Mike Trout and One-Man Teams

Mike Trout’s exploits are well known, but no matter how well Mike Trout plays, his team will not succeed without productive play from others in the lineup. Mike Trout is not the first great player with a less than stellar supporting cast. It is something he has gone through already in his brief career. In 2012 and 2014, the Angels had solid teams surrounding Trout that won nearly 90 games in 2012 and won the division in 2014, but in 2013, the rest of the Angels provided poor production and the team wasted a 10-win season. The Angels have gotten off to a slow start at 12-15 and they are certainly far from out of the race at this point, but based on the start of the season and the projections from here on out, the Angels could have trouble providing Trout with support and staying in the playoff hunt as the year goes on.

On offense this season, Mike Trout has been 11.6 runs above average, good for sixth in all of baseball while the rest of the position players have been 26.6 runs below average. Even with Mike Trout, the team has an 85 wRC+ in the early going, ranking 25th in Major League Baseball. Mike Trout is hitting .302/.404/.552. while the rest of the team is .218/.275/.323. Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, and Matt Shoemaker should perform well in the rotation, but the team projects to finish the season around .500. No matter how hard he tries, Mike Trout cannot end every game like this:

The rest of the season projections are not incredibly promising for position players not named Trout. The only position players projected for better than average production for the rest of the season are Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols. Combining the team’s current production with their FanGraphs Depths Charts projections for the rest of the season looks like this:

Name WAR
Mike Trout 9.0
Kole Calhoun 3.5
Albert Pujols 2.9
Johnny Giavotella 1.9
Erick Aybar 1.5
David Freese 1.1
Chris Iannetta 1.0
Collin Cowgill 0.7
Josh Rutledge 0.2
Matt Joyce 0.1
Grant Green 0.1
Efren Navarro 0.0
Taylor Featherston 0.0
Drew Butera 0.0
C.J. Cron -0.2
TOTAL 21.8

In the last fifty years, only 26 players have achieved nine-win seasons, and those players have accumulated 47 of those seasons. Mike Trout has two of those seasons, and if he were to have another one in 2015, he would join Barry Bonds (8), Alex Rodriguez (6), Joe Morgan (3), and Mike Schmidt (3) as the only players during that time to have at least three nine-win seasons. Cal Ripken, Jr., Ken Griffey, Jr., Rickey Henderson, and Carl Yastrzemski are the only other players with more than one nine-win season in the last fifty years.

Great players have had varying degrees of help during their magnificent seasons. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez are the only position player teammates in the last half-century to post nine-win seasons in the same year. The graph below shows the highest teammate WAR during the season where the player achieved nine wins.


The green bar is the updated projection for Kole Calhoun. While a nine-win season is hardly a guarantee for any player, even Mike Trout, if he meets his projections, he will have one of the worst second-best teammates in a great year in history. The A-Rod and Griffey, Jr. season is at the top, and here is the rest of the top ten, including the teammate and WAR.

1996 Mariners Alex Rodriguez 9.2 Ken Griffey, Jr. 9.7
1996 Mariners Ken Griffey, Jr. 9.7 Alex Rodriguez 9.2
1972 Reds Johnny Bench 9.2 Joe Morgan 8.7
2004 Cardinals Scott Rolen 9.0 Jim Edmonds 8.3
1997 Astros Craig Biggio 9.3 Jeff Bagwell 8.0
2011 Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury 9.4 Dustin Pedroia 7.8
1976 Reds Joe Morgan 9.5 Pete Rose 7.4
1973 Reds Joe Morgan 9.5 Pete Rose 7.3
2001 Giants Barry Bonds 12.5 Rich Aurilia 7.1
1980 Royals George Brett 9.1 Willie Wilson 7.0

The Big Red Machine of the 70s had several great players, and that 2004 St. Louis Cardinals’ team also had Albert Pujols not too far behind. The list above shows some of the greatest single-season duos in history while the below list gets closer to the one-man teams. The great players below played without an upper-level caliber second banana out in the field, as with a cutoff of a five-win season.

