Over the years, innumerable baseball writers have used the word “valuable” to snub Mike Trout three out of his first four seasons in the big leagues - despite Trout having a lead in every season’s statistical calculation of WAR from Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Prospectus since entering. Many of them cunningly crafted a narrative, pointing to his team’s demise as a justification for their annual swindling of MVP instead of recognizing the best overall player in the game.
Trout has hands-down been the most valuable player in every sense of the word.
There’s really no argument from anyone who is not in the Boston area, which is why repetitively hearing baseball writers such as Jon Heyman state their AL MVP pick as Mookie Betts is so frustrating:
[Betts] gets it over Trout as he was almost as brilliant as Trout (9.5 WAR compared to Trout’s 10.2). That 0.7 extra WAR (based mostly on more walks) isn’t enough to disregard how Betts helped his team win baseball’s best division, and dominated games in the division...[Trout] walking more, and a 0.7 extra WAR doesn’t quite do it, at least not for me.
What? While WAR is highly important to consider in player analysis, it is by no means the be-all end-all of comparison. What Heyman conveniently ignores is that Trout leads the league in OPS+ (174), wRC+ (171), RE24 (76.42), and arguably the most important statistic of all, WPA - wins probability added - (6.96).
Heyman boils Trout’s entire season down to just “more walks”, but Trout’s numbers are more impressive when one takes into account he had little to no protection in the lineup all season. In any case, Trout’s excellent individual performance should not be devalued by his team’s poor performance. If anything, it should be worth more as he is putting up games in spite of his teammates and not because of them.
Simplifying any player into one number without other context is downright ludicrous - and for all the hullabaloo over walks, Trout drew the most in the league.
While the consensus of writers wholeheartedly agree that Trout is the best player in the league, they consistently snub him of AL MVP and then lament how it happened.
Ken Rosenthal admits that he “[prefers his] MVP candidates to come from contending teams” which indicates a bigger problem among the baseball writing community of how the word “valuable” is interpreted, even if Rosenthal attempts to persuade other voters to vote for Trout in this specific instance. But even if the difference is smaller, the better player shouldn’t be snubbed for having an inferior supporting cast.
I, for one, am sick of seeing Trout lose every November 17 because of varying interpretations of the word “valuable”.
But it’s no fun to just hear complaining, so here is my solution: the writers always need some controversy to talk about, right? And most fans already recognize that the MVP is not necessarily the same as the best player. So, the MVP can and should remain as is.
But a new award should rise to prominence: the Most Outstanding Player or Best Overall Player award. This would assure that the best player in each league would not go home empty-handed each season while decreasing the significance of an MVP. And if a player so happens to win Most Valuable and Most Outstanding, then that means he has earned it.
Fans, players, and writers all know that Trout deserves to have more MVP’s than he has. But if he loses tomorrow for the fourth time in five years, the MVP award will hold little to no significance. And something has to change.