Posted August 08, 2013

Mike Trout turns 22 and is on verge of becoming the best ever at his age

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Trout
Mike Trout, Angels

Mike Trout is on pace for the highest WAR through an age-21 season in baseball history. (Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, Mike Trout celebrated his 22nd birthday in much the same way he did his 21st: by hitting a home run. As he did a year ago against Oakland’s Travis Blackley, Trout went deep against the Rangers’ Alexi Ogando for his 20th homer of the season, and he also robbed Craig Gentry of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall. Quietly, he’s having an even better year with the bat than last year, when he was a unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year and finished second to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in a hotly debated MVP vote.

With the Angels mired below .500 since April 4 — the third game of the season — more of the focus has been on the disappointing seasons of free agent acquisition Josh Hamilton, the hobbled Albert Pujols and an injury-riddled rotation where only C.J. Wilson has made a full complement of starts. Because of that, Trout’s performance has flown under the radar somewhat, but since a lackluster April (.261/.333/.432), he’s hit a searing .357/.454/.631, a performance covering 390 plate appearances. Since the beginning of July, he’s hit .387/.515/.689 with seven homers in 136 PA. Three of those homers have come in his last four games, though alas, Los Angeles has lost them all to fall to 51-62. Here’s the homer off Ogando:

Via his extended hot streak, Trout has improved his hitting performance across the board relative to last year:

2012 .326 .399 .564 .357 9.9% 21.8%
2013 .333 .424 .580 .375 11.8% 16.7%

CORCORAN: Trout closing gap on Cabrera for AL MVP

Trout has cut his strikeout rate significantly while increasing his unintentional walk rate, to the point that his ratio of the two has improved from 2.2 to 1.4. Thus he’s putting the ball in play more often while getting hits at virtually the same rate (.381 batting average on balls in play last year, .372 this year). Though his home run rate has fallen slightly, from 4.7 percent of his plate appearances to 3.9 percent, his isolated power has increased by nine points (.from .138 to .147) because he’s already surpassed last year’s total of doubles (32, compared to 27 in 2012) and equalled his total of triples (eight). Via Baseball Prospectus’ True Average stat, which expresses runs created per plate appearance on a batting average scale after adjusting for park and league scoring conditions, he’s been an even more effective hitter than last year. Like Cabrera (.377), he’s on pace for a season that would rank among the top 25 since 1950, which is as far back as BP’s stats go.

Trout’s all over the AL leaderboard, currently topping the Junior Circuit in hits (145), walks (67), times on base (219), runs (80) and triples (8) while ranking second in batting average and on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage. Though he’s got a slight edge on Cabrera in terms of Offensive Wins Above Replacement, 7.5 to 7.1, his defense according to Defensive Runs Saved has taken a big step back, from +21 last year to −14 this year. You wouldn’t know it from those leaping catches on his highlight reel, though, and in fact the other major defensive systems don’t portray the drop as nearly so drastic (from 8.6 to −0.6 in Fielding Runs Above Average, and from 13.3 to −0.5 in Ultimate Zone Rating).

With DRS making up the defensive component of Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, Trout trails Cabrera by a whisker in that department, 6.2 to 6.1, despite having 50 more plate appearances. If he continues his pace, he’ll finish with 8.7 WAR, down from last year’s 10.9. This just in: It’s tough to surpass a season that ranked as the most valuable of the last decade and the 21st most valuable among position players since 1901.

Even so, it’s hardly a shabby season. In fact, with 49 games to go, Trout is within a couple runs of surpassing Mel Ott as the most valuable player through his age-21 season (such designations hinge on the convention of using a player’s age as of July 1 of a given year). Check out this company:

Rk  Player  Years WAR
1 Mel Ott* 1926-1930 539 17.9
2 Mike Trout 2011-2013 291 17.7
3 Ty Cobb* 1905-1908 439 15.7
4 Al Kaline* 1953-1956 473 15.5
5 Ken Griffey Jr 1989-1991 436 15.5
6 Alex Rodriguez 1994-1997 352 14.3
7 Rogers Hornsby* 1915-1917 302 14.3
8 Jimmie Foxx* 1925-1929 364 13.8
9 Frank Robinson* 1956-1957 302 13.4
10 Mickey Mantle* 1951-1953 365 13.1
11 Ted Williams* 1939-1940 293 13.0
12 Vada Pinson 1958-1960 335 12.4
13 Sherry Magee 1904-1906 404 12.0
14 Cesar Cedeno 1970-1972 390 11.7
15 Andruw Jones 1996-1998 343 10.8
16 Arky Vaughan 1932-1933 281 10.8
17 Eddie Mathews* 1952-1953 302 10.6
18 Johnny Bench* 1967-1969 328 10.6
19 Jason Heyward 2010-2011 270 9.0
20 Stuffy McInnis 1909-1912 336 8.9
21 Roberto Alomar* 1988-1989 301 8.7
22 Bill Mazeroski* 1956-1958 381 8.4
23 Rickey Henderson* 1979-1980 247 7.8
24 Tony Conigliaro 1964-1966 399 7.5
25 Hank Aaron* 1954-1955 275 7.5

Fourteen of the top 25 position players in terms of WAR through their age-21 seasons went on to the Hall of Fame (denoted by an asterisk), a count that will increase via the eventual addition of Griffey if not Rodriguez or Jones. Quite possibly by the end of this week, Trout will have outdone them all despite playing in considerably fewer games than all but a few.

Bubbling under on this list are Trout’s two top rivals for the title of the game’s best young player, Bryce Harper (27th at 7.3) and Manny Machado (tied for 29th at 7.0), both of whom are in their age 20 seasons. Harper bolted from the gate looking as though he might overtake Trout early this season, but he’s cooled off considerably while battling injuries and missing a month. Though his performance with the bat (.271/.366/.528) represents a step up in all three categories, his defensive value has declined (at least via DRS), and as such, he’s been worth just 2.1 WAR this year. Machado is hitting .297/.327/.454 with a league-leading 40 doubles, and thanks to a staggering 25 Defensive Runs Saved he ranks fourth in the league with 5.4 WAR. Until recently, he was ahead of Trout on the WARboard, but a .196/.226/.314 July cost him the higher ranking.

Barring historic seasons on the level of Trout’s 2012, neither Harper nor Machado is likely to top Trout’s ranking on the leaderboard above before completing their age-21 seasons. So not only does the Angels’ young superstar get to retain any claim to whatever Best Young Player title one would care to bestow this year, he’ll have a legitimate hold on that honor in the historical annals as well.


So, you stat-nerds-Trout-groupies drop the story about Trout being an MVP candidate this season over Miggy and Davis, and, now tell us that FOR HIS AGE, he is the best.  OK, who cares?  Just remember, till the time he grows a beard, in a decade, or, so, when Miggy retires, Cabrera is the Most Valuable Player in Baseball (not, just, the AL).  Dissect the stats, any way you want, and Miggy still comes out, by far, on top, while Trout will be, again, going fishing in October during the Playoffs.  Even even after Miggy is out because of injury, and Trout has his best month, Cabrera has the stats to kick his butt in any MVP race, at this point-in-time, with September looming!  Get real, and start writing about where the story really is, Miggy Cabrera's quest for back-to-back Triple Crown and MVP, and Davis.  It might get you a lot more credibility (and readers/interest), in here! 


You guys crack me up.  Miggy just collected another three hits, while hobbled, in leading the Tigers to a romp over the Yanks.  He now leads MLB with a .363 BA, 109 RBI, and, half a dozen other categories.  Only six homers behind Davis, another Triple Crown (back-to-back, like his last two homers), and, most-likely, back-to-back MVP!  Now, THAT, is exciting, and, worth writing about!  We are not even in September yet, when he really turns it on!  WAR anyone?  Trout who?


@dinohealth Trout is the better all around player now.If he keeps playing this well for the next 10 years thats a big if, He will be one of the greatest players ever.Miggy ( BARF) will never be known for that.( Miggy ) ( Barf ) cant field,run or throw. Miggy ( BARF ) is a one way player.Talk to me when he can do something other the field.


@dinohealth You do know that the Trout has crappy teammates while Cabrera has a historically dominant pitching staff and solid teammates on offense to support him? You put Cabrera on the Houston Astros and let's see how many games they get.

Stat nerds tend to be cerebral and not the knuckle-dragging dummies like you.