2001 Cubs Sammy Sosa 9.9 Ricky Gutierrez 1.8 88
2013 Angels Mike Trout 10.5 Howie Kendrick 2.6 78
1996 Giants Barry Bonds 9.2 Matt Williams 2.6 68
2004 Giants Barry Bonds 11.9 Ray Durham 3.1 91
1997 Rockies Larry Walker 9.1 Andres Galarraga 3.1 83
2003 Giants Barry Bonds 10.2 Jose Cruz 3.2 100
1980 Phillies Mike Schmidt 9.0 Manny Trillo 3.3 91
2004 Dodgers Adrian Beltre 9.7 Cesar Izturis 3.6 93
1967 Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski 11.1 George Scott 4.4 92
1990 Pirates Barry Bonds 9.9 Andy Van Slyke 4.4 95
2005 Yankees Alex Rodriguez 9.1 Derek Jeter 4.4 95
1990 Phillies Lenny Dykstra 9.0 Darren Daulton 4.4 77
1991 Orioles Cal Ripken 10.6 Mike Devereaux 4.5 67
2002 Rangers Alex Rodriguez 10.0 Rafael Palmeiro 4.5 72
1974 Phillies Mike Schmdit 9.4 Dave Cash 4.6 80
1968 Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski 9.3 Ken Harrelson 4.8 86
2003 Rangers Alex Rodriguez 9.2 Hank Blalock 4.8 71
1977 Phillies Mike Schmidt 9.2 Greg Luzinski 4.9 101

Mike Trout has already made this list once as Howie Kendrick was the second-best option in 2013 and had under three wins. The biggest gap on the list occurred in 2004, when Barry Bonds hit .362/.609/.812 for a wRC+ of 233, and four Ray Durhams would have been needed to surpass one Bonds. The worst-performing teammate above was Sammy Sosa’s teammate Ricky Gutierrez. Sosa hit 64 home runs while Gutierrez’s slightly below average bat and average defense at short gave him an average season.

Many of the teams above managed to win quite a few games, but knowing only the second-best position player on the team could mask decent depth behind the top two players. Taking the teams in the last chart above, and then looking at team WAR from position players without the best player helps show which players were playing on an island. The graph below shows rest of the team WAR for the 18 players listed above as well Mike Trout and the Angels’ projections for the rest of this season.


The 1977 Phillies were a great team with nine players with at least two wins. Bake McBride, Larry Bowa, and Garry Maddux all had very good seasons to support Schmidt and Luzinski barely played below the five-win threshold needed to qualify for this list. The 2005 New York Yankees team is an unusual one. The team won without any great pitching seasons as Randy Johnson’s 4.1 WAR was the highest on the staff and the only pitcher above three wins. Bernie Williams and Tony Womack each had seasons that were two wins below replacement level. The team trotted out A-Rod, Jeter, Giambi, Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano and bludgeoned the opposing pitcher without regard for defense. Mariano Rivera closed down the games and the team won 95 games before losing a 3-2 series to the Angels in the first round.

Mike Trout is not all alone on the Angels. Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols are solid players and the pitching staff should be adequate, but even another superlative season from Trout might not be enough to get them to the playoffs. Trout is in very good company in almost every conceivable statistic and when it comes to being a superstar without a solid surrounding cast, it is no different.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Mike Trout is clearly in a whole different stratosphere than every other current player. The only way he could have fair competition is to pit him against the only other individual to literally be a one-man team: Bugs Bunny.


Over the last 3 calendar years, Mike Trout has been worth 30.7 WAR.

This is 9.1 WAR more than the next best player (McCutchen). In other words, Trout has been worth about as much as McCutchen and J.J. Hardy combined in that time.

He’s also been worth these combinations of players (min 400 games playes in last 3 calendar years):

Miguel Cabrera (19.4) and Freddie Freeman (11.2)
Robinson Cano (18.1) and Evan Longoria (12.1)
Buster Posey (18.0) and Kyle Seager (12.4)
Josh Donaldson (17.2) and Joey Votto (13.4)
Adrian Beltre (16.6) and Jason Heyward (14.1)
Alex Gordon (16.2) and Chase Headley (14.3)
Carlos Gomez (16.0) and Adam Jones (15.1)
Ben Zobrist (15.5) and Paul Goldschmidt (15.1)

Trout has also been worth about:

3 x Howie Kendrick
4 x Jose Altuve
5 x Alejandro De Aza
6 x Starlin Castro
7 x David Freese
8 x Drew Stubbs
9 x Eric Hosmer
10 x James Loney
162 x Raul Ibanez,

and last, but certainly least

(negative 10) x Yuniesky Betancourt



That’s great analysis and all, but you should have looked into Bugs Bunny…




Thumbs down for incorrect use of “literally.” Bugs Bunny isn’t even a man!