Too often, fans and the media tend to get carried away whenever an exciting new player bursts onto the scene. The Los Angeles Angels‘ Mike Trout has certainly not been wanting for adulation; not only does his electric style of play pass the so-called “eye test,” but he has staunch Sabermetricists in his corner who argue that he is more valuable than even Miguel Cabrera.
I’m not sure I would go that far just yet, but one thing’s for sure: Trout is only a year younger than I am, and he already has the experts speculating on how he will rank among the all-time greats.
It may be too daunting a conversation to so prematurely extrapolate his career legacy, but we can at least compare Trout’s first two season to that of other baseball legends against whom he finds himself compared.
Ted Williams — who literally wrote the book on hitting — was unstoppable throughout his 19-year career, and the first two of those years were no exception. He tore through the competition at age 20, hitting .327, racking up 31 HRs and 145 RBIs while posting a 1.045 OPS in his rookie year, and followed up that campaign with a stellar .344/23/113/1.036 sophomore campaign.
Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio — Williams’ rival in New York — was no less astounding from ages 20 to 21: he hit .335 while averaging 38 home runs and 146 RBIs over his first two seasons in the Bronx. Sure, it helped that he was on one of the greatest teams ever and counted Lou Gehrig as a teammate, but that doesn’t diminish his outstanding individual accomplishments.
Obviously, the area where Trout compares less favorably to the two titans of baseball lore is in his power numbers: though there are still 29 games left in the season, Trout has 23 home runs and 81 RBIs compared to 30 and 83 last year, while he has a .329 average in his first two full campaigns.
Trout, however, leaves Williams and Dimaggio in his dust when it comes to base stealing: he has snagged 78 bags in 2012 and 2013 compared to seven for Dimaggio in ’36 and ’37, and six for Williams in ’39 and ’40.
Wherever Trout winds up in his career, no one can take away these first two transcendental seasons for him. He may well improve with age, and that is a scary thought indeed.