Mike Trout Is Now Fully Qualified for the Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend, which was scheduled for July 24-27, did not go off as originally planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this past weekend, Cooperstown gained a center fielder nonetheless. With his 2020 season debut, which he made on Friday, Mike Trout has now satisfied Hall of Fame election eligibility rule 3(B), which reads in part, “Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons.” Trout is thus fully qualified to be elected once his career ends and the requisite five-year waiting period has elapsed.

[UPDATE: Multiple commenters below questioned whether a season in which no champion is crowned — such as the strike-shortened 1994 season or, perhaps, this one if the pandemic proves unmanageable — constitutes a “championship season.” Regarding 1994, the presence of Jim Abbott, who pitched in the majors from 1989-96 and ’98-99 — 10 seasons, including ’94 — on the 2005 BBWAA ballot offers a precedent for the strike season counting as a championship season. Hall Vice President of Communications and Education Jon Shestakofsky additionally told FanGraphs, “While things could change given the nature of our present situation, we are currently looking at 2020 as a Major League championship season, as dictated by Major League Baseball.]

For most players, the possibility of election isn’t one that emerges until late in their careers, when major round-numbered milestones are being reached and tributes paid. Trout is not most players, for he has done so much at such a young age — he’ll turn 29 on August 7 — that his election is becoming a foregone conclusion. While his Angels have never won a postseason game (they were swept in the 2014 American League Division Series), and while he’s only led the league in one triple crown stat (RBI in 2014), he’s already made eight All-Star teams, won three MVP awards (not to mention the Rookie of the Year), and hit 286 home runs, including this one on Sunday off Oakland’s Mike Fiersthe first of his career on a 3-0 count:

Trout scores 136 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, which is based on common statistical benchmarks and accomplishments for old-school stats that have historically tended to appeal to voters; there 100 is “a likely Hall of Famer and 130 “a virtual cinch.” But it’s not those old-school numbers that have made his actual election inevitable, it’s the newer-school ones, the likes of which weren’t added to the backs of baseball cards until after Moneyball was published. Trout, a career .305/.419/.581 hitter, has never won a batting title, and while he’s finished as high as second among the top 10 in the AL six times, that pales in importance to his dominance in other slash stat categories. He’s topped a .400 on-base percentage six times, missing by a point in another year, and leading the league four times. He’s topped a .600 slugging percentage three times, and never finished below .500 save for his cup-of-coffee 2011 season; he’s led that category three times. He’s led in wRC+ six times, including the last five in a row, all at 170 or above; when he hasn’t led, he’s finished second or third, the slacker. Since he entered the league, only Joey Votto has a higher on-base percentage (.438), but Trout has a 14-point edge in slugging percentage on second-ranked David Ortiz (.567) — and that’s in over 1,800 more plate appearances in a more pitcher-friendly environment. Trout’s 172 wC+ is 21 points higher than the second-ranked Votto.

His greatness isn’t just confined to offense, and we have the good fortune that Trouts career is unfolding at a time when we have the tools to appreciate the wholeness of his game. He not only has 200 career stolen bases, he owns an 84.7% success rate to go with it, the third-highest mark among players with at least 200 attempts. By FanGraphs’ reckoning, his 59.3 baserunning runs is second in the majors since his arrival. His totals of 11.1 UZR and 14 DRS over that span are less remarkable, but obviously both above average, and there’s significant value in his ability to play center field at such a level for so long; his overall defensive value — in this case UZR (including his time in left field) plus positional adjustment — puts him in the 89th percentile among all outfielders since 2011.

Add it all up — including his 452 batting runs, 118 more than the number two player over that span, Votto — and you have a player worth 73.4 WAR from 2011-19. That’s a full 50% more than the second-ranked player, Buster Posey, even though Trout’s 2011 season consisted of just 40 games. He has lapped the field.

