Through 37 games, Angels slugger Mike Trout is off to the best start of his career. He’s hitting .341/.451/.742 with 13 home runs, eight stolen bases, and 24 walks.
Normally, it’s not at all odd for a 25-year-old star to show signs that he is still improving, but it’s more than a little frightening to be faced with the possibility that Trout, who essentially entered the league as a fully-formed, ideal ballplayer, is still somehow improving. Can a guy who put up 10.8 WAR in his rookie season really get any better? So far this season, the answer is yes.
That’s jarring, particularly because the idea that Trout will end up as the greatest baseball player in history is one we’ve already had to begin entertaining.
Trout’s a 51.3 WAR player with only five full seasons, a call-up season, and the six weeks of this current season under his belt. If he keeps up his current pace, it’s entirely possible that he will surpass 100 WAR by the time he is 30. Nobody—not Ty Cobb, not Rogers Hornsby, not Alex Rodriguez, not Mickey Mantle—has ever done that before.
Trout’s seventh season is just a few weeks old, and yet he currently ranks fifth in WAR accumulated by players through their first seven seasons. You recognize the names that come before him (Ted Williams, his teammate Albert Pujols, Mickey Mantle, Wade Boggs) and the players who are just behind him (Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Barry Bond, Joe DiMaggio). If Trout finishes this season with, say, another 10 WAR, he’ll only be behind Williams.
These circumstances aren’t necessarily meant to be predictive—Barry Bonds only had 38 WAR through his first seven seasons, and we all know how that turned out—but they’re worth holding in your hands every now and then, and considering just how singular Trout’s talents are. He was worth 10.4 WAR last season; the last player to surpass that mark was Barry Bonds in 2004, who came in at 10.6 WAR. Last year wasn’t even Trout’s best season.
This one might be. At the beginning of the season, his ZiPS projection was .299/.418/.583 for the year with 27 home runs and 19 stolen bases. His updated ZiPS projection now predicts he will finish the season at .310/.426/.623/1.049 with 40 home runs and 26 stolen bases.
Trout’s truly pushing the bounds of how quickly and comprehensively a player can become a superstar, and every now and then it’s worth checking in to see what that push looks like on a day-to-day basis. Mostly what it looks like is play so consistently spectacular that its meaning can feel somewhat deadened. Did you even realize that Trout has hit five dingers in his last six games?
Did you know that with two stolen bases on Sunday, Trout became the youngest player ever to reach 150 home runs and 150 steals?
Writing about Trout can sometimes be frustrating, as it often feels like a needless defense or promotion of his talent. It can send one searching for a hook, some single moment to marvel at and say, “Look! Look! This is why Mike Trout is the greatest player in the game!” about. But the reality is that there is no single thing to wonder at. The marvel is just Mike Trout, and everything he does, every day.