Time is the ultimate badass. No matter how great you are, no matter how amazing you are at planning, time always wins in the end. And so it is in baseball as in other things. Mike Trout is, in many ways, the reigning king of baseball, that rare player who enters every season as the nearly-undisputed best in the game. Trout is no longer the young phenom and will turn 30 in just under 18 months, the threshold past which your baseball youth is symbolically gone. Young talent debuts every year while Trout inches closer and closer to retirement, and the day will come when he’s no longer baseball’s clear best.
Just being the best player projected coming into the season is practically enough to ensure your baseball immortality. I went back to the start of the modern era (1901) and collected the top WAR projection for every season, instructing ZiPS to calculate a Marcel-like method for the seasons prior to 2003, when the ZiPS projections did not exist. This is a quick way to demonstrate Trout’s dominance compared to other elite players in baseball history:
Top WAR Projection, 1901-2020
There are a couple of oddities in there, mostly caused by the difficulty of…