Mike Trout's 10th year in Major League Baseball is going to be by far his strangest.
As MLB gets ready to play a 60-game season, one big question is: What does this all mean for the best player in the sport?
First things first -- Trout playing 10 seasons will give him the baseline requirement for Hall of Fame eligibility, which is noteworthy considering he's on a surefire Hall of Fame path. After that, things get more complicated. A player with a chance to be one of the greatest of all time is about to play an unprecedented type of season in the middle of his prime.
Here's what the 60-game 2020 season means for Trout. One thing to note, it's possible that Trout doesn't play in all 60 games on the schedule, because he and his wife are expecting their first child in August. He could still accomplish quite a lot if he doesn't take the field in the maximum amount of games.
How absurd could his stat line look?
This is what the average 60-game span looks like for Trout (starting with his first full season in 2012):
.308 batting average / .424 on-base percentage / .588 slugging percentage / 1.012 OPS
15 home runs / 10 stolen bases / 38 RBI / 46 runs scored
And here's what FanGraphs' season projections think Trout will do in 2020:
.296 BA / .439 OBP / .614 SLG / 1.053 OPS
17 HR / 6 SB / 42 RBI / 46 R
If Trout puts up any version of those numbers in 2020, he'll be an American League MVP front-runner once again -- which is probably what you should expect, since in his eight full seasons he's won the award three times (including in 2019), been runner-up four times and placed fourth the other time.
But you're probably wondering what the best version of Trout can do in 60 games. Here are Trout's best career 60-game stretches in each category:
BA: .385 (June 25 - Sept. 6, 2013)
OBP: .511 (June 27 - Sept. 8, 2013)
SLG: .756 (May 30 - Aug. 10, 2019)
OPS: 1.217 (April 12 - June 18, 2018)
HR: 27 (multiple in 2019)
SB: 29 (multiple in 2012)
RBI: 62 (May 30 - Aug. 10, 2019)
R: 69 (multiple in 2012)
Fine, maybe he's not going to do all that in the same season. A fan can dream, though.
Will he be the greatest 28-year-old of all time?
Trout's 72.8 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, is the best for any position player through his age-27 season in MLB history. He's ahead of Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Rogers Hornsby and Alex Rodriguez.
If he got to play a full season in 2020, and was his usual Trout self, he'd probably keep his lead over Cobb and be the No. 1 28-year-old. But in 60 games? Sadly, it looks nearly impossible.
Cobb was great at 28 and ended up at 78.4 WAR. Trout needs to somehow amass 5.7 WAR in 60 games to top Cobb. That's pushing it, even for Trout.
Trout has averaged 9 WAR per season for his career -- a bananas MVP-level pace -- but if you shrink 162 games to 60, even a Troutian season works out to 3-4 WAR territory. That's where the 2020 projections have him, and it makes sense. If you looked at recent seasons' WAR leaderboards about 60 games in, you'd see the top players are right in that range. It's just not enough to beat Cobb.
But unexpected things can happen over shorter time frames. What if Trout is Peak Trout for 60 games this season?
Five-plus WAR would be a superman season. But there's a tiny chance. Cody Bellinger, for example, reached 5 WAR by the 60-game mark last year (when, you might remember, he was hitting .400 in the middle of May). More to the point: Trout has broken 5 WAR through 60 games himself, in 2018, when he was hitting .308/.443/.678 with 19 homers and an 1.121 OPS through the Angels' first 60 games.
Realistically, 28-year-old Trout is going to trail 28-year-old Cobb. But "highest WAR" isn't the same as "best player." You can put Trout up there with any of the legends around him.
Who's he going to pass on the all-time WAR leaderboard?
Still, "Which Hall of Famers will Trout pass this year?" is a fun annual game. Right now, nine seasons into his career, Trout ranks 86th on the all-time WAR leaderboard, right between Jim Thome and Larry Walker. He's already into Hall of Fame territory. Only more big names are up next.
A 3-4 WAR season (aka "Normal Trout") would put Trout around 76-77 WAR. At 76 WAR, he'd rank 75th all-time, ahead of Paul Molitor. He'd pass nine Hall of Famers: Thome, Pud Galvin, Frank Thomas, Paul Waner, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Sam Crawford, Old Hoss Radbourn and Molitor. At 77 WAR, he'd rank 71st all-time and jump over Ozzie Smith.
And if Trout puts together a super-MVP run to get to 5 WAR? At that point, the 78 WAR mark, he's in the top 70 all-time and looking down at Robin Yount.
What milestones could he reach?
Trout's closing in on one big round number: 300 home runs.
He has 285 right now, so he needs 15 to reach the milestone. Now that's doable. Over the past five years, Trout has averaged 16 home runs through the Angels' first 60 games of the season. On an individual level, he's reached 15 homers through 60 games played in four of the past five seasons.
In other words: Trout is going to push for the 300-homer club in 2020, and there's a good chance he gets there.
Only 10 players have hit 300 home runs by age 28: A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, Giancarlo Stanton, Andruw Jones and Juan Gonzalez. Trout could become No. 11 even with a short season. If he does, he and A-Rod would be the only two 28-year-olds ever with 300 home runs and 200 stolen bases.
Will he finally make it back to the playoffs?
The ever-present cloud hanging over the Angels is that Trout has only made the postseason once in his career, six seasons ago. Is this unconventional year going to be the year we see baseball's biggest superstar reappear on the postseason stage?
Based on roster, the 2020 Angels could be the best Angels team in a while. Trout and newly signed Anthony Rendon might be the best 1-2 combo in the Majors. The delayed start to the season has given Shohei Ohtani the time to recover from Tommy John surgery, and the two-way star is ready to jump back into a starting rotation that needs an ace. Top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are also waiting in the wings.
What's tough is their schedule. Playing only teams from the West divisions means the Angels are going to see a whole lot of the Astros, A's and Dodgers -- three 2019 playoff powerhouses who make up nearly half the Angels' schedule, 26 of 60 games (10 each against the Astros and A's, six against the Dodgers). FanGraphs' projected standings also have the NL West's Padres and D-backs as finishing over .500. Add them, and that's more than half the Halos' schedule.
Right now, FanGraphs' playoff odds give the Angels a good shot at a winning record, but only about a 28% chance of making the postseason -- 12% to win the division, 16% to be a Wild Card. But those are just projections. It's time for Trout and Co. to play the games.