What If Mike Trout Only Played 50 Games Every Year?

We seem to be faced with the prospect of a 50-game season in 2020. Getting 50 games is better than getting no baseball at all, but one of the great joys of the sport is seeing Mike Trout, the game’s best player, play baseball three times that often every year. Since the start of the 2012 season, Mike Trout has played in 1,159 games, an average of 145 games per year. During that time, he’s put up 72.7 WAR, an average of 9.1 WAR per season. On a per-50-game basis, Mike Trout has been worth 3.1 WAR, roughly equivalent to the marks put up by Manny Machado and Brian Anderson in 2019.

In 50 games, Mike Trout does what above average ballplayers do over the course of the entire season. To provide some context for Trout’s prowess, here’s a graph showing Trout’s rolling 50-game wRC+ average over the course of his career:

Remember that rough stretch Trout had near the end of 2014, where for a period of 50 games, his wRC+ was only 124? What struggles he must have been having. Or near the beginning of the 2018 season, when his rough patch carried over from 2017 and his wRC+ was a measly 134 over his previous 50 games? During his eight-plus years in the majors, Trout has spent more time with a 50-game rolling wRC+ above 200 than he has below 150.

Trout’s never been known as a huge home run hitter despite averaging over 30 homers per season. Of course, Trout’s 84 homers over the last two seasons also leads the majors. Here’s how Trout has performed in terms of homers over a 50-game stretch:

Somewhere between 10 and 20 homers has been the norm for Trout, though those totals have crept higher the last few seasons.

This is what his walk rate looks like:

He hasn’t fallen below 12.9%, about 50% better than league average since the middle of the 2015 season. On-base percentage tends to be related to walks. This is where Trout stands:

He hasn’t dipped below a .350 OBP for any length of time since 2014. And slugging? Really good at that, too:

If you go two for four with a single and a double, you end up with a .750 slugging percentage. Mike Trout has regularly averaged that over 50 games multiple times in the last three seasons.

When you put it all together, here’s what Trout’s rolling WAR looks like:

As I mentioned at the top, Trout generally averages around three wins for every 50 games he plays. Since his first full season in 2012, he’s only dropped down to 1.3 WAR over 50 games one time, essentially a four-win pace. More impressive are the high bars. Here’s Mike Trout’s 50-game highs in individual seasons since 2012:

Mike Trout’s Best WAR over 50 Consecutive Games in Each Season
Year Best 50-Game Stretch Rank Against Full Season Players
2012 4.9 20
2013 4.5 27
2014 4.2 35
2015 4.2 36
2016 3.6 50
2017 3.9 39
2018 4.5 28
2019 4.1 35
Total 33.9

Trout’s best 50 games every year make him an All-Star caliber player; it’s what he does in the other 100 games that make him among the greatest players of all time. Here’s how Trout’s best 50 games in each season match up against other players’ career totals from 2012 through 2019:

50 Games of Mike Trout Per Year Since 2012 Versus the Rest of Baseball
Name Team G WAR
Mike Trout Angels 1159 72.7
Buster Posey Giants 1098 47.1
Josh Donaldson – – – 1024 41.8
Paul Goldschmidt – – – 1205 38.6
Andrew McCutchen – – – 1140 37.7
Mookie Betts Red Sox 794 37.2
Bryce Harper – – – 1084 35.1
Joey Votto Reds 1100 34.9
Jose Altuve Astros 1186 34.8
Robinson Cano – – – 1132 34.7
Freddie Freeman Braves 1169 34.2
50-Game Mike Trout Angels 400 33.9
Christian Yelich – – – 920 33.6
Manny Machado – – – 1082 33.2
Anthony Rendon Nationals 916 32.7
Yasmani Grandal – – – 879 32.6
Giancarlo Stanton – – – 912 32.4
Nolan Arenado Rockies 1031 31.3
Adrian Beltre Rangers 974 30.8
Yadier Molina Cardinals 1039 30.8
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 1049 30.7
Kyle Seager Mariners 1208 30.1
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 1142 30.1

Mike Trout? Great at baseball, even if given just 50 games in a season.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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3 years ago

Delicious. In these MLB-less times, would love more ‘Mike Trout is awesome’ pieces.

Was there a Fangraphs piece on what Mike Trout’s line would look like if he played this season in the KBO? I thought so, but now I can’t find it…maybe I dreamt it.

3 years ago
Reply to  nickolai

There was a Reddit thread where someone simulated the rest of Trout’s career in KBO using Out of the Park baseball.