Leaderboarding: In appreciation of the still underappreciated Mike Trout and WAR

As has been all-too-common a theme in his career, Mike Trout did nearly everything he could to help the Angels win on Monday night and they still lost (to an upstart Mariners team that deserves lots of attention in its own right). Trout was 2 for 3 with two home runs and a walk. He only came to bat once with runners on base and was intentionally walked. Justin Upton would proceed to strike out to leave the bases loaded. 

Just for kicks, here's Trout's second homer of the night: 

That tied Trout with J.D. Martinez for the MLB lead in bombs with 21. He's hitting .304/.435/.658 on the season, leading the AL in home runs (again, tied), runs, walks, on-base percentage and, oh yes, WAR. 

This past offseason, I included Trout on my All-Underrated Team and was met with some resistance from fans who just couldn't believe I didn't understand that the best player in baseball couldn't possibly be under "rated" as if "rated" means "ranked." 

No, Trout is underappreciated by many casual fans in today's game. There are several reasons, but I think I've nailed down the most pertinent: 

  • Baseball is a regional sport now for most fans. They only watch their own team and if they see a guy on another team getting so much credit from "the media," there's backlash. "I'm so sick of hearing about this guy!" Only ...
  • The Angels are rarely on national TV and with baseball being such a grind, many people from the eastern half of the US wouldn't bother to check out what happened in a West coast game
  • The Angels haven't had a deep playoff run with Trout. 
  • Lots of people like to claim their generation played the best (insert sport) in the history of said sport. So if we say Trout is doing something similar to Mickey Mantle, people who watched Mantle scoff and claim we're stupid for even making the comparison. 

On that note, I'm gonna anger those people more. It's Leaderboarding time, WAR version! 

Using the Fangraphs version of WAR (fWAR), Trout is now at 60.2 for his career. Keep in mind, this is a cumulative stat and Trout is only 26 years old. Here's his current company on the all-time fWAR leaderboard among position players: 

115. Ryne Sandberg, 60.9
116. Joe Gordon, 60.6
117. Shoeless Joe Jackson, 60.5
118. Billy Williams, 60.4
119. Trout, 60.2
120. Frank "Home Run" Baker, 60.1

That's Hall of Fame company (yes, I know about Shoeless Joe, but he's HOF-caliber on stats alone). Again, keep in mind these are career totals in a stat that accumulates. He's already with Hall of Famers at age 26. 

Among center fielders, Trout is already 16th. Sixteenth! You still wanna push back on me saying he's historically underappreciated? Here's his company: 

14. Duke Snider, 63.5
15. Kenny Lofton, 62.4
16. Trout, 60.2
17. Max Carey, 60.1
18. Andre Dawson, 59.5 (that's career total, he's just sorted in both CF and RF)
19. Richie Ashburn, 57.4

Jumping over to the baseball-reference.com version of WAR (they calculate the defensive component differently), Trout sits in similar fashion. 

All-time bWAR

117. Jim Edmonds, Keith Hernandez, Harmon Killebrew; 60.4
120. Zack Wheat, 60.2
121. Bobby Abreu, 60.0
122. Trout, 59.8
123. Mike Piazza, 59.6

Among active position players, Trout is already sixth. Every player above him is at least 35 years old. The only players in the top 10 under age 35 are Trout and 34-year-olds Joey Votto and Dustin Pedroia.  

  1. Albert Pujols, 99.6
  2. Adrian Beltre, 94
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 69.3
  4. Robinson Cano, 67.6
  5. Chase Utley, 65.6
  6. Trout, 59.8
  7. Joey Votto, 57.6
  8. Ian Kinsler, 56.2
  9. Joe Mauer, 54.9
  10. Dustin Pedroia, 52.1

And then there's this: Using Jay Jaffe's JAWS method of determining worthy Hall of Famers, Trout ranks seventh in history among center fielders and he is above average when compared to current Hall of Famers. 

  1. Willie Mays, 115.0
  2. Ty Cobb, 110.1
  3. Tris Speaker, 98.2
  4. Mickey Mantle, 87.6
  5. Ken Griffey Jr., 68.9
  6. Joe DiMaggio, 64.5
  7. Trout, 59.3
  8. Duke Snider, 58.1
  9. Average HOF CF, 57.9

Yeah, vocal minority -- at least I hope it's a minority -- keep telling me (and yourself) you're tired of hearing about him instead of trying to watch and enjoy greatness. That's a great way to fan. 

Keep on keeping on, Trout. It's a pleasure to witness all-time greatness. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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