse to name someone other than Trout as the American League MVP? It sure is, let’s do it

That was all of the MVP voters talking right there. And by all of the MVP voters, I mean all of the old writers that still pay attention to batting average as the be all end all statistic and don’t vote Tim Raines into the HOF because he wasn’t as good as Rickey Henderson.

Those guys are the reason that this article isn’t a coronation of Mike Trout, and is instead a complaint as to why he hasn’t been truly recognized as the player he is.

They are the reason Mike Trout isn’t a 4 time American League MVP, soon to be 5; and it’s not like you really have to make an extreme case for him. Trout, in his first 5 seasons in the league – including this one – should have 5 MVP trophies to match.

But, he doesn’t, and he won’t win in 2016……..again.

Now, does Trout really need to win MVP upon MVP upon MVP for us to recognize his greatness? No, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he still deserves them, and has only gotten one when his teammates pulled together and made the playoffs.

Really, how stupid does it sound when you break that down? The best player in baseball can only win baseball’s most prestigious individual award when he plays on a team good enough to qualify for the postseason.

Now, the argument will obviously be made that Mike Trout has not taken a meaningful at-bat since May because his team hasn’t been in playoff contention since the season opened. But, how exactly do you quantify that?

We could look at WPA, because that certainly factors in situations and the clutch factor. But, take a look at the top of the 2016 leaderboard and who do you see? Mike Trout, leading the way with a 5.93 WPA, more than a full point above the next highest number of Josh Donaldson’s 4.66.

Well okay, so that didn’t work; Mike Trout foiled us again. But what about looking at RE24? This statistic measures the impact that a player has on his team’s run expectancy relative to league average.

Again, Trout’s 68.29 number leads the league by 15 points over second place David Ortiz. In context, the gap between Trout and Ortiz is the same as the gap between Ortiz and tenth place Brian Dozier.

What if we looked at REW? Taking the impact that a player has on his team’s run expectancy and converting it into wins instead of runs. Surely Trout can’t lead the league in another category…can he?

Yeah, he can, and his margins just keep becoming more and more dominant. Trout sits on top of the American League with a 7.57 REW, nearly 2 and a half full wins ahead of second place David Ortiz. Again, for context, the gap between Trout and Ortiz is equivalent to the gap between Ortiz and 17th place Carlos Beltran.

It’s just getting pointless at this stage. Mike Trout passes literally every test. WAR? Yup, Trout leads all of baseball at 8.5 WAR, and second place Mookie Betts is a full win and a half behind him. Weighted Runs Created + ? You betcha, Trout sits at a Major League leading 170 WRC+, with only David Ortiz within shouting distance at 163 WRC+.

phLI – which measures the average leverage index of each plate appearance – is the only seemingly relevant statistic that you might be able to make a case against Mike Trout around. Theoretically, in a playoff chase, the leverage index of plate appearances would mean more, right?

Wrong, 9 of the top 10 players in this category play for the following teams: Twins, White Sox, Twins, Astros, Angels, White Sox, Athletics, Astros. Lot of playoff caliber teams all stacked up in there.

Mike Trout’s shunning by the BBWAA has been historic and disappointing. During his best seasons, he was ousted by players who played for playoff teams. During his worst season – which, for the record, was still a 7.9 WAR campaign – he was rewarded for his team winning 98 games.

Through an age 24 season, no player has ever had more WAR than Mike Trout. He should have 4 MVP awards, but he has 1. In 2016, he should win again, but he will not. And, again, the case will be the same as it has always been. Mike Trout’s teams don’t win, so neither should he.

That insinuation will never fail to disappoint me, and is the reason why I hope all of the old-school baseball writers who still adhere to this approach get phased out very quickly. Because Mike Trout should be winning MVP’s, but he isn’t.

Fix this.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

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Mike Trout Should Win the MVP. But He Won’t

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