September 19, 2012
BASEBALL: Mike Trout Scores
Mike Trout recently played his 162nd major league game, in which time he scored 136 runs. How unusual is that? Pretty unusual, at least in modern baseball. Baseball-Reference.com has game logs going back to 1918, and while I can't run a systematic search, I'm pretty sure this is a complete list of the players since 1918 to score 120 or more runs in their first 162 major league games - 8 Hall of Famers out of 26 (plus at least one, Ichiro, who is sure to be a 9th, plus others who still could and a handful of guys who would have made it if they'd stayed healthier or out of World War II). Ages and years are listed by the age the player was in the season when he played his 162nd game:
As you can see, the list includes a number of guys (Ichiro, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Frederick, Roy Johnson, George Watkins) who arrived in the majors as seasoned veterans in mid-career. (This is not the case for Johnny Pesky, who scored 105 runs in 147 games as a 23 year old rookie, then spent 3 years at war before scoring 115 runs in 1946 when he returned). It's also heavily dominated by the high-scoring 1925-41 period. The number of players who compiled a scoring record like Trout's at such a young age is short and dominated by immortals.
I won't chart them, but others of note: Lloyd Waner's better brother Paul 113, Roy Johnson's better brother Bob 118, Joe DiMaggio & Charlie Keller's outfield-mate Tommy Henrich 116 and their teammate Lyn Lary 116, Albert Pujols 115, A-Rod 117, Ryan Braun 116, Dick Allen 119, Frank Thomas 110, Julio Lugo 111, Denard Span 115, Terrence Long 115, Steve Henderson 112, Wally Moses 116, the ill-fated Len Koenecke 110, Earl Averill 111, Earle Combs 115, Vince Coleman 115, Minnie Minoso 117, Bobby Thomson 115, Dan Uggla 111, Gary Redus 112, Al Smith 112, Fred Lynn 108, Lu Blue 109, Jose Reyes 103, Adam Dunn 108, Richie Ashburn 107, Pee Wee Reese 107, Dan Gladden 108, Andrew McCutchen 108, Bob Meusel 101, Jim Bottomley 101, Walt Dropo 106, Chick Fullis 108, Juan Samuel 109.
You can go back and find a few more in the 1900-17 period - Federal League star Benny Kauff scored 124 runs in his first 159 games, Roy Thomas 137 runs in his first 150 games, Lefty Davis scored 150 runs in his first 171 games in 1901-02. The 19th century is different, of course - Willie Keeler scored 191 runs in his first 170 games, Billy Hamilton 165 runs in his first 172 games, Hugh Duffy 204 runs in his first 207 games, and going all the way back to the beginning in 1871, in the days before gloves, groundskeeping or even fixed fielding positions, Ross Barnes scored 272 runs in his first 136 National Association games and 197 runs in his first 165 National League games.
But if you have to go back that far, it should tell you what a special player Trout really is.
I hadn't thought about Vada Pinson in years and this post induced me to go to Baseball Reference to see if my memory of him as a good player were accurate. In 1961, he finished third in the MVP vote behind Frank Robinson and Orlando Cepeda. He never had as good a season, but his player similarity ranks are pretty impressive. The Johnny Damon comparisons seems especially apt and convince that that, while Damon has beena very good player, the HoF isnot in his future.
Big deal. It's not as if the object of baseball is to score runs. . . Oh, wait.
Trout is magnificent and will glide effortlessly into the HoF if he stays healthy and can stay at or near this level of performance for a decade or more--but if Cabrera manages the Triple Crown as he seems to be preparing to do, very few other than hardcore modern stat enthusiasts will be inclined to gainsay it. No modern baseball writer wants to go down in history with the fools who denied Ted Williams MVPs in his two Triple Crown seasons, even though Trout's astonishing broad based talents would seem to make the proposition make infinitely more sense than it did when the beneficiaries were Joe Gordon and Joe D (having an arguably below average Joe D. season).
"Trout is magnificent and will glide effortlessly into the HoF if he stays healthy and can stay at or near this level of performance for a decade or more--"
Easier said than done. --Fred Lynn
The funny thing is, Lynn had maybe 85% of a Hall of Fame career as is.
If you added Yaz, Fisk, Lynn, Rice, Evans, Tiant & Eckersley & divided by 7, you'd have 7 Hall of Famers. (By WAR, an average of 61.1). That was a helluva talented team.
Not making any accusations, but Pinson's one of those guys whose career makes a lot more sense if you just assume he was about 3 years older than his listed age.
Freddy, from 1975-1979, possessed some of the greatest tools in baseball. He had one of the sweetest swings in baseball, his fielding skills were incredible and graceful and he had developed into a power hitter by the late '70s. Aside from the battering his body took and his propensity for injury the mistake he made was leaving Fenway. Freddy only hit over .300 in 2 parks other than Fenway but in the friendly confines of Boston he hit.
.347/.420/.601 with 71 HRs (career 306)
For perspective here are 3 left-handed HOFers splits at Fenway
That's Yaz, Ted Williams and Wade Boggs. Freddy was a great player and played in the ballpark that was perfect for his swing. He only hit .268 and .267 in Anaheim and Baltimore respectively (the 2 main places he played after leaving the Sox). Perhaps he could have been a HOFer had he stayed put and had better luck with his health but he was a fun cat to watch in his healthier youth.
I went back and looked at Pinson's stats assuming he was actually older.
Looking further, it seems he was born in Memphis and graduated from high school in Oakland. http://seamheads.com/2010/11/09/vada-pinson-and-the-question-of-character-and-the-hall-of-fame-2/
I don't care enough to look, but a birth certificate or school records should be findable. Oh wait. What am I thinking? This could be the start of another birther controversy. (Just pulling your chain a little, sorry for injecting politics into a baseball comment chain.)