ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout opened Monday with a Wins Above Replacement mark of 10.0. For those of you not very savvy with sabermetrics -- or accepting of it -- that's pretty darn good. So good that the player with the second-best WAR in the Majors, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, is at 6.3. So good that since 2000, only three position players have finished a season with a WAR of 10 or higher.
WAR, as FanGraphs.com puts it, "is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player's total contributions to their team in one statistic." And many of those making the argument that Trout should be the American League's Most Valuable Player this year point to his lead in WAR as the clearest sign of all.
Angels starter C.J. Wilson, big on sabermetrics, believes Trout's MVP candidacy is "simple without that," but the WAR stat "takes it completely out of the picture all together."
"He plays Gold Glove defense in center field, which is huge, and he's leading the league in batting average [.328], and in runs , and he hits home runs , and he's leading the league in stolen bases ," said Wilson, who's been touting Trout as the MVP for weeks. "So it's like, all that stuff together, if you take him out of our lineup, it's a much worse lineup."
WAR would say the Angels would be 10 wins worse, actually.
Over the last 13 years, a WAR of 10 or higher has taken place eight times -- and only twice did it not lead to a major postseason award. Bonds did it in three of his MVP years (11.6 in '01 and '02, 11.4 in '04). Zack Greinke had a score of 10.1 during his Cy Young season in '09. Pedro Martinez was at 11.4 when he won the Cy Young in '00. Randy Johnson finished at 10.2 when he won his Cy Young in '02. Alex Rodriguez ('00) and Sammy Sosa ('01) each finished with scores of 10.1 in years they did not win the MVP.
Albert Pujols is widely mentioned as one of the greatest players of this generation, but his best WAR season was 9.4, in '09.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown and is considered Trout's biggest challenger for the MVP, but his WAR this year is 5.7.
Asked how much weight he puts on WAR, old-school Angels manager Mike Scioscia said "between zero and zero." But he isn't shocked to see Trout leading in anything these days.
"As people absorb it, you're going to see just what an incredible impact Mike's had in his first go-around playing in the Major Leagues," Scioscia said, "so that doesn't surprise me."