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[Troutporn] Trout's four years in context

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Mike Trout now has 35.0 fWAR from 2012-15, still with over 50 games to play this year, so it seems that he'll end the year with around 38 fWAR over a four-year span. To get a sense of how dominant he has been over those four years, here's the top five:


1. Mike Trout 35.0

2. Andrew McCutchen 25.9

3. Buster Posey 23.5

4. Miguel Cabrera 22.2

5. Josh Donaldson 21.4


Even more impressive, Trout's 35 WAR is twice that of #13 on the list, Ben Zobrist (17.5). To put that another way, over the last four years, Mike Trout has been worth double or more than all but a dozen position players in baseball, and far more than anyone.


Now we very may not see any more 10+ WAR seasons from Trout. His baserunning and defense have declined since 2012-13, and while he is having his best year with the bat in 2015, he may be more of an 8-9 WAR player than a 10-11 WAR player. Still, 8-9 WAR is the best in baseball in most years.


Anyhow, I became curious as to how good Trout's four-year span has been historically speaking. I looked at all four-year spans, from 1900 - 2015, a span of 116 years. I looked at both 30 and 35 fWAR four-year spans. In those 116 years, this is what I found:


*There have been 176 four-year spans of 30+ fWAR

*There have been 59 four-year spans of 35+ fWAR

*There have been 36 players with a four-year span of 30+ fWAR

*There have been 17 players with a four-year span of 35+ fWAR


To put that another way, only 17 players--including Trout--have had a four-year span as good as Trout (according to fWAR). Those 17 players are, in rough chronological order: Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Mike Trout.


Who hasn't? Well, a number of the very best players of all time, including Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, and Albert Pujols.


Now Trout has only done it once so far. Many of the other players have done it multiple times, although understand by "four-year span" I mean any four consecutive years, so "multiple times" means there is some overlap. For instance, a player with a 9+ WAR six years in a row and 4 WAR on either side, like so--4, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 4--will have three consecutive four-year spans, starting with the four-year span beginning on the first 9 and ending with the four-year span that ends with the last 9.


Of the 17 players, Ruth has the most four-year spans with 12, then Hornsby with 7, Wagner and Gehrig with 6 each...but wait, those guys played a long time ago. The game was different, and we have less statistical data. Let's narrow this down a bit and look only at players who played at least part of their career after World War 2.


Players with at least one four-year span of 35+ fWAR (WW2 to present)

Barry Bonds 5

Willie Mays 4

Mickey Mantle 3

Ted Williams 2

Joe Morgan 2

Stan Musial 1

Carl Yastrzemski 1

Alex Rodriguez 1

Mike Trout 1


Not a bad list there. Now let's say Trout slows his pace just a tad and finishes this year with a 9.0 fWAR (he's at 6.2 now), and thus has 37.8 over the four years. In order to make it a second four-year span, and thus taking 2012 (10.3) off, he'd need at least a 7.5 fWAR in 2016. Let's be somewhat conservative and say that he equals his career low and has an 8.0 fWAR in 2016. He'd then need a 10 fWAR in 2017 to make it three consecutive spans.


Regardless, it seems likely--or at least very possible--that Trout has at least one more four-year span of 35+ fWAR, assuming no major injury or decline next year. That would put him in a category with only five other post-WW2 players, or 11 other players since 1900.


Another way to look at just how good Trout has been these past four years is to say that this four-year span--if he stopped playing today--is among the 59 best four-year spans in major league history, or at least since 1900.  Since World War 2 (we'll include Williams in 1939-42) only 19 other four year spans have been as good as Trout's. Here are those 20 best four-year spans of the last 75 years:


1. Barry Bonds (2001-04) 47.3

2. Barry Bonds (2000-03) 43.0

3a. Mickey Mantle (1955-58) 41.5

3b. Willie Mays (1962-65) 41.5

5. Ted Williams (1946-49) 40.6

6a. Mickey Mantle (1954-57) 39.5

6b. Willie Mays (1963-66) 39.5

8. Willie Mays (1961-64) 39.1

9. Joe Morgan (1973-76) 38.6

10. Mickey Mantle (1956-59) 38.4

11. Joe Morgan (1972-75) 37.8

12. Barry Bonds (1990-93) 37.7

13. Willie Mays (1960-63) 37.0

14. Alex Rodriguez (2000-03) 36.5

15. Ted Williams (1939-42) 36.4

16. Barry Bonds (1999-2002) 36.1

17a. Stan Musial (1948-51) 35.4

17b. Barry Bonds (2002-05) 35.4

19. Carl Yastrzemski (1967-70) 35.0

20. Mike Trout (2012-15) 35.0


Trout will probably finish in the 11-13 range, with an outside chance of making the top 10. Notice a few things. Trout is one of only four players since the 1960s to have such a span, along with Bonds, Rodrguez, and Morgan. Now if Trout finishes with 37.8 fWAR for the four years, it will be the best non-Bondsian four-year span since JOe Morgan in the mid-70s. If we put an asterisk near Bonds' and Rodriguez's spans of the late 90s and early 00s, although still retain Bonds early 90s span, we could say that Trout right now is about as good as Bonds was in the early 90s and Morgan in the early 70s.


Not a bad player, this Trout kid.


Edited by Angelsjunky
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