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Mike Trout Is Good at Baseball
Posted By Bill Baer On August 7, 2012 @ 10:14 pm In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 16 Comments
As a Phillies fan, it’s easy to forget that baseball is played outside of the Citizens Bank Park confines. Especially since 2007, when the Phillies started their NL East dominance, there has always been something Phillies-specific to worry about, whether it’s been injuries, playing time, or the optimal playoff starting rotation. But now that the Phillies are virtually out of it, we have some time to look up and check out what’s going on around the league.
The one name taking the game by storm is 21-year-old Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Baseball’s top prospect entering the season, he was recalled at the end of April. After a slow first week, Trout caught fire and never looked back. Entering tonight’s game against the Oakland Athletics, he was leading the league in runs scored (86), stolen bases (36), and batting average (.348). His triple-slash line is a staggering .348/.411/.598, including 19 home runs and a 92 percent stolen base success rate. Baseball Reference puts him at 7.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) already, making him not only the presumptive AL Rookie of the Year, but the potential MVP award winner as well. Only two players have won both awards in the same season: Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
Needless to say, he is historically good and even more so considering his age. I would like to put Trout’s season in a Phillies prism, just to see how he stacks against the franchise’s best. It will leave you even more in awe of his skill.
Trout currently has a 183 OPS+. The best mark by a Phillies rookie (min. 400 PA) was the 144 OPS+ by Del Ennis in 1946 (he was 21 years old), followed by Buzz Arlett’s 138 in 1931.
Trout has stolen 36 bases and still has roughly 50 games left. The Phillies rookie record is held by Richie Ashburn, who stole 32 bases in 1948.
Trout has a .348 batting average. Ashburn also holds the Phillies rookie record, having hit .333 in 1948.
Trout has a .411 on-base percentage. Ashburn again is the record-holder here with a .410 OBP in ’48.
Trout is slugging .598. Arlett holds the Phillies rookie record, slugging .538 in 1931.
This is the most staggering stat. Trout’s 7.4 WAR in three months vastly eclipses Phillies rookie record-holder Ennis, who posted 4.6 WAR in 583 PA in ’46. Ashburn had 4.3 WAR in ’48.
Ignoring rookies, a Phillie has reached 7.4 WAR or better 14 separate times. Accomplishing it once each were Dick Allen, Johnny Callison, Lefty O’Doul, and Lenny Dykstra. The only repeat offenders were Chase Utley (2007-09) and Mike Schmidt (1974-77, 1979-81). 13 of those seasons included at least 600 plate appearances. Schmidt posted 7.5 WAR in 434 PA in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
Overall, the only rookies in baseball history to post 6 or more WAR are Frank Robinson (6.2), Albert Pujols (6.3), Jason Heyward (6.3), Ted Williams (6.6), and Ichiro Suzuki (7.5). None of them had Trout’s complete skill set. After Ichiro’s 56 stolen bases in 70 attempts as a rookie, Heyward has the second-highest total at 11 in 17 attempts. Ichiro, of course, never had Trout’s power as he hit only eight. Williams, Pujols, and Robinson hit 31, 37, and 38, respectively. At roughly 21 PA per home run, Trout could add another ten to his total before the season is over and squeak into the 30 HR club as a rookie. Only seven players have hit 30 or more homers as a rookie: the aforementioned three, as well as Wally Berger (38), Ryan Braun (34), Jimmie Hall (33), and Pete Incaviglia (30).
Three players have posted a 170 or better OPS+ before their 22nd birthday. Trout is one of them, with his 183 mark. Behind him are Jimmie Foxx at 173 and Eddie Mathews at 171. Pretty good company. And, mind you, we have only been talking about offense thus far. Trout can play the outfield very well. The defensive stats aren’t at all reliable yet due to the small sample sizes, but both the stats and the scouts agree he is an elite defensive outfielder. Baseball Reference’s Total Zone has him at four runs above average and 11 prorated over a full season (1,200 defensive innings). UZR puts him at 6 runs above average, which prorates to about 18 over 150 defensive games.
If you’re a Phillies fan and you can’t stomach seeing your favorite team fail, make a point to watch Trout play baseball between now and the end of October. He is easily baseball’s most exciting player right now and you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to tune into history.
UPDATE: The stats that reference a player’s “rookie season” throughout this article actually refer to a player’s “first season” due to Baseball Reference’s Play Index search function. Read this comment for more information.
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