Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Who Said Mike Trout's Not Perfect?

A special "thank you" goes out to Sam Miller for mentioning, on Effectively Wild, that he sometimes goes to BrooksBaseball.net for a quick snapshot of a player. Sam is right. It's great. It succinctly tells you a lot about a pitcher's repertoire or a batter's approach at the plate.

A typical write-up for a batter will say something like this, from the Hitter-At-A-Glance for David DeJesus: "Against All Fastballs (1,194 seen), he had a league average eye (0.94 d'; 59% swing rate at pitches in the zone vs. 24% swing rate at pitches out of the zone) and a very patient approach at the plate (0.25 c) with a below average likelihood to swing and miss (10% whiff/swing)."

Source: Japanese Wikipedia
It can be surprising to learn that Mike Trout's Hitter-At-A-Glance on Brooks Baseball lacks descriptive ratings such as "exceptional" and "outstanding". Beyond that, it's bewildering to learn that his some of his grades are worse than league average. To the point, Mike Trout's batting eye is described as "league average" versus fastballs, "very poor" on breaking pitches, and "poor" against offspeed stuff.

How surprising and counterintuitive does it sound that Mike Trout doesn't have a good eye? He had a .432 On Base Percentage last year and lead the league with 110 walks. Those are basic stats that aren't telling us the whole story. For more advanced metrics, courtesy of Fangraphs, Mike Trout has positive run values against every pitch offering, aside from exceptionally rare knuckle ball and eephus pitch outliers. Wild.

Context is critical. It helps maintain perspective. Mike Trout is incredible, awesome. The best, he can do it all. He's fast. He has power. He reaches base. Mike Trout's #1 ZiPS Comp is Mickey Mantle, and somehow that seems to elevate the Mantle brand, in my opinion. Mike Trout is the best player of at least two generations, and according to Brooks Baseball, he's doing it with a batting eye that is league average at best. Amazing.

Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Everyone's perspective is different. Hopefully, everyone takes something different away from The Mike Trout Experience. Trout is just so good. People who like baseball should be thrilled for the chance to see Mike Trout when the Angels visit their town. Throwing ear muffs on "perspective" for a cross-sport comp, Mike Trout is better than Kobe Bryant.

Okay, earmuffs off. Keeping historical context open for Mike Trout comparisons, he's on the precipice of blowing past everyone in history, if he has another 10 Win season. That is unrealistic. Even Ted Williams, who is the most aggressive comparison was 7 rWAR behind Trout after each of their Age 21 seasons. Trout debuted at Age 19, but it was just 40 games. It'll be better to imagine those games in Triple-A and just compare Ted Williams first two seasons (Age 20-21) with Mike Trout's two first full seasons (Age 20-21)...

Ted Williams (Age 20-21)
1,336 Plate Appearances, 161 OPS+, 13.0 rWAR, 13.8 fWAR

Mike Trout (Age 20-21)
1,355 Plate Appearances, 174 OPS+, 20.1 rWAR, 20.4 rWAR

Mike Trout is entering his third full season this year. After three full seasons, Ted Williams had 24 Wins Above Replacement. If Trout stays healthy, he should pass 24 WAR by June. Is Trout going to peak for a few years with 15 WAR seasons?

The following chart is the most rWAR by batters in the first 3 seasons of their careers...

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
1 Ted Williams 23.6 1939 1941 20-22
2 Mike Trout 20.8 2011 2013 19-21
3 Albert Pujols 20.7 2001 2003 21-23
4 Evan Longoria 20.0 2008 2010 22-24
5 Paul Waner 19.0 1926 1928 23-25
6 Eddie Mathews 18.4 1952 1954 20-22
7 Snuffy Stirnweiss 18.3 1943 1945 24-26
8 Johnny Mize 18.2 1936 1938 23-25
9 Joe DiMaggio 18.2 1936 1938 21-23
10 Jackie Robinson 18.1 1947 1949 28-30
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2014.

How about that Evan Longoria?

Here's a list of highest rWAR for anyone thru their Age-21 season...

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
1 Mike Trout 20.8 2011 2013 19-21
2 Mel Ott 17.9 1926 1930 17-21
3 Ty Cobb 15.7 1905 1908 18-21
4 Al Kaline 15.5 1953 1956 18-21
5 Ken Griffey 15.5 1989 1991 19-21
6 Alex Rodriguez 14.3 1994 1997 18-21
7 Rogers Hornsby 14.3 1915 1917 19-21
8 Jimmie Foxx 13.8 1925 1929 17-21
9 Frank Robinson 13.4 1956 1957 20-21
10 Mickey Mantle 13.1 1951 1953 19-21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2014.

Ted Williams would be 11th, with 13.0 rWAR.

Source: Harry Warnecke/New York Daily News

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