In and around the world of Major League Baseball, there is a running debate. Do rings matter for a player? That depends on who you ask. Rings have long been a deciding factor in how good a player was. After all, if he couldn’t win the big one, how good was he? This permeates all sports.
Players who won championships seemingly get a leg up on those who didn’t. Trent Dilfer held an analyst position at ESPN for a long time, largely because of his Super Bowl ring (it wasn’t for his groundbreaking analysis, that’s for sure).
As the size of the teams grow larger (one player can get more credit for a win on a basketball team than on a football team), the individual impact shrinks. One player out of 22 starters on a football team decides less about how the team performs than one person on an NBA starting five.
In the analytics boom, we’ve begun to hone individual player analysis. No longer do we boost players like Troy Aikman, Joe Namath, and others simply off the strength of their jewelry. Individual players are just that, individuals- not a team. Remarkably, it’s taken us this long to realize that no matter who you are (the jury does remain out on Tom Brady), you can’t be responsible for winning by yourself. That’s where Mike Trout enters the conversation.
The WAR Argument
Trout is considered by some the best player to ever lace them up. He’s considered by most to be the best player right now. There was just one lingering question- how good can he be if he can’t even win a playoff series? Mike Trout has good numbers really, but how well do they translate to wins?
Really well, actually. The first rough estimation of a player’s value started in 1982. Since then, it has been honed to become the advanced statistic known as WAR (Wins Above Replacement). WAR is the best stat we have to measure how good a player is. And Mike Trout, well, he’s just really good.
Trout’s 74.1 WAR amassed in his first 11 seasons is incredible. He’s the second-highest active player, trailing only teammate Albert Pujols, who has ten more seasons than Trout does. Trout is just 29 years old, giving reason to believe he could play for 11 or more seasons. At his current pace, that would leave him in 7th place on the all-time list.
This means that over the course of 11 big league seasons, the Angels have amassed 74 wins they wouldn’t have had without Trout. Do you think they’re bad now? Remove Trout and they’ll be perennially last-place finishers.
The Individual Accolades Argument
Individual accolades, primarily MVP, are a much better way of analyzing a player than a championship. These awards are given to a player, indicating how good that player was. Mike Trout has the hardware to back that up.
Trout’s a three-time MVP, meaning he’s been the best player in baseball for almost 30% of his career. He’s been the MVP runner-up four times. He’s never finished below 5th in MVP voting. Not to mention he’s an eight-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year winner.
The Traditional Stats Argument
Trout’s analytical stats are off the wall. His traditional stats are eye-popping, too. He’s a career .304 hitter, with a 1.000 OPS. Those are great numbers for a season, and those are his career averages. He’s got over 300 home runs, putting him on pace to crack the impressive 600 clubs by his age 40 seasons.
Trout has all the numbers to back up his stature. Evaluating players by rings should be a thing of the past. Likely, Trout never gets a ring since he’s signed with Los Angeles from now until eternity. They’ve long struggled to put a competent roster around him, despite adding Anthony Rendon last offseason.
Even if Mike Trout never wins a World Series, it would be asinine to say his legacy is tarnished by that. Baseball is a team sport. A player can go 5-5 with 2 home runs and still lose badly. Wins and losses don’t determine a player’s value. Winning the big one shouldn’t either. Just ask Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ernie Banks, and yeah, Mike Trout.