"we're the two best friends that, anybody could have!"
Mike Trout was not on the Angels for their first 20 games of the season. Their record at that time was 6-14 and so, Trout was summoned. In his debut, the Angels stopped a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Cleveland, though Trout was 0-for-4 that day. He wouldn't have many unproductive days after that and the Angels started winning.
In fact, the Angels are 34-19 when Trout starts and it's not hard to see why. Over the last 30 days, his 2.2 fWAR is number one among all qualified batters in baseball. For the season, he now sits at 3.8 fWAR in almost exactly a third of a regular season, which would put him on a pace of 11.4 fWAR in an entire year.
That's not good. That's not great. That's elite. That's the best of the best. Jacoby Ellsbury led all batters in 2011 with 9.4 fWAR. Matt Kemp posted an 8.7. Very, very few batters ever top 9 fWAR and the last person to top 10 was Barry Bonds in 2004, when he posted an amazing 11.9 fWAR.
Mike Trout: The best all-around player since Barry Bonds?!?!
Probably not, as a sample size of 53 games is not enough to make huge strides in judgment, but we can probably conclude that Trout is in the running for best player in the game today. His unique set of special skills is something that you don't have want to have Taken for granted.
Here's an update on what Trout has done this season: .344/.402/.532, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 47 R, 21 SB, 8.6% BB, 18.9% K, .188 ISO, .405 BABIP, .414 wOBA. After he plays one more game, he'll technically be exactly 1/3rd of the way into a full season, but we can pace it out that way anyway because I do what I want. For a full year: 21 HR, 90 RBI, 141 runs, 62 stolen bases, 72 extra bases hits in total.
In the history of baseball, only six players have ever gone 20/60 during a season.
His improvement as the season wears on, is even more astounding. Trout is hitting .394/.445/.545 with 2 HR, 14 RBI, 13 SB, 1 CS, 17 K, 9 BB in 110 plate appearances in June. That will wet your fantasy whistle to be sure, but even more amazing is that Trout rates as one of the best baserunners and defenders in baseball, so that's what gives him that added oomph of perhaps being the all-around best player in the game today.
Oh yeah, here's the comical part that you already knew was coming: Trout is 20. Trout (ironically enough) can't legally drink yet. There are few age 20 seasons that will ever compare to Trout, but let's try...
There's Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who hit .340/.421/.546 with a league-leading 200 hits in 152 games for the Tigers in 1955 with 27 HR and 102 RBI.
Mickey Mantle hit .311/.394/.530 with 23 HR, 87 RBI in 142 games for the Yankees when he was 20 in 1952.
Ken Griffey, Jr. hit .300/.366/.481 with 22 HR, 80 RBI, 16 SB in 155 games as a 20-year-old.
Andruw Jones hit .231/.329/.416 with 18 HR and 20 SB as a 20-year-old and could compare to Trout as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game at such a young age.
Ted Williams throws his name in the hat by hitting .327/.436/.609 with 31 HR, 145 RBI, 44 doubles, 107 BB/64 K in 149 games.
Vada Pinson isn't in the Hall of Fame, but he hit .316/.371/.509 with 20 HR, 21 SB, 47 doubles at the age of 20 and is in the Hall of Very, Very Good.
Frank Robinson had no issues getting into the Hall of Fame and hit .290/.379.558 with 38 HR, 8 SB, 122 R for the Reds in 1956.
But of course, the most recent example is Alex Rodriguez, who hit .358/.414/.631 with 36 HR, 123 RBI, 15 SB and 54 doubles for the Mariners in 1996 at the age of 20. It's perhaps and probably the best all-around season for a 20-year-old ever, has argument for the best season as a shortstop ever offensively, and argument as the best full-season debut (wasn't technically a rookie anymore) ever too.
This is the company that Mike Trout is keeping right now, where almost all of the players had an automatic bid to the Hall when they qualified.
Most of them have in common the fact that they got to the bigs when they were 19, so they were somewhat prepared for their full-season debuts at 20, just like Trout is this year. They were fast, powerful, talented, and advanced in age just like Trout is. Though to his credit, none of these players have speed like Trout, who could easily top 50 every year. Basically, and I know a lot of people hate on Ichiro, but basically Trout is like a better hitting version of Ichiro that's getting started seven to eight years sooner.
The defense is there. The speed is there. The power is superior. Trout would be on pace for 225 hits this season and his 72 extra base-hits would be a landslide over Ichiro's career high of 50. Basically, Trout would be getting as many hits as Ichiro, but making them count for a whole lot more and though Ichiro has his haters, I am not one of them. He's one of the best players of this century and Mike Trout is like a much better version of that.
So, is he the best player in baseball already today, at the age of 20? It's too early to tell, but on a per-game basis, nobody in the league has been better than him. The Angels have seen their season turn around under him and he could be the first rookie to win MVP since Ichiro did it in 2001. It's also important to note that many of those Hall of Famers I listed above didn't go on to just get better and better until they exploded. Some of them that really had amazing age 20 seasons, like Rodriguez, peak in categories like batting average at first and then hit for more power and fewer stolen bases down the line. Trout will adapt and change as the pitchers and the game adapts around him, but he'll still possess the skillset that will likely make him a top 10 player for the next 10-15 years.
He's certainly been the best 20-year-old we've seen since 1996 and one of the best to ever play the game, especially in the modern era. I wonder how long we'll have to wait until another 20-year-old breaks ground and becomes the next Mike Trout....
/checks Bryce Harper's birthdate. /laughs. /oh geez. See ya next year!