Mike Trout is already an all-time great in his age-26 season
Surprise, surprise: Mike Trout is having yet another historically remarkable season. The Angels' center fielder is slashing a cool .316/.464/.615 with 33 dingers, 23 stolen bases and an AL-leading 114 walks. His current OPS of 1.080 is his career-best.
While we have grown accustomed to the greatness of Trout gracing our modern baseball world with MVP campaign after MVP campaign, we should not lose sight of the extent to which that greatness stands out in the broader landscape of baseball history. Still just 27 and only in his seventh full Major League season, Trout is essentially already a Hall of Famer. How is that even possible?
You certainly don't need advanced metrics to understand how good Trout's career has been thus far. His career line of .307/.416/.571 with 234 HR and 188 steals in 1,053 games speaks loudly enough. But no metric highlights the absurdity of Trout's accomplishments better than Wins Above Replacement, which seeks to pack both the offensive and defensive value of a player into one number. Trout's elite hitting prowess and dynamic defense in center field has produced WAR at a pace that we've essentially never seen before.
Trout currently sits at 63.4 career WAR. That is good for 6th among all active position players, which is completely insane. He sits comfortably ahead of multi-time All-Stars like Joe Mauer, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina -- players with several more big league seasons under their belt. Trout will soon pass Ichiro, who has 59.4 WAR and is a surefire lock for Cooperstown. He has played in 1,598 fewer games than Ichiro, and when Ichiro made his Major League debut in April 2001, Trout was finishing up 5th grade. Again: Trout is about to catch him.
Among the top 25 active position player WAR leaders, Trout is the only one under the age of 31. He made his debut at age 19 in 2011, so while we feel like we've been watching Trout play for a lifetime, he's still relatively young for the league. Trout is younger than rookie Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva. He is younger than fellow AL West outfielder and recent breakout star Mitch Haniger. He is less than a year older than 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge.
But why bother comparing Trout to his mere mortal modern-day counterparts? A glance at the all-time career WAR leaderboards indicates that Trout -- again, still only 27 years old -- has already passed the career marks of 68 Hall of Fame position players, including Willie Stargell, Kirby Puckett, Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice. (Click on the graphic below to enlarge it.)
The chart above hypothesizes the next Hall of Famers to be surpassed by Trout, who currently leads the league with 9.2 WAR through his first 127 games of 2018.
But really, why bother comparing Trout to just any old Hall of Famers? At this point, he stacks up strictly with the very best of all time. As of Sept. 14, no player has accrued more WAR through their age-26 seasons than Trout. He's tied with Ty Cobb (63.4) and has surpassed Mickey Mantle (61.4). When Trout was a top prospect, the Mantle comparisons seemed reckless, if not downright irresponsible. Fast forward to today, and they might seem reckless the other way around.
We can no longer be surprised by Trout's shockingly realistic march towards G.O.A.T. status -- we can only appreciate and applaud it.