Michael Trout is the best player in the Major Leagues. With all due respect to Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and everyone else, this is a fact that's not really in dispute. Not yet 27 years old, he's put up a career that, if it ended today, would already warrant inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
If there's any argument against Trout, it usually goes like this: He's never won a playoff game. The Angels are on track to miss the postseason for the sixth time during Trout's seven full seasons, and they were swept by the Royals in the 2014 American League Division Series. This is, of course, not his fault. Trout doesn't pitch. He doesn't choose the rest of the lineup. This isn't the NBA, where one LeBron James can mean an instant playoff run.
In fact, the mere reality that the 41-39 Angels are above .500 and in contention for an AL Wild Card spot, in a season where the three best teams in the game reside in the AL, is yet another credit to the performance we're seeing. This year, Trout isn't just the best player on his team, or in the league, or in the game. He's carrying the load in a way we haven't seen on a winning team in nearly five decades.
How can we show that? For that, we'll turn to Wins Above Replacement. WAR, as it's known, is not a perfect stat and is not intended to be, but it's the best tool we've got right now to measure a player's all-around game. (Teams with high WAR totals are very highly correlated with teams that have high win totals.)
For hitters, it takes into account the number of runs that a player contributes at the plate, on the bases and in the field, and it adjusts it for positional difficulty. That's how we can say that Matt Chapman (.250/.346/.447) and Eddie Rosario (.315/.353/.573) have been similarly valuable this year (3.8 WAR), because Chapman contributes elite defense at an infield corner, while Rosario offers decent fielding in an outfield corner.
It also adjusts for position and the league, allowing us to compare across eras, and then it puts it on a scale where it tells you how many wins are gained over a theoretically "freely available" replacement player, the kind most teams have several of in the Minors. The way to read it is that a 0-WAR season is considered not more valuable than any freely available talent (in 2017, that was Gregory Polanco or Luis Valbuena), a 2-WAR season is considered "league average," like Starlin Castro was last year, a 4-WAR season is All-Star caliber, like Buster Posey had last season, and 6-WAR or up is a superstar, like Kristopher Bryant. Only a handful of all-time greats, Trout included, have had 10-WAR years.
Despite a recent slump as he's played through a finger issue, Trout has been credited with 6.6 WAR entering play on Wednesday, the most in baseball and more than 25 percent better than Jose Ramirez's 5.1. That's a superstar-level season before the end of June, and yes, he's been that good. (In addition to the .324/.459/.651 line, he worked hard to improve his defense.) Last season, only eight hitters (Trout included) surpassed that all year, which is why you're hearing talk about whether Trout is going to have "the best season ever" in 2018.
That Trout is already north of a six-win season by the end of June should tell you something. That he's been worth nearly twice as much as his next closest teammate, Andrelton Simmons -- himself having a very good season -- should tell you something else. All by himself, Trout has been worth about one-third of the entire value above replacement of the Angels, pitchers included.
That's a recurring theme, of course. Trout has been the most valuable Angel in every season of his career other than 2017, when a thumb injury that cost him more than a month allowed Simmons to barely edge him out.
But you already know Trout is the best player on his team, and in the game. We promised more than that, that he was carrying his team in a historic way -- and he is. The Angels, as a team, have compiled 19.8 Wins Above Replacement so far this year. Trout's 6.6 WAR gives him a 33.3 percent share of that, which is an enormous number that shows you just how valuable he's been to the Halos.
Ramirez (5.1 WAR), for example, is responsible for just 21 percent of Cleveland's value, because they have four other players over 3 WAR (Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger). Altuve (4 WAR) is responsible for 12 percent of Houston's value. Aaron Judge (4 WAR) stands for 15 percent of the Yankees' total WAR this year. Among winning teams, the next closest is Trea Turner (3.9 WAR), carrying 23 percent of Washington's weight.
Trout is carrying the most weight of any player on a winning team this year. What about throughout history?
We looked at the best position players from more than 1,300 team seasons from teams at or above .500 since 1901 to find out just how impressive Trout has been. (Why winning teams only? Because it's not that interesting that, say, Whit Merrifield's 1.6 WAR is nearly half the total of a last-place Royals team on their way to 110 losses. We're looking for stars single-handedly carrying good teams.)
Trout's one-third share of his entire team's value is the fourth-best on the list. It's also one of two Trout seasons in the top five, and the upper portion of this list is full of inner-circle greats.
Those are all Hall of Famers, for the record, and Rogers Hornsby is likely one of the three greatest second baseman ever. Yes, that's Ted Williams, shown twice. The next 20 names on the list include three seasons from Barry Bonds (1997, 2001, '04), two from Ty Cobb (1911, '17), one apiece from Babe Ruth ('23) and Willie Mays ('58), and two more from Hornsby ('21, '27). This is what a list of baseball's most valuable players should look like.
(We're looking at hitters only in order to keep a better comparison to Trout, but for the record, only two pitchers would top him: Bobby Shantz for the 1952 A's, and Walter Johnson for the 1913 Senators.)
The deeper you go, the more stunning the numbers are. If we look at the 1,309 "best hitters" on each winning team, their average WAR is 6.3. Remember, Trout's already up to 6.6, and the Angels are only halfway through their season. Their average share of total team WAR was 16 percent -- a mark Trout is on pace to double. He's got a third season in the Top 100, too, when he was a rookie in 2012 and put up 10.8 WAR, 24 percent of the total for a Halos team that went 89-73 and had 44.7 total WAR. There are only so many ways we can describe what we're witnessing, really. This is one of the best-ever players having his best-ever season.
The Angels probably aren't going to make the playoffs again this year, though the possibility of Shohei Ohtani's return as a hitter would help. Once again, it won't be due to anything Trout has or hasn't done. He didn't send 13 teammates to the disabled list, or cause Kole Calhoun to have the worst year of his career, or sign Jose Pujols to an onerous contract. He'll be a unanimous winner of the AL Most Valuable Player Award, no matter how the team finishes.
After all, Trout has carried the weight more than any other player on a winning team this year. He's done it more than almost everyone, ever.