This is a guest post from friend of the blog Roland Fuller
Mike Trout is back in the game, and just in time, too. The superstar athlete for the Los Angeles Angels, who had to miss six weeks of play thanks to a tear in his left thumb ligament, got back into play recently, and went on to get five hits and a walk during the weekend series against Tampa Bay.
The return of Trout is opportune for the Angels, because they form part of the group of teams trapped in the tepid race for the wild-card AL slot. Having Trout on the field means more wins, and one of the unsung stories from this season’s first half is that L.A. managed to hold up as well as it did without him. The return is a lucky one for the rest of us because it allows for an uncommon meeting between Trout and the only real contender for the crown of best-in-baseball: Washingtonian Bryce Harper. The Angels and Harper’s Nationals played in LA recently and will match up again for two games in DC in a couple weeks.
It is difficult to see Trout and Harper as rivals: they play on opposite ends of the country, in separate leagues, and have not yet come face to face in a World Series game.
During the time they have spent in the Major Leagues, the Angels and the Nationals have only met on one occasion: a totally forgettable 3-game series that took place in April of 2014, in which neither player managed a home-run, and Harper went only 1 for 11. Sports betting sites the world over sit up and take notice whenever these 2 players are on the field, however, were this ever to occur concurrently, who knows what would happen?
It’s not ridiculous to compare these players, as the only real challenger to Trout’s in-progress reign as the best player in baseball is Harper. Just two years ago, at only 22-years of age, Harper managed to put a WAR of 9.9 –the second-best ever at that age to Ted Williams, who managed 10.6 WAR in 1941, the same year that he hit .406. If Harper can maintain his current pace he will end up very high on the list of best-through-age-24 players, and may even manage to get up to the Top 20.
The biggest difference between these two players is consistency: Harper’s OPS+ ranked as number 24 in the 2016 National League. Many people believe that the slump was as a result of physical problems that the player would not admit to.
Trout has not undergone a down-season thanks to injury, and has established and maintained the extraordinary level of play he has become known for. What other baseball player could miss out on 6 weeks of play and still be in the running for Most Valuable Player?
If Harper’s 2016 season were fixed, and we could somehow restore Trout’s missing weeks, this superstar duo would quickly find a place on any list of historical duos, and both players are of an age that implies that the best they have is yet to be seen.
We are only just entering what may become defined as the era of Trout and Harper, and seeing these players match up on the field is going to be thrilling