Birthdays are always cause for celebration, and when you’re already an all-time great player and on track to join the upper elite echelon, there’s even more to celebrate. Today is Mike Trout’s birthday. He’s turning 28. That’s right, he’s only 28. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, given how much
Birthdays are always cause for celebration, and when you’re already an all-time great player and on track to join the upper elite echelon, there’s even more to celebrate. Today is
He’s won two AL MVP awards and finished in the top two of voting in every full season of his career except 2017, when he played in just 114 games … and still finished fourth. His seven straight seasons finishing in at least the top five is tied for the longest such streak since the BBWAA began voting for MVP in 1931, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and Trout’s streak is the longest such streak to begin with a player’s rookie campaign.
His accumulated stats rank in the top 10 in a number of categories before a player’s 28th birthday on record (since 1908), including home runs, total bases, extra-base hits and walks. But the place where he leads the way? The all-encompassing Baseball-Reference WAR. That incorporates his defense, considers his offense as more than just totals and adds in baserunning, too.
Where he is now
In that category, he leads the way. Trout already has 71.7 career WAR. That’s more than any other position player in Major League history through his age-27 season. And he’s still got a little under two months to add to it, because 2019 is his age-27 season (age-season is determined by a player’s age as of June 30).
Trout is just 0.3 WAR away from passing Rafael Palmeiro on the all-time list for position players. Palmeiro is a member of both the 3,000-hit and 500-home run clubs.
Trout entered 2019 with 64.2 career WAR. En route to his current 71.7 mark, he’s passed 27 (his uniform number) Hall of Famers, including Barry Larkin, Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, Andre Dawson and Willie McCovey.
Trout is on pace to finish 2019 with 10.7 WAR, which would be his most in any season of his career. That would put him at 74.9 career WAR, which would rank 50th all-time among position players. Between 71.7 and 74.9, he would pass another seven Hall of Famers, including Jim Thome and Frank Thomas, plus a player not yet in the Hall of Fame but sure to be in Derek Jeter.
What comes next
If Trout continues at his 2012-18 average of 9.1 WAR per season, he’ll likely find himself around 82 WAR by his next birthday, before he turns 29. Eighty-two WAR on the dot would be 36th all-time among position players, past another 11 Hall of Famers from 74.9 to 82.
Some of the names on that list that he may pass before he turns 29? Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson and Rod Carew. If Trout puts up 9.1 WAR next season, he’d find himself past Ken Griffey Jr., at 83.8 WAR, by the end of the season.
Most career WAR, position players, Nos 35-49
35) Ken Griffey Jr.: 83.8
36) Rod Carew: 81.3
37) Charlie Gehringer: 80.7
38) Jeff Bagwell: 79.9
39) Dan Brouthers: 79.8
40) Pete Rose: 79.7
41) Brooks Robinson: 78.4
42) Joe DiMaggio: 78.1
43) Robin Yount: 77.3
44) Ozzie Smith: 76.9
45) Paul Molitor: 75.7
46) Bill Dahlen: 75.4
47) Sam Crawford: 75.3
48) Johnny Bench: 75.2
49) Lou Whitaker: 75.1
Trout isn’t even 30 yet. He’s signed through 2030. He’s doing that thing again this year where he puts up a career-best year, in his eighth full season in the bigs. At his current WAR pace, he’s on track to be in the mid-90s in WAR by the end of 2021. That’s the season he will turn just 30 years old.
It’s great to look at what he’ll accumulate, but perhaps the most magic number is this one: Trout, at 60th among position players all-time in WAR, is already in a spot where almost everyone reaches the Hall of Fame.
Of the 59 other players with at least 71.7 WAR — Trout’s current mark — all but 10 of them are in the Hall of Fame. And there’s some sort of reason or footnote on why almost all of them aren’t in.
Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Derek Jeter have not been on a BBWAA ballot yet. Albert Pujols is still active. Larry Walker is on the ballot and has seen his percentage rise — he was at 54.6% in 2019, his ninth and penultimate year on the ballot. Lou Whitaker fell off the ballot after one year in 2001.
One other, Bill Dahlen debuted before 1900 — a whole different set of considerations entirely.
And the only others ahead of Trout in position-player WAR who are not in the Hall of Fame? Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro.
This isn’t a “would he be in the Hall of Fame tomorrow, if on the ballot?” kind of discussion. But the player whose Players’ Weekend jersey says ‘Kiiiid’ is just 28 — and has already compiled Hall of Fame numbers.