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Happy Birthday, Mike Trout, already one of the greatest to ever play the game

Mike Trout

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Angels did not give Mike Trout $430 million because they are sentimental. They have not decided he should be at the epicenter of their organization for the next decade out of any sense of obligation.

Simply stated, the Angels understand what they have, a transcendent, generational star whose numbers dwarf those of his contemporaries and threaten those of all the greats that came before him.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen,” said Angels outfielder Cole Calhoun. “He’s done everything to really deserve this. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, really. They’ve made Mike Trout an Angel for life. Knowing him, they might have to sign him to an extension after this, too, because he’ll still find a way to put up numbers. But I think it’s great for the fan base. They’ve made Mike Trout a Halo for life.”

And he just turned 28 years old on Wednesday.

If its possible, Trout may be having the greatest season of his career in 2019. He is on pace to break career-highs in home runs, RBI and OPS. And we say, “if it’s possible” because most of those preceding this would represent the apex for other mortal players.

Trout is mashing at .299/.440/.672 on the season with 38 homers and 89 RBIs. In his career, his slash line stands .306/.419/.582 with 278 homers and 737 RBIs.

“I guess we all kind of expect it from him at this point,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s the most talented hitter on the planet.”

Any assessment of Trout must deal in his numbers because many of his accomplishments are unpredented among players in the last 25 years. He was made for metrics.

Trout, an eight-time All Star who has already won two MVP awards, has finished in the top two in MVP voting every season except 2017 when injuries limited him to only 114 games. According to Major League Baseball, no player has finished in the top five in MVP voting in seven straight seasons since the game began naming one in 1931.

Since 1908, few players have managed to rank in the top 10 in so many statistics before their 28th birthday than Trout. Look at him: Home runs, total bases, extra-base hits and walks. There’s his name.

But it’s Trout’s 71.7 rating in WAR (wins above replacement), the overall evaluation of a player’s skills, where he really reigns. According to MLB.com, that’s higher than any other position player in Major League history through his age-27 season. Ty Cobb, TY COBB, is second at 69.0.

Again according to MLB.com, Trout entered 2019 with 64.2 career WAR. And this year he’s passed 27 Hall of Famers, including Barry Larkin, Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, Andre Dawson and Willie McCovey.

Trout’s WAR average from 2012-18 is 9.1 per season. If this continues, he’ll reach 82.0 before his 29th birthday, which means he’ll also pass Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson and Rod Carew.

Of the 59 other players with at least 71.7 WAR, all but 10 of them are in the Hall of Fame. The only others still ahead of Trout in position-player WAR, not in the Hall of Fame, are Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and Palmeiro, all of whom have issues that may prevent them from ever getting in.

His 278 career home runs rank seventh all-time by a player before turning 28, trailing only Alex Rodriguez (322), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), Ken Griffey Jr. (294), Albert Pujols (282) and Mickey Mantle (280). Trout has hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his first nine seasons and he only had 123 at-bats in his debut season in 2011.

His 781 walks rank fourth all-time by a player before turning 28. Only Mantle (892), Mel Ott (815) and Foxx (781) drew more walks prior to their 28th birthday.

A 1.001 career OPS is 11th among players before 28 and that’s higher than Musial, Mantle and Mays.

Mike Trout

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Let’s look at Trout this way: Consider the top 17 statistical categories in the game –  games, plate appearances, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, total bases, hit by pitches, and intentional walks.

According to Ringer, if Trout wins the AL home run championship this season, he’ll have led his league at least once in 10 of those 17, leaving him with only games, plate appearances, hits, doubles, triples, batting average, and hit by pitches to conquer.

Only 37 players in history have ever led their league in 10 categories at one point of their careers. Only 22 have more than 10. Only Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski, Mantle, and Joe Medwick surpassed 10 by Trout’s age.

What’s more, if Trout wins the home run title he will become the first player since Willie Mays in 1956 to have led his league in dingers and stolen bases. Trout would also become only the second post-Mays player to lead his league in steals and total bases, following Jacoby Ellsbury, who took the AL total bases title in 2011.

“To be able to finish my career here with the best player in the game, it’s just so well deserved,” said Albert Pujols. “I think the most important thing for me is that he is the best in the game. For me, to be able to guide him during my years here and just share some of my success or any questions he asks or whatever. Because it’s a scary thing that he wants to get better. … I don’t know how much better he can get. But he’s just special.”