According to Baseball Reference’s calculation of WAR, Mike Trout has led the American League in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 with a 10.8, 9.3, 7.9, 9.4, and 10.5 respectively. There was a different WAR leader in the National League in each of these five seasons which makes Trout’s domination of the A.L.’s WAR leaderboard during the last half decade truly amazing. However, what’s even more impressive are the ways that Trout has modified his approach each season yet still remained the A.L.’s WAR leader. Two of my favorite data points during this run: First, his lowest OPS+ of 168 was still so far above average that it led the league. Second, many questioned whether Trout was selling out for increased power in 2014 when he ended up with 36 homers and a league leading 184 strikeouts. But to counter that narrative, Trout increased his homers to 41 and reduced his strikeouts to 158 in 27 fewer at bats the following year (while also increasing his walks of 83 in 2014 to 92 in 2015).
Trout got off to a phenomenal start in 2017. He had amassed 3.4 WAR in only 47 games. Remaining on this pace would have put him close to setting a new personal best and likely maintain his WAR dominance in the A.L. However, Trout suffered an injury on May 28th that required surgery to repair a torn UCL and a dorsal capsule in his left thumb. Trout and the Angels are hoping to activate him around the All-Star Break. Whether a July return leaves Trout with enough time (and health) to amass the amount of production needed to retake the A.L. WAR lead will be a fascinating storyline for the second half of the season.
The American League WAR leaderboard is topped by Aaron Judge with 4.8 and followed by Jason Vargas (4.3), Jose Altuve (3.8), Carlos Correa (3.8), and Mookie Betts (3.8). Trout, as of July 1st, sits 9th place on the list with his aforementioned 3.4 WAR. Mike Trout has the ability to put up tremendous numbers in whatever time remains once he is on the field again. However, outpacing some of the names on the list that reside ahead of him will be a tall order. If he does claim the 2017 A.L. WAR throne, this achievement will be just as impressive as the half decade of WAR dominance he has already banked.