Mike Trout is something of a big deal around the baseball world. We here at theScore think he’s pretty great, mostly because he is pretty great at playing baseball. Scratch that: Mike Trout is actually, tangibly, appreciably great at baseball. As in historically great, one for the ages.
There are many things that make Mike Trout both great and noteworthy – not the least of which all he’s accomplished before the tender age of 22. In honor of Mike Trout’s 22nd birthday today, here are 22 things – facts, stats, and highlights – about Mike Trout. Enjoy!
- First all-time: stolen base percentage. Baseball Reference tracks all sorts of things, including stolen base percentage. To qualify for their all-time SB% leaderboard, a player must have attempted at last 80 steals. Mike Trout has swiped 77 bases in his career and has been caught just nine times. That’s a 89.535% success rate and that’s the best of all time.
- He’s the WAR poster boy. When the Wins Above Replacement statistic was conceived, it was with players like Mike Trout in mind. He might not put up the gaudy slash lines of first baseman or other slow-footed sluggers, but WAR’s ability to count all facets of the game — defense, the value of playing a more difficult position, base running, and durability — should tip the scales in favor of a guy like Mike Trout, who can impact the game with his feet as much as with his bat.
Mike Trout helped drag WAR into the mainstream in 2012 when a juiced-up defensive valuation pushed his WAR into the upper echelons of baseball history. In 2013, his defensive stats don’t rate nearly as well but Mike Trout is still a fine defensive center fielder who steals bases and plays every day. WAR likes that, it likes it a lot.
As a result, Mike Trout ranks second all-time by fWAR through age 21. Even though he’s still working his way through his second full season – with 50 games remaining in his age-21 season. He ranks second (as of now) in rWAR, too. Ahead of some pretty impressive names, as you can see.
Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age G PA H 2B 3B HR BB 1 Mel Ott 17.9 1926 1930 17-21 539 2064 570 106 14 86 282 2 Mike Trout 17.3 2011 2013 19-21 289 1282 350 65 16 53 143 3 Ty Cobb 15.7 1905 1908 18-21 439 1835 549 85 39 11 87 4 Al Kaline 15.5 1953 1956 18-21 473 1939 540 74 21 59 175 5 Ken Griffey 15.5 1989 1991 19-21 436 1805 478 93 8 60 178 6 Alex Rodriguez 14.3 1994 1997 18-21 352 1523 435 100 6 64 109 7 Rogers Hornsby 14.3 1915 1917 19-21 302 1199 340 43 32 14 87 8 Jimmie Foxx 13.8 1925 1929 17-21 364 1302 372 61 25 49 178 9 Frank Robinson 13.4 1956 1957 20-21 302 1344 363 56 11 67 108 10 Mickey Mantle 13.1 1951 1953 19-21 365 1552 398 72 15 57 197 11 Ted Williams 13.0 1939 1940 20-21 293 1336 378 87 25 54 203
- All this WAR nonsense distracts from how good a hitter he’s become. There are four active hitters with more than 1000 plate appearances and a weighted runs created plus higher than 150 (where 100 is league average): Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Mike Trout. Among those four hitters, Mike Trout’s career wRC+ of 162 ranks him…first.
It is hardly fair to compare Mike Trout to players with thousands more plate appearances. The league still has plenty of time to adjust and discover new ways to get Trout out. Unlike Pujols, Trout’s decline years are far off in the distance. Although, unlike Cabrera and Votto, Mike Trout’s expected peak is far, far in the distance as well. Let’s just agree he’s good and move on.
- Defense still matters, and he can go and get it in the outfield:
And it is awesome.
- He is a power hitter in disguise. Well, sort of. Despite being a base-stealing center fielder, Mike Trout ranks fifth in slugging percentage this season. He sports a higher SLG than Paul Goldschmidt and Edwin Encarnacion – two players with 55 home runs between them.
Some of Trout’s SLG is tied up in his speed, his ability to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. His .243 ISO — regarded as a better measure of pure power — actually ranks him 10th among qualified hitters in 2013. A much more pedestrian number, ahead of known lightweights Adam Dunn, Jose Bautista, and Mark Trumbo.
- If he’s a power hitter now, what happens in his late twenties? It is said (and/or believed) that power is the last trait of a batter’s to develop. That players who are good hitters when they’re in their early twenties become great hitters when they’re 27-30. Some research shows that power actually peaks around 24 – which is still another two seasons in the future for Mike Trout.
What will Trout look like when he’s 24? 25? 26? 30? We can probably throw out any aging curves as they don’t tend to apply to a generational talent such as Trout.
- He compares to Miguel Cabrera quite nicely. Not to suggest that Mike Trout will hit like Miguel Cabrera when he’s in his late twenties, but the career arcs are similar enough to make it something to ponder. Both play(ed) in pitcher-friendly parks at the beginning of their careers, though Trout posts considerably better numbers than Cabrera did as a young Marlin.
Miguel Cabrera hit two strides en route to becoming the best hitter in baseball – his age 22 season saw him cut down on his strikeouts and up his average and OBP, keeping his already stellar power numbers. Then, at age 27, Cabrera surged again, becoming the beast we know now. Does Trout have it in him to improve like this?
- How about another scary comparison? Alex Rodriguez. ARod comps are totally, completely unfair. Yet if you stack Trout and Rodriguez side by side, the numbers at 21 are almost even. It was a slightly different era but the Mariners shortstop hit a few more home runs and walked a lot less, that is the only real difference. We’re talking about one of the premier players of all time (poor decision-making aside), a right-handed power hitter like Trout who played a key defensive position.
