By: Tyler Tjelmeland
How much stock do you put in a small sample size? “Small Sample Size” is an alliterative term that gets thrown around in excess due to constant need to anoint the next greats and the inability of the sporting world to live in the now and appreciate the game. I get that, I really do, but why on earth are we ready to crown this incredibly talented, yet unproven outfielder that plays baseball on the west coast in Anaheim. I can think of a few reasons, but are they enough?
First and foremost, Mike Trout is damn good. If you think differently, you have not been watching the Angels. Of course, I do not blame you because you need to have the MLB package anywhere, but the west coast, and you have to stay up late. That is fine, but how good is this prodigy that “experts” are making comparisons to Willie Mays and not the one with the suffix Hayes from the silver screen. Well, except Ron Washington.
I tend to agree with Ron Washington, and you should too. Here is why.
Mike Trout has a nice little stat line to his name (#’s as of 7/24/12):
.375 AVG (AL Leading), 1.012 OPS (2nd AL, 1/2 over 1.000), .600 SLG (3rd AL)
71 Runs (MLB Leading), 109 Hits: 19 2B, 5 3B, 30 BB, 47 RBI (T-29 AL), 31 SB (MLB Leading), 3 CS (best ratio in league)
Wins Above Replacement (WAR): 5.0 (2nd MLB behind Andrew McCutchen (5.8)
Those numbers are gaudy. Look at them! This ROOKIE is leading the American League in average, leading the Majors in stolen bases and runs scored and has propelled the Angels