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Catch me if you can: Angels’ Mike Trout Running Away with AL MVP Race

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels warming up
Shohei Otani is all the rage, but don't forget that LA still has the best baseball player in the world, Mike Trout. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]

Mike Trout is inhuman. Mike Trout is a generational player. Mike Trout, understandably, is the favorite for AL MVP.

Trout is enjoying a monster season, even by his standards. The Angels’ outfielder is dominating every category. He’s on pace for 42 home runs, 97 RBI, 121 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. That would set a career-high in home runs (41), while coming close in RBI (111) and runs (129).

His batting average (.310), on-base percentage (.456), slugging percentage (.627), and OPS (1.082) are all among his career bests too. If the season ended today, he’d set new career-highs in OBP and OPS, while his slugging would be second best, and his average third.

Considering his career trajectory as one of the GOATs of baseball, that’s pretty impressive.

Trout continues to dominate AL MVP talk

Trout has been the AL MVP favorite since the season began. He opened in March with +125 average odds, and has now skyrocketed to an average of -350.

Jose Altuve opened closest to him, as the 2017 MVP sat at +570. Mookie Betts has had the best non-Trout odds this year, sitting at +300 on May 31. Betts’ teammate JD Martinez has rocketed up the charts too. He’s gone from +2200 to +400 but he still can’t touch Trout.

Even Cleveland’s gruesome twosome, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, can’t keep up. Lindor opened the year at +1100, but has since leveled off at +2000. Ramirez’s torrid pace has bumped him up from +2800 to +2000.

Still not good enough.

Betts (.338), Altuve, (.332) and Martinez (.327) all sit ahead of Trout in average, while Betts, Trout and Altuve are all within three stolen bases of each other. Martinez is the only one ahead of Trout and Ramirez in homers (by two), and Trout leads them all except Lindor in runs.

If advanced stats are your thing, Trout’s nailed those. He has a WAR of 6.6 with Ramirez closest at 5.7. His 0.7 defensive WAR is also better than everyone but Lindor and Ramirez.

Player AVG HR RBI RUNS WAR Def WAR Odds at Bovada
Mike Trout .310 24 49 67 6.6 0.7 -350
JD Martinez .326 26 71 60 3.6 -1.1 +400
Mookie Betts .338 21 42 66 5.2 0.5 +800
Jose Altuve .332 7 41 56 4.1 0.4 +1000
Francisco Lindor .297 23 55 75 5.3 1.7 +2000
Jose Ramirez .294 24 56 58 5.7 1.1 +2000

In fact, the only thing Trout trails in is RBI. He sits 22nd in the AL, which is significantly behind Martinez (71) who leads the league.

Will Trout fall back to the pack?

The easy answer is: no.

If Trout were 30 or older, you could make the argument he’d be due for a slowdown. That’s not the case, though, as Trout is 26 years old and may just be hitting his stride. It’s scary to think his best may be yet to come.

Mike Trout already ranks in the top eight of seven offensive categories for the Angels franchise. The most impressive though? He’s the franchise leader in WAR at 60.7 in just 1012 games.

He also has longevity on his side. Outside of a thumb injury last year, Trout has played in at least 139 games every season since 1011. He played in an almost unheard of 157+ games a year from 2013-16.

Could the AL MVP hinge on Halos’ playoff hopes?

With that in mind, we move on to the age-old question: can a player be the AL (or NL) MVP if he doesn’t make the playoffs?

Trout has been so good that the answer should be yes. In fact he’s been this good before. In 2016, he became one of just eight guys to win the award while missing the playoffs in the Divisional Era. (Giancarlo Stanton made it nine in 2017.)

2018 (Projections)

.315 Average .308
29 Home Runs 42
100 RBI 97
123 Runs 121
.441 OBP 448
10.5 WAR 8.4

Some voters may still hold missing the playoffs against him, though.

Right now the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros lead their respective divisions. It seems like Boston and the New York Yankees will both get in, with one taking the AL East and one taking the first Wild Card spot.

With the Angels sitting 12.5 games back of Houston, their best bet is the second Wild Card. The problem is, they aren’t even the third-best team in the AL West. They’re behind the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.

What if the AL MVP isn’t Mike Trout?

Really? After all this you’re still going to ask that question?

Fine. All five guys we’ve talked about check the ‘making the playoffs’ box today. Right now, all of them are on division leaders too.

In terms of production, JD Martinez looks like he should keep going. He’s staring at his third 30-homer season, and a second-straight year with 40+.

Betts looks like a safe bet to stay above the .310 mark, even if he doesn’t stay atop the AL batting race. He’s hitting for power at a monster pace too, so he should remain firmly in the conversation.

That leaves Ramirez, Lindor and Altuve. Ramirez has been prone to hot and cold months in the past. Both he and Lindor were in the thick of voting last year, though, so they won’t go anywhere.

Then there’s Altuve. As last year’s AL MVP and the 2016 runner up, he may be in the toughest spot.

His power pace is lower, and while it’s not his calling card, his average is and that’s down too. Now that he’s won an MVP hitting .346, doing it hitting .332, fair or not, will be harder going up against Trout.

So if you have to put your money somewhere other than Trout? Betts and Lindor may be it.

Betts and Martinez should keep flip-flopping in the odds this season, but Betts finished sixth in AL MVP voting last year with lesser numbers. Ramirez beat Lindor in voting last year, but the shortstop has rounded out his game and plays the sexier position.

Don’t be fooled, though: unless something catastrophic happens, Trout is staring down his third AL MVP.

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Bryan has spent the last decade working in the sports industry. Bryan has been featured on TSN, Toronto Wolfpack, Rogers TV, Bleacher Report, Last Word on Sports, FanSided, and Hockey54. Bryan has worked at TSN for the last eight years while also balancing a career in television broadcasting. His br