@timmyduncanbankshot  Well I guess that means you didn't understand what you your self wrote considering you used some of the same words as found in the article.


@dinohealth First off,if you are a child it's OK to call him Miggy ( BARF) if you are all grown up call him by his first or last name.How many game's doe's he cost Detroit because he cant field?.How many game's doe's he cost them because is as slow as a catcher a fat catcher.They had to move him to third because they signed another fielding wiz in Fielder.If detroit had a young third baseman Miggy ( Barf ) would be the DH.Ask any general manager in base ball other than Detroit's and they would take trout over Miggy ( BARF ) all day everyday.You are a joke who is blinded by being a homer.If you knew the game it would be easy for you to understand.

Go play with your xbox and leave the big boy stuff to baseball fan's


@dinohealth Talk to me when he can do something other than hit.He is a DH waiting to happen


@Guest55 @dinohealth So, who is the greatest candidate for MVP?  The one that outshines crappy teammates, as you put it, or, the GREAT ONE that outshines a star-studded cast and leads his team to the playoffs, league title, and, possibly the World Series?  "Dummies" like you need to understand what Most Valuable Player is all about, and realize why most of MLB players (you know, the guys that play the game with a bat and glove, not, inside their computers)  think Miggy is the MVP (again)! 


@slamdunkmj @dinohealth Lol, Cabrera, while hobbled, is putting on a show of greatness.  Miggy, has done it back-to-back, in two, consecutive, ninth-inning, clutch, homers.  That is back-to-back-to-back homers, in three, consecutive nights, plus two hits, for the great, reigning Triple Crown and MVP winner, Miggy Cabrera!  He now has raised his MLB-leading batting average to .365, RBI to 110, and leads MLB and the league in a dozen other offensive categories!  WAR, anyone?  Look, Trout will have his day when Miggy starts to decline in a dozen years or, so...In the meantime, the great story is his pursuit of an unprecedented back-to-back Triple Crown AND MVP titles against Davis!  I cannot wait till September, when Miggy really turns it on!  I hope he remains relatively healthy that we may witness history being made by one of the greatest offensive player of all time!


@dinohealth @slamdunkmj Yeah, brah. Cuz homers and RBIs tell you how valuable a player is. So a guy with 40 homers and a 0.200/0.250/.400 slash line as a DH and Victor Martinez speed is super valuable, brah. It doesn't matter if he knocks in a much lower percentage of men on base. Them numbers be hard to compute.


@slamdunkmj Correction.  As of  today, Miggy Cabrera is leading MLB  in 17 statistical categories, not 12 as I wrote, above.  Trout is not even leading in homers and RBIs ON HIS OWN TEAM!  


@slamdunkmj @dinohealth "Better all around players" does not equate to MVP!  You need to realize what THAT award is all about!  As for STATS, check out your coveted WAR stats on Miggy, at this point, and, tell me who the better player is!  You might want to check out the other dozen categories Miggy is leading MLB, and the league, in, while you are at it.  Baseball


@dinohealth @Guest55 Hello anti-scientific poster. So if your doctor knows that you have a UTI based on your history and physical and has isolated the exact offending bacteria, should he use the antibiotic sensitivity tails or just go with what he "feels like." Oh, flagyl doesn't typically work against bug X but I'll just wing it because I have a feeling that it works. Now for other clinical presentations where the diagnosis is hard to pin point and the differential diagnosis is rather long, such clinical "wisdom" and "gut-thinking" is appropriate. But when you have relatively clear cut conditions, you follow scientific guidelines.

Same with baseball. If I have Miguel Cabera on first base in the bottom of the 9th and the Tigers are down one, should I have him run against a left-handed pitcher with a quick delivery and good move in combination with Yadier Molina? Sure! You gotta go with your gut. Screw high-percentage decision-making and all those statistics. They make my head hurt! Be like Dusty Baker and put a 0.280 OBP fast guy in the leadoff position because that is what tradition dictates. I don't even need to do research on what optimal lineup construction is. I played so I know how it is.

Similarly, a PhD in exercise physiology shouldn't be able to tell athletes how to train because they never "did it" as athletes. It's all bout uneducated athletes knowing what is best, brah. FYI, I'm probably more athletic than you unless you were a D-1 scholarship holder.