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What If – A Look at the Career of an Uninjured Mike Trout

May 14, 2024
Mike Trout - what could have been

Between 2013 and 2016, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout averaged 158 games per season. He won two AL MVPs and finished as the MVP runner-up in the other two seasons. Trout hit .306 over those four seasons and totaled 183 home runs. 

Then, in 2017, the injuries started to come. He missed 39 games in 2017 with a thumb injury. He’d miss 19 more in 2018 due to a wrist injury. A foot problem kept him out of 28 games in 2019 and then COVID shortened the 2020 season to 60 games. Trout was on paternity leave that summer and missed seven of them.

Since 2021, Trout has played in a total of 266 games. He’s missed nearly that many. A calf strain in 2021 kept the Angels slugger out of the lineup for 126 games. He missed five weeks in 2022 with a back issue. Last year, he broke a bone in his hand in early July, missed the rest of the month and all but one game in August. He played in 82 games.

This year, unfortunately, it’s more of the same for one of baseball’s greatest ever. After playing in 29 games, Trout has missed the last 12 and will likely be out for eight to 12 weeks with a meniscus tear in his left knee. Over the last four seasons, Trout has missed 261 games and he’ll miss a ton more this season.

Over 12 full seasons in MLB, Trout could have played in 1,944 games. COVID took away 102 games leaving 1,842. Trout has played in 1,478 games, including the 29 games this season. That begs the question, what would his career numbers look like had he not suffered all of these injuries?

 

Career WAR

WAR, or wins above replacement, is a number that measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by determining how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player. The career leader in WAR, for example in MLB history, is Babe Ruth. As far as hitters go, the next position player on the list is Barry Bonds at 164.4. Willie Mays (147.9), Ty Cobb (149.3), and Hank Aaron (143.1) round out the Top-5. That’s some pretty serious company.

Mike Trout WARTrout’s career WAR thus far is 86.3. That ranks 52nd all-time among all players, both pitchers and fielders. From 2012 to 2019, Trout’s lowest season WAR value was 6.9 in 2017. Since 2020, Trout’s season WAR has surpassed 2.9 just once (6.2 in 2022).

Hall of Fame-worthy MLB players have a career WAR of at least 60. There are only 21 position players in MLB history with a WAR of over 100. Cal Ripken Jr., for example, finished his 21-year career with a 95.9 WAR. Roberto Clemente is right behind Ripken at 94.9. 

If Trout would have played an average number of games, say 158 per season, over the last four years, he would have added roughly 8.99 WAR each season to his career total. Heading into the 2024 season, Trout would have had a WAR of 109.5. That number would put him 17th all-time among position players. Right above Trout, just 0.7 WAR away? No. 16 Mickey Mantle.

 

Dinger Derby

One of the fan favorite statistics is, of course, home runs. Trout has 378 career home runs, which is a lot. There have been 161 MLB players who hit 300 or more homers in their careers. Trout ranks 76th on the all-time list. He is not the active home run leader. That honor belongs to Giancarlo Stanton who has 410 over his 15-year career. 

Trout was leading the majors with 10 dingers just before his injury. Who knows what he would have done this season, which is his 32-year-old season. The most homers Trout ever hit in a season is 45, which he did in 2019. He has two other 40-plus seasons – 40 in 2022 and 41 in 2015.

Now, this involves some serious “what-ifs” but in Trout’s last 12 seasons, he played in 1,449 games. If he would have played an average of 158 as he did early in his career, Trout could have played in an extra 447 games. Using Trout’s HR/game numbers for those 12 seasons (0.260), we see that Trout could have had an extra 116 home runs. 

Add that number to his already impressive 378 and you notice that Trout would be approaching 500 home runs in his career at age 32. With 494 total dingers, Trout would have just passed Lou Gehrig and would have No. 28 Eddie Murray (504) in his sights. 

 

The Best Ever?

Mike Trout best ever?There is no doubt that Mike Trout is one of the best players in the history of baseball. His numbers are outstanding despite missing nearly 500 games. Trout still has plenty of baseball left too. He is signed through the 2030 season with the Angels. 

Trout is one of 10 MLB players with three MVP awards. How many more could he have won? Barry Bonds holds the record with seven. Trout finished as the runner-up four times and he’s been among the Top 10 vote-getters in 10 different seasons. 

Bonds won his final MVP award at the age of 40. If Trout can maintain some semblance of health over the waning years of his career, it’s surely possible he wins at least one more MVP. In the end though, Trout will always be remembered for what he was – one of the best players in baseball history.

 

 

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