Mike Trout: A Ruth-Esque Start To The Year
Mike Trout had a tough season in 2021. After getting off to a great start, Trout suffered an injury to his hamstring. It seemed that the injury might keep him out for only a couple months, but Trout was never able to fully recover. He ended up missing the entirety of the season after mid-May. So naturally, there were question marks surrounding the perennial MVP candidate heading into this season. Would his injury hamper his performance? Would he be able to stay healthy? But so far in the 2022 regular season, Trout has not only silenced the doubters, he has put up numbers that are other-worldly, even for him. Put simply, he has gotten off to a start that is Babe Ruth-esque.
What the Numbers Show:
Any metric you use will paint one clear picture: Mike Trout is off to a blistering start. Home runs? Trout has ten, which is good for fourth best in MLB. Runs scored? Trout has crossed home plate 31 times, which is second best in baseball, only behind Mookie Betts. He’s getting on base at an extraordinary clip of .440. His slugging percentage is a whopping .684, which gives him an other-worldly OPS of 1.123. For reference, a good OPS is considered to be .900.
Trout’s hot start is only strengthened by his advanced statistics. Take the stat Weighted Runs Created +, or WRC+. This stat attempts to credit hitters for the value of each outcome (single, double, etc), rather than treat each outcome as the same. This stat also accounts for variables like home ballpark, and treats a 100 WRC+ as the baseline for all hitters. Meaning that if a hitter tallies a 105 WRC+, they would be 5% better than a typical, average hitter. If someone posts a WRC+ of 85, they would be 15% worse than the average hitter. FanGraphs considers an excellent WRC+ to be 160. Mike Trout’s WRC+ in 2022 is 225. That is ridiculous. That means when accounting for ballpark and other variables, to start the year, he has been 125% better than the average hitter.
The Ruth Comparison:
Babe Ruth put up statistical seasons that will in all likelihood, never be replicated again in the history of baseball. But Trout is certainly giving him a run for his money.
When looking at Ruth’s career statistics that calculate averages, stats like batting average and OBP, Trout is going toe-to-toe with the Sultan of Swat. Ruth’s career batting average was .342. Trout, in a time where walks are king and hits have gone by the wayside, has posted a batting average of .325. Ruth’s career slugging percentage was .690. Trout, as mentioned earlier, is slugging .684. Trout even has Ruth beat in key statistical areas. Ruth’s career WRC+ was 197, which is 28 points fewer than Trout’s 2022 mark. Ruth’s career Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP, was .340. To start the year, Trout’s BABIP is an astounding .378.
Ruth is also getting challenged by Trout in key advanced statistical categories. ISO is a statistic that measures how good of a power hitter someone is. Batting average values all hits the same, but if you use ISO to compare two players, the true source of their value can be illustrated. FanGraphs calculates that if someone posts an ISO of .250 or above, they are an excellent power hitter. Ruth’s career ISO was .348. That’s nothing surprising of course, Ruth was arguably the best power hitter of all time. Trout’s 2022 ISO is .359.
Mike Trout’s start to the year would be impressive in any season. Let’s face it, an OPS of 1.123 is out of this world. But what makes Trout’s 2022 performance so special is that he’s putting up these elite numbers in a year where offensive production has declined across the league. Runs scored per game have decreased, batting average has taken a dip. Even known power hitters like Pete Alonso and Freddie Freeman can’t seem to buy a home run. Yet Trout not only continues to thrive, but seems to have taken his game to a whole new level.