- Like ARod, Mike Trout is going to be crazy, stupid rich. Alex Rodriguez went to free agency as soon as he could, earning the highest ever free agent contract in baseball to date in 2001. He was squired about the country and promised the world, jets, and luxury suites in exchange for his services.
If Mike Trout, health permitting, wants to go that route, he absolutely can. Or he can follow the lead of a player like Joey Votto. Votto signed a three-year contract with the Reds ahead of his first season of arbitration eligibility, then signed a massive, $225MM extension which should keep a Red through 2023 (with a team option for 2024!)
With all due respect to Joey Votto, a three-year contract for Mike Trout worth $38MM (this size of Votto’s first deal) is an insult. As mentioned on Getting Blanked many times before, Mike Trout can essentially sign his own ticket for whatever he wants at this point.
- He’s also really fast In the minor leagues, Mike Trout scored from first…on a single to right field.
- Leading up to his birthday, Mike Trout is red hot. You can play arbitrary endpoints with Trout’s 2013 all day and still come away amazed.
- Since June 1st: .370/.475/.602, 40 BB, 35 K,
- Since July 1st: .382/.515/.667, 25 BB, 21 K
- Since August 1st: .400/.667/.867, 11 BB, 3 K
- Mike Trout is nothing if not consistent. The Angels outfielder hasn’t gone four consecutive games without collecting a hit since Sept. 4-7, 2011 – less than a month after his 20th birthday.
- Teams are starting to pitch around him. Since the All Star break, Trout has drawn 20 walks (four of the intentional variety) including 11 walks in August – more than at least five Major League teams.
- What’s with these walks, anyway? Since the start of the season, Trout has progressively cut his strikeouts and increased his walk rate, now ranking among the most patient hitters in baseball.
His preternatural reflexes and short, direct swing, allow Trout to wait on pitches like few other hitters. This extra time also gives him more information as to the location of the pitch. As a result, he swings at fewer pitches than just about anybody. His overall swing rate is fourth lowest in baseball this season.
- He had a hand in the weirdest play of the year. The weirdest part of a very weird night, which ended like this:
- He hits better on the road than at home. A slightly unusual split but, when considering his home ballpark, not too hard to grasp. Thus far in his career, Trout strikes out more on the road and walks more at home, but his overall line at Angels Stadium (.305/.397/.539) slightly trails his numbers away from Anaheim (.326/.396/.552)
- Another reverse split – Mike Trout hits right-handed pitchers better than lefties. Slightly unusual for the right-handed hitting Trout. And it isn’t as if he struggles against one side and dominates the other. Trout’s splits are mostly even with a small advantage coming against same-sided pitchers. .325/.401/.555 against RHP compared to .289/.385/.523 versus left.
- Yu Darvish probably hates him. Well, maybe “hates” overstates the matter. But only one hitter has taken the Rangers ace deep three times in his career – good old Mike Trout.
- He makes outfielders pay. You snooze, you lose. Even if you don’t actually snooze, you still might lose 90 feet to Mike Trout’s legs.
- Mike Trout is revered in his hometown. Shocking stuff: a high-profile athlete from a small industrial town is viewed as a hero by the denizens of his former burgh. The baseball team at Trout’s high school pay tribute to their alum in a cool way: the Millville High Thunderbolts began a tradition where the team’s best player gets to wear his old #1 jersey for the season. The ultimate compliment.
- He sort of sucks in high leverage situations. If you’re looking for a wart on his game, Mike Trout has failed to deliver in the clutch so far in his career. Looking over his splits, the only number which comes in below-average is Trout’s results when the heat is on.
Split PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+ sOPS+ High Lvrge 96 75 19 3 0 0 19 15 17 .253 .365 .293 .658 38 88 Medium Lvrge 170 150 49 11 1 11 23 18 27 .327 .400 .633 1.033 106 182 Low Lvrge 242 203 73 18 7 7 25 34 41 .360 .463 .621 1.083 119 204
The “sOPS+” numbers shows his performance relative to league average (100 is league average) in that situation – he’s below average! Booo! Though we’re talking about less than 100 plate appearances, so his “true talent” is likely to take over as he gets more experienced in this big moments. (He has a below-average throwing arm, too. If we’re pointing out flaws.)
- The world is his oyster. When you’re 22, you have your whole life ahead of you. You can still use the word “potential” in conversation with a straight face and there is still time to turn your life around and make something of yourself.
When you are Mike Trout and just turning 22, you have an entirely different world in front of you. The baseball record books appear at your mercy. A world of riches awaits. Opportunities to do things, meet people, and see places are afforded people in Mike Trout’s situation because of his ability to hit and catch a baseball.
But it is all just potential for now. Mike Trout still hasn’t played a full season in the Major Leagues – from Opening Day to the final pitch of the final game in October. He hasn’t tasted the post-season and has known only bitter disappointment as a member of the Angels. He could get hurt tomorrow or go down a twisted path like so many famous and wealthy athletes at the peak of their powers before him.
As baseball fans, we can only watch. Watch the best player in the league as he begins his assault on baseball history. The most exciting player in the game with so much to offer. We watch to see what he might do next. Watch to see how high he might fly.
Happy birthday, Mikey from Millville. Hope you have the pleasure of enjoying something as much as baseball fans enjoy watching you play the game we love. Hope you make it a good one.
With files from Fangraphs, ESPN Stats & Info, Baseball Reference and MLB.com. Thanks to Jonah Birenbaum for the helping hand.