The Case for Mike Trout for AL MVP

I know he’s missed over 40 games, but hear me out: Mike Trout deserves Most Valuable Player honors for the American League.

First, let’s establish precedent for this kind of thing. It’s certainly rare for a player who’s played such few games to be crowned MVP, but it’s not unheard of. Assuming Trout plays every game the rest of the way, he’ll have played 117, missing 45. Under the 162 game schedule, (which was established in 1961) three position players have played under 130 games in a non-strike season and won the MVP: Micky Mantle in 1962, Willie Stargell in 1979, and George Brett in 1980. Mantle played 123 games, Stargell played 126, and Brett played 117.

George Brett, who came within 10 percentage points of the .400 mark in his 1980 MVP season.

Here are their stat lines:

Mantle: .321 BA, 30 HRs, 122 RBIs, 1.091 OPS

Stargell: .281 BA, 32 HRs, 82 RBIs, .904 OPS

Brett: .390 BA, 24 HRs, 118 RBIs, 1.118 OPS

Obviously that Stargell line stands out as the worst of the bunch. Compare that with Trout’s projected line:

Trout: .342 BA, 39 HRs, 89 RBIs, 1.273 OPS

His OPS wipes even George Brett’s out of the water, and Brett hit damn near .400. For the record, if Trout were to have played all 162 at his current pace, his stat line would look like this:

Trout: .342 BA, 54 HRs, 123 RBIs, 1.273 OPS

Absolutely ridiculous. So Trout is clearly worthy of being an MVP despite playing such few games. Of the three who have played a similar amount of games and won the award, only George Brett had a better season.

And looking at Trout’s competition, it’s not as formidable as in years past. In 2012 and 2013, both years of which he placed second, he was up against Miguel Cabrera at the peak of his powers. These were kind of numbers he was up against:

2012: .330 BA, 44 HRs, 139 RBIs, .999 OPS (Triple Crown)

2013: .348 BA, 44 HRs, 137 RBIs, 1.078 OPS

Miguel Cabrera, whose names sits beside Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Micky Mantle, Frank Robinson, and Carl Yastrzemski as the only winners of the A.L. Triple Crown in the live-ball era. Only 13 players in either league have won the Triple Crown in MLB history.

In 2017, the apparent frontrunner for the AL MVP is Jose Altuve. While he’s a fantastic player in his own right, he’s no Miggy, and he’s no Trout. Here are his projections assuming he plays every game for the rest of the season:

Altuve: .362 BA, 25 HRs, 90 RBIs

It’s about on par with Trout’s projected numbers, but Trout should win the award on the count that he’s more valuable than Altuve, which is the literal meaning of the MVP award.

Trout went down with an injury in late May with the Angels’ record standing at 27-25. In his 39-game absence, LA went 17-21, and weren’t considered playoff contenders at the time Trout returned the lineup. Since his return, the Angels have gone 18-13, including winning 8 of the last 10 games, and currently hold the second wild card slot.

The Astros, on the other hand, have had a fantastic record throughout the season. And there’s a reason for that. They’re stacked top-to-bottom. The Angels aren’t. Here are the projected stat lines of the Astros three best hitters not named Jose Altuve (assuming they play the rest of the Astros’ games):

George Springer: .306 BA, 39 HRs, 98 RBIs, .951 OPS

Marwin Gonzalez: .308 BA, 28 HRs, 100 RBIs, .931 OPS

Yuli Gurriel: .296 BA, 21 HRs, 84 RBIs, .809 OPS

Average: .303 BA, 29 HRs, 94 RBIs, .897 OPS

Oh, and I did I mention that they have a Cy Young Award winner of their staff?

Here are the projected lines of the three best Angels hitters not named Mike Trout:

Andrelton Simmons: .293 BA, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs, .793 OPS

Albert Pujols: .229 BA, 25 HRs, 101 RBIs, .653 OPS

Kole Calhoun: .241 BA, 20 HRs, 67 RBIs, .698 OPS

Average: .254 BA, 20 HRs, 80 RBIs, .715 OPS

So Altuve and Trout and having similar seasons statistically, and Trout is far more valuable to his team. If the Angels wind up snagging the second wild card, Trout should be a lock for his 3rd MVP award.

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