Mike Trout vs. Josh Donaldson: Who is the AL MVP favorite?

This is Mike Trout’s fourth full season in the majors. In each of his first three years, he’s finished top-two in the American League MVP voting. As long as he stays relatively healthy, he’s pretty much a lock to make that four-for-four. But will he add a second MVP trophy to his collection in 2015? MORE: A's made right move in trading DonaldsonWhen the All-Star Game arrived in the middle of July, that seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Angels’ star was bettering his 2014 MVP percentage numbers — and on pace to better them in the counting categories — in almost every category across the board.  Basically, he was doing Mike Trout things again. And though he’s stumbled a bit since the break (.243 average), he’s still producing a slash line that’s above his 2014 slash line, and he already has 33 home runs — he hit 36 in the entire 2014 season. He’s still doing MVP-worthy things again. Related News The 20 worst MVP picks of all time But Josh Donaldson has clouded the picture. Since the All-Star break, Toronto’s third baseman has 12 homers and a 1.083 OPS, to go with his .295 average. That’s pretty darn good. There are other players who merit consideration for the award, of course, but it’s not going too far out on a limb to say Trout and Donaldson are the two favorites. Their teams own the two AL wild-card spots at the moment, which doesn't hurt. Let’s take a look at where they stand right now …MORE: Trout wants to be a weathermanPlayer valueDonaldson: 6.6 FanGraphs WAR, 6.7 Baseball-Reference WARTrout: 6.7 FanGraphs WAR, 7.1 Baseball-Reference WARThoughts: Clearly very close. And honestly, at this point you can just disregard this completely when comparing Trout and Donaldson. Why? Look at this, from the FanGraphs’ glossary on how to correctly use WAR. Given the nature of the calculation and potential measurement errors, WAR should be used as a guide for separating groups of players and not as a precise estimate. For example, a player that has been worth 6.4 WAR and a player that has been worth 6.1 WAR over the course of a season cannot be distinguished from one another using WAR. It is simply too close for this particular tool to tell them apart. WAR can tell you that these two players are likely about equal in value, but you need to dig deeper to separate them.So, y’know, let’s do that …Standard offensive numbers Donaldson: 119 games, 528 PAs, .293/.362/.570, 33 homers, 91 runs, 89 RBIs, four stolen bases, 49 walks, 103 strikeoutsTrout: 117 games, 503 PAs, .295/.392/.585, 33 homers, 71 RBIs, 79 runs, 10 stolen bases, 62 walks, 117 strikeoutsThoughts: They’re pretty even here, too, as you can see. Tied in home runs and virtually tied in slugging percentage. Trout has a better on-base percentage but strikes out a bit more. Donaldson leads the AL in both RBIs and runs scored, but his performance in counting statistics can be largely attributed to his teammates. Donaldson, batting in ’s best offense, has 128 PAs with runners in scoring position and Trout, batting in a run-of-the-mill offense, has only 99. Both have been exceptional in those situations — Donaldson’s batting .350 with a 1.035 OPS and Trout’s at .352 with a 1.233 OPS. Clearly, a rational person cannot hold Trout’s lower RBI totals against him. Same thing goes for the runs scored category. Advanced offensive metricsDonaldson: .396 wOBA, 154 wRC+, .932 OPS, .276 ISO, 0.48 BB/KTrout: .410 wOBA, 171 wRC+, .976 OPS, .290 ISO, 0.53 BB/KThoughts: They’re not dominating leads, but Trout does have an edge in almost all of the advanced metrics, including the ones we haven’t listed here. When nitpicking between two very worthy candidates, it’s OK for not-dominating leads to carry weight. Defensive metricsDonaldson: 9.9 UZR/150, 10 DRSTrout: 2.4 UZR/150, 5 DRSThoughts: Both play premium defensive positions — Trout in center field and Donaldson at third base — and both are outstanding defenders. It’s hard to compare different positions, so let’s look at how they stack up with other defenders at their position. Donaldson ranks third among qualified AL third basemen with his 9.9 UZR/150, behind Evan Longoria (13.4) and Adrian Beltre (13.0). Trout is eighth among AL center fielders, at 2.4. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier (41.6) is first, by a huge margin, with Lorenzo Cain second at 12.9. So you could conceivably give Donaldson an edge with the glove, as long as you keep in mind that defensive statistics are far from a perfect measurement of defensive performance. Not quite a “grain of salt” approach, but understand the limitations. Verdict/flips coin /watches coin bounce forever/sees it come up Trout/sleeps well because there is no wrong choice