In a year where headlines have been dominated by Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout has been flying under the radar. Last year Trout had a season for the ages, posting arguably the greatest all around season in MLB history to the tune of a 10.0 fWAR despite being robbed of the MVP award. This year he has not matched last year’s torrid pace, however he’s still performing at a level that would have him finishing with a 9.4 fWAR, unheard of for a player in his first two years in the league. In fact in some ways Trout has improved in his sophomore season, which has to be a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Despite a drop-off in BABIP and ISO, he’s managed to keep his wOBA and wRC+ on par with last year’s levels thanks in part to a drop in his K% (21.8 to 16.8) and an increase in his BB% (10.5 to 11.1). Part of the reason he’s been able to drop his strikeout rate is by lowering his SwStr% down to 6.3% (7.1% last year) and by making contact with 93% of the pitches he swings at inside of the strike zone and overall making contact with 83.8% of the pitches he swings at, both improvements from the previous season. Pitchers haven’t dramatically adjusted the way they approach him, throwing slightly less fastballs for a small uptick in sliders, changeups, and curveballs; whatever they’re doing, it hasn’t slowed him down much.
Trout actually got off to a slow start by his standards and has still managed to have an elite-caliber season thus far. This has been without the benefit of the world class defense that he displayed in the previous season as well as a lineup that provides him opportunities to pad his counting stats. Naturally the MLB is all about storylines and dollar-to-doughnuts Chris Davis finally putting it together or Miguel Cabrera defending the hollow achievement of a Triple Crown will suppress any news about Trout unless he quite literally lights the world on fire.
The real key here is that a player who is barely old enough to drink is on pace for not only a plaque in the Hall of Fame but possibly the title of the greatest of all time. In the post-steroid era where gaudy counting stats are no longer carrying day and sabermetric evaluation is beginning to take hold, Trout is king.