In the 21st century, baseball became more analytics-focused thanks to the advent of the internet and mathematicians determining what traits were more valuable for players. With that, new statistics were created thanks to websites and companies like FanGraphs. One statistic that has gained a lot of traction over the years is wins above replacement, or WAR, for short. FanGraphs uses a system to determine WAR, and some of the finest seasons for a batter in baseball history have come during the 2010s. A few, however, really stood out above the rest over the decade.
The Brilliance of Mike Trout
Of the 15 best individual seasons of the 2010s, Mike Trout was responsible for an amazing seven of them. The lowest of the bunch was Trout’s 2014 season when he put up an impressive 8.3 wins above replacement. He even outdid that season in 2019 despite playing in 23 fewer games. The most impressive feat for Trout, however, came in 2013.
It was then that Trout had the second-best season of the decade, posting a batting average of .323 with 27 home runs and 97 runs batted in. When you add in 33 stolen bases, terrific defense, and an on-base percentage of .432, it’s easy to see why Trout was considered to be the best player of the 2010s by a longshot. Sadly, despite his individual success, the Angels made just one postseason appearance in the decade and the team was swept by Kansas City in the American League Division Series.
No Triple Crown
Surprisingly, when Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera won the American League’s triple crown in 2012, his season wasn’t even top 30 of the decade in terms of WAR. Instead, it was the following season when he nearly repeated his triple crown performance that ranks highly, landing at number 11 in the decade.
Varied at the Back End
With Trout taking up four of the top 10 spots of the decade, there weren’t many spots left open, but nobody else had more than one season, making it a varied list of names. At the 10th spot is Josh Donaldson’s 2015 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays when he mashed 41 home runs and hit for a .297 average en route to an MVP season.
Aaron Judge’s 2017 season was one to remember with 52 home runs for the Yankees, placing him in the ninth position. Trout’s 2015 then appears at eighth, but that same year, Bryce Harper was just a little bit better with the Nationals. That year, Harper hit an impressive .330 with 42 home runs to win the National League’s MVP award. Rounding out the bottom half of the top 10 was Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 season. Boosted by his stellar defense and power-hitting, Ellsbury finished second in MVP voting that year behind Justin Verlander.
Best Non-Trout Seasons
The top three batting seasons of the 2010s indeed feature Mike Trout, whose previously mentioned 2013 was his best. The third overall spot was taken by catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants. Hitting .336 on the season with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs, Posey got a big boost from his impressive defense behind the dish to launch him to an MVP win.
The best batting season of the 2010s, though, belongs to Mookie Betts while he was a member of the Boston Red Sox. Winning the American League’s MVP award that year in a landslide, Betts collected 10.6 wins above replacement while batting .346 with 32 home runs. Though he had just 80 runs batted in, Betts crossed the plate a whopping 129 times and stole 30 bases. Add in a walk rate that was almost higher than his strikeout rate and you can see why this was the best season of the 2010s.