Trout’s progress towards Cooperstown is most easily seen via JAWS. Just over two years ago, in late May 2018, when he was two-and-a-half months shy of his 27th birthday and still just in his sixth full season, he reached the JAWS standard for center fielders, the average of each Hall of Fame center fielder’s career WAR and his seven-year peak WAR. He blew past that mark like it was a rest stop on the moon for a guy bound for the outer solar system. He’s now 11.2 points above the standard, and fifth in JAWS among all center fielders:

Center Field JAWS Leaders
Rk Name Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
1 Willie Mays+ 156.2 73.5 114.9
2 Ty Cobb+ 151.0 69.0 110.0
3 Tris Speaker+ 134.3 62.5 98.4
4 Mickey Mantle+ 110.2 64.7 87.4
5 Mike Trout 72.8 65.6 69.2
6 Ken Griffey Jr.+ 83.8 54.0 68.9
7 Joe DiMaggio+ 79.1 52.4 65.7
Avg HOF CF 71.3 44.7 58.0
8 Duke Snider+ 66.0 49.5 57.7
9 Carlos Beltran 70.1 44.4 57.2
10 Kenny Lofton 68.4 43.4 55.9
11 Andruw Jones 62.7 46.4 54.6
12 Richie Ashburn+ 64.4 44.5 54.5
13 Andre Dawson+ 64.8 42.7 53.7
14 Billy Hamilton+ 63.3 42.6 52.9
15 Jim Edmonds 60.4 42.6 51.5
16 Willie Davis 60.8 38.9 49.9
17 Jim Wynn 55.8 43.3 49.6
18 Cesar Cedeno 52.8 41.4 47.1
19 Vada Pinson 54.2 40.0 47.1
20 Chet Lemon 55.6 37.2 46.4
21 Earl Averill+ 51.1 39.1 45.1
23 Kirby Puckett+ 51.1 37.6 44.4
24 Larry Doby+ 49.3 39.4 44.3
27 Max Carey+ 54.5 33.1 43.8
36 Earle Combs+ 43.9 35.4 39.7
39 Edd Roush+ 45.1 31.6 38.3
45 Hugh Duffy+ 43.1 30.9 37.0
46 Hack Wilson+ 38.2 35.6 36.9
105 Lloyd Waner+ 27.9 22.4 25.1
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
+ = Hall of Famer. Note discontinuity in rankings after top 20.

Via Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, Trout has already outproduced all but six center fielders, and he’s still more than a year away from his 30th birthday. His seven-year peak is surpassed only by Mays and Cobb, that despite the fact that three of his seven best seasons are 140 games or fewer — namely his top-ranked 2012 (139 games thanks to his belated call-up, but 10.5 WAR), third-ranked ’18 (140 games, 10.2 WAR), and seventh-ranked ’19 (134 games, 8.2 WAR). Compare what Trout has done though his age-27 season with the rest of the field:

WAR Through Age 27 Season
Rk Player Age PA WAR WAR/650
1 Mike Trout 2011-2019 5273 72.8 8.97
2 Ty Cobb 1905-1914 5261 68.9 8.51
3 Mickey Mantle 1951-1959 5408 67.9 8.16
4 Rogers Hornsby 1915-1923 4767 63.7 8.69
5 Alex Rodriguez 1994-2003 5687 63.6 7.27
6 Jimmie Foxx 1925-1935 5241 61.6 7.64
7 Mel Ott 1926-1936 5992 60.2 6.53
8 Ken Griffey Jr. 1989-1997 5262 59.2 7.31
9 Hank Aaron 1954-1961 5201 56.2 7.02
10 Arky Vaughan 1932-1939 5055 56.2 7.23
11 Tris Speaker 1907-1915 4570 55.8 7.94
12 Eddie Collins 1906-1914 4333 55.0 8.25
13 Albert Pujols 2001-2007 4741 54.9 7.53
14 Eddie Mathews 1952-1959 5138 53.2 6.73
15 Willie Mays 1951-1958 3983 50.9 8.31
16 Frank Robinson 1956-1963 5072 50.8 6.51
17 Rickey Henderson 1979-1986 4843 50.4 6.76
18 Barry Bonds 1986-1992 4255 50.3 7.68
19 Babe Ruth 1914-1922 3138 50.2 10.40
20 Joe DiMaggio 1936-1942 4418 50.1 7.37
21 Johnny Bench 1967-1975 5194 50.0 6.26
22 Stan Musial 1941-1948 4031 49.9 8.05
23 Al Kaline 1953-1962 5522 49.1 5.78
24 Lou Gehrig 1923-1930 4028 48.8 7.87
25 Ron Santo 1960-1967 5162 45.7 5.75
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Within that group are significant disparities in playing time; Ruth was 23 when he began dabbling in the outfield, while Mays missed most of his age-21 and all of his age-22 seasons due to military service during the Korean War, and the majority of the players on the list played 154-game seasons. Prorate everybody to WAR per 650 plate appearances, and Trout quite reasonably trails the ahead-of-his-time Ruth, but he still has the draw on everybody else. This is worth remembering, in part because he’s getting the shaft with regards to the impact of the pandemic-shortened season on his counting stats; the WAR-through-age-28 leader is Cobb (78.4), who’s out of Trout’s reach unless he literally matches the best 60-game stretch of his career, a 10-week jag in 2012 during which he hit .368/.431/.644 (197 wRC+) with 15 homers and 28 steals and was worth 5.6 WAR (fWAR, not bWAR, but the point stands). He’s projected for 3.3 WAR this year, which prorates to 8.9 over a full season. If he matches that projection, he’d inch past Hornsby on the list above.

WAR is just a number, though, in this case a quantitative estimate of Trout’s broad, remarkable collection of skills. Stacast’s numbers, by the way, further underscore those skills and the gifts that make them possible. Trout doesn’t hit the ball as hard as Aaron Judge; last year’s 0.8 mph average exit velocity placed him in the 79th percentile, but thanks to his 99th percentile launch angle, his contact produces maximum damage. He’s been in the 99th percentile in xwOBA annually. Oh, and he’s got 95th percentile sprint speed (just don’t ask about his outfield jumps).

We can look at Trout’s numbers all day, but for as fascinating as they are, they underscore that he’s still somewhere within a peak that nobody else is approaching. It’s a fine time to watch him play, particularly given that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that we’d get to see him this year. Not only was it quite possible that there would be no baseball in general due to the pandemic, but Trout, whose wife Jessica is due to give birth to the couple’s first child in August, has been understandably vocal in his ambivalence about playing in the midst of all this:

It wasn’t until last Wednesday that Trout definitively said, “I’m playing,” while noting how well his teammates had been adhering to the mask and social distancing protocols. He expressed relief over the fact that to that point, the team had experienced no outbreaks, and hopefully, things stay that way. Seeing what happened this weekend, with 12 Marlins players and two coaches testing positive, should drive home the possibility that this could happen to any team. If it were the Angels, it might be enough to send the game’s best player home for the remainder of the year, having decided the risks are too high.

For now, though, Mike Trout is playing baseball, cementing his legacy as a bona fide Hall of Famer, and finding new ways to impress us, like by putting a 3-0 pitch into play for just the seventh time in his career, and collecting his second such hit — his first since 2015 — and his first homer.

Last week, I was invited to participate in an ESPN roundtable pegged to the start of the season, answering questions about breakout players and defensive wizards and teams with the most to prove. One question to which I submitted an answer apparently didn’t get run; it asked, “Which player are you most excited to watch in a short season?” My answer was Trout, the same answer I’d give over a 10-game or 162-game season. He’s the best player on the planet, and it’s bad we’ve being robbed of the better part of what should be one of his prime seasons. Still, we are watching a bona fide Hall of Famer in the making as he lays tracks towards Cooperstown, and it would be foolish not to savor every opportunity we get to see that happen.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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MikeS
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MikeS

It is being reported by pretty much everybody (including in this piece) except MLB and The Marlins that as many as 14 Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for COVID and their home opener tonight against the Orioles has been postponed.

