MLB rumors always include debates about whether Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. One very odd debate that Trout gets included in, though, is whether he is even the best center fielder in the game. That it is even a discussion about whether he is the best center fielder might prove that Trout is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.
During the 2016 MLB season, Mike Trout led all of baseball in WAR. WAR stands for wins above replacement, which is a statistic used to measure players against each other. Replacement level players would basically get a 0.0 score in that statistic, with everyone above that number classified as above average. Trout’s number for 2016 was 10.6, with the second-best number going to Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox (9.6). That’s taking into account every player at every position (in both leagues).
Many baseball analysts use WAR to wage arguments about who the best players are each season. It’s one of many metrics that can be used, but it’s a stat that combines offense and defense while taking into account park factors as well. Giving the statistic a bit of perspective, the closest center fielder in that metric was Adam Eaton, who had a 6.2 WAR for 2016. That stat certainly drew the attention of the Washington Nationals, as the team overpaid the Chicago White Sox to acquire him in an offseason deal.
Playing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016, Mike Trout had 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 123 runs scored, and a 0.315 batting average. Trout led the league in runs, walks (116), and on-base percentage (0.441) as he won his second American League MVP Award. Trout also won his fifth straight Silver Slugger Award, adding to his extensive trophy case at the age of 24.
In the last five MLB seasons, Trout has finished first or second (every year) in the AL MVP voting. Twice he lost to triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and once he came up short against Josh Donaldson. In all five seasons, there have been many baseball analysts saying that Trout should have won. He could easily have five MVP trophies already but has had to settle for still flying under the radar in some instances.
In five full seasons, Trout has led the league in runs four times, RBIs once, stolen bases once, walks twice, on-base percentage once, slugging percentage once, OPS once, and OPS+ three times. His 162-game averages are off the charts at 34 home runs, 99 RBIs, 120 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, a 0.306 batting average, and a 0.405 on-base percentage. With all those impressive statistics, it’s amazing that fans don’t find it unanimous that he is the best center fielder in the game.
There could be several reasons that Mike Trout doesn’t receive unanimous support from all baseball fans. It could include that he plays on the West Coast, that he goes about his business every day without being flashy, that he is so consistent that people forget how good he is, and because he is simply on the wrong team. Many times fans will favor the player on their favorite team, deluded into believing that he might be the best because they don’t see enough games for other teams.
Playing for a West Coast team is also a huge disadvantage because his games are on TV when a lot of East Coast fans are already sleeping. Die-hard fantasy baseball owners already know how good Trout is, routinely making him one of the first overall picks in every draft. Why that doesn’t trickle down to the average baseball fan is a mystery at this point. The stats say that he is the best player in the game, easily making Mike Trout also the best center fielder in Major League Baseball.
[Featured Image by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]