If the season doesn’t make it a week, does it still count as “playing in part of a season?”

Jon L.
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I had a similar thought regarding the phrase “in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons.” What about 1994? What about 2020?

But I’m still optimistic.

Barney Coolio
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Barney Coolio

What does “championship season” mean? I can’t believe that was included in the article without any explanation. I think it is an unnecessary qualification, which is one of my pet peeves.

Psychic... Powerless...
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Psychic... Powerless...

It’s worse than unnecessary; it’s confusing.

olethros
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olethros

It’s literally the language used by both the Hall of Fame and the CBA.

HappyFunBall
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HappyFunBall

As written I would interpret it as a season in which a champion is crowned. e.g. There has to have been a World Series, in modern terms.

So my question is, was there anyone who’s HOF eligibility was determined by their participation in the 1994 season?

TKDC
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TKDC

Without actually doing the legwork, I’ll go ahead and say with confidence that no one that had any chance of being elected played in only 10 seasons, with one being 1994.

Edit: did a little legwork; we are talking best pitcher and hitter who would be disqualified possibly being Alex Fernandez and John Kruk. It’s a nonissue.

Barney Coolio
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Barney Coolio

TKDC: Alex Rodriguez had well over 60 WAR from 1994 – 2003. If he had some catastrophic injury following 2003, or retired Koufax-style, he would probably be in the HOF regardless. After 2003, he was an MVP, had a batting title, and 3 straight home run titles with 2 gold gloves at shortstop.

TKDC
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TKDC

I did not say it was a nonissue in theory. It is a nonissue in practice. As in, Alex Fernandez, John Kruk, and Jim Abbot aren’t serious HOF contenders. If Griffey or Arod has retired (or died, or whatever) after exactly 10 years, then this would no longer be a nonissue. The chances of a generational type player’s career ending before accruing 10 counted seasons are very small and are not proportional to how much discussion the hypothetical scenario receives.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame based almost entirely on what he did with the Seattle Mariners. If he had retired because of injury after 1999 instead of getting traded to the Reds, he absolutely would have made the Hall of Fame (and honestly probably would have had a greater reputation than he enjoys today). Through 1999 he had played in 11 seasons, one of which was 1994. Shift his debut as a 19 year old to a still-young debut as a 20 year old and you’re down to a 10 year career with one of those years being 1994.

Barney Coolio
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Barney Coolio

Happyfunball: A similar article could have been written in 2003 regarding Alex Rodriguez. His first season was 1994, but the question would be, did 1994 count?

MLB notables who debuted in 1985: Ozzie Guillen, Shawon Dunston, Vince Coleman, Lenny Dykstra.

emh1969
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emh1969

Just a quick look found Jim Abbot. He was on the 2005 HOF ballot. He played exactly 10 seasons, including 1994. So it seems like the “championship season” part of the rule may not be enforced.

HappyFunBall
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HappyFunBall

Excellent. So we can add HOF eligibility to the pile of asterisks applied to however much of a 2020 season we end up getting.

Captain Tenneal
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Captain Tenneal

The 10 year rule will literally never keep anyone out of the Hall of Fame. Anyone truly that great in less than a decade would simply have the rule waived, like Addie Joss. I’m constantly amazed by how often people bring it up.

olethros
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olethros

“Championship season” in this context doesn’t mean that a World Series has to be played and the trophy awarded, it’s just the language the league uses to refer to the regular season, as opposed to exhibition games like spring training and the all star game.

1994 counted as a “championship season” because the intent when it began was to play the season to determine playoff qualifiers.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

Yeah I’m basically 100% convinced that the season will be cancelled by the end of this week, and I’m wondering what kind of fascinating single-season records will be set as a result. There are currently 7 players with batting averages above .500; 7 players with slugging percentages over 1.000; and 13 qualified pitchers with 0.00 ERA’s.

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
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The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot

Wait, you seriously think that if the season is cancelled by the end of this week there will be “single season records”?

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

I mean, the 2020 season exists. It’s in the books. Numbers from 1981, 1994, and 1995 still count, even if they might have an asterisk next to them. No reason why numbers from a 3-or-4 game 2020 “season” wouldn’t count.

carter
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carter

I would be surprised if the season gets canceled, at least this early on. It is a business. If they have to make alterations they will, but they aren’t going to just cancel it. They MLB does not care whatsoever about its players. To them, they are employees, and nothing else. We will see many forfeits before the season gets canceled, I can assure that. The only way the season gets canceled is if players who are high profile start opting out midseason and public perception turns against the MLB.

luke
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luke

Or when an older coach or janitor dies. It’s insane that we always talk about the players. Only. Like we only talk about the kids on school as of there aren’t 63 year old teachers with diabetes.

This country is just too stupid to survive.

luke
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luke

Downvoted? Come on folks. The writing was on the wall the moment they came up with this absurd plan. Traveling the country? Gimme a break. The magical thinking is insanity.

carter
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carter

I do not disagree with you. I was never saying that they should of put this plan in place, simply that I don’t think they care that much about the health and safety of people involved. I said it before and I will say it again, they will continue to postpone and teams will forfeit games before they cancel the season. I’d venture what it would take would be like a joint statement between Trout/Yelich/deGrom all saying that they are going to opt out and asking the rest of the league to join them for them actually to cancel it.

With that said, I think it is funny to bring up stuff like flights and what not. Airlines are running, why aren’t they at fault? I have had to take 50+ flights since March for my job. Whether or not the whole world should stop is one thing (I’d lean yes) but we have made a conscious effort to not stop across this entire country. Why would the MLB be excluded from that? It isn’t like there is just essential workers working. Most businesses are open to some extent, most employers are still operating, albeit at a reduced capacity. It would take something monumental for it to get shutdown and the Marlins aren’t important enough to the MLB plain and simple.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

Trying and failing to imagine any job that would require 50+ flights since this March in a pandemic unless it’s some kind of medical specialist or aircraft repair.

My wife and I and our two kids have been locked in the house since March. We haven’t seen another human being since then, except when I take our newborn to the pediatrician for his shots. We get groceries and other necessities delivered and wipe them down with bleach as soon as they get here. Every couple of weeks I go out in the driveway and start the cars and let them idle for a half-hour or so so the batteries don’t die and the fluids can circulate a bit, but other than that, we try not to go outside whenever possible. Other than the baby’s pediatrician, I have not seen another human being except on an LCD screen for almost five months.

And MLB thinks they can have a season? Come on now.

carter
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carter

Two flights there and two back every other week. I had it early on from Mardi Gras actually and was asymptomatic, and while I realize people aren’t entirely certain if someone can get it multiple times the general assumption is no (people can test negative while still having it) . I found out I had it because multiple people close to me got sick with it and I took an antibodies test that said I had antibodies.

I mean I agree with your points mostly, and am on your side. But not everyone can afford to just stay home. We don’t have universal health care, we don’t have ubi, people are getting unemployment taken from them (if the state ever even got to their case in the first place). Things that work in other countries won’t necessarily work here because our country doesn’t have a social or education system that would allow this to take place. Not going to get political but anyone who believes America was ever going to wear masks and listen to science and common sense and reason doesn’t know the same America I know. Half the country is screaming just a flu and fake news and no amount of reason will ever resonate. For me personally I felt that getting a 250% pay raise to take a guys job who wasn’t willing to travel during a pandemic when I already knew I had antibodies was a risk that was worth it for me and my family.

Original Greaser Bob
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Original Greaser Bob

Are you in the middle of New York? Get out and take a f%$king walk.

D-Wiz
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D-Wiz

Had this question as well. In normal times it would be overly pedantic to ask this question, but, well… yeah, not normal times at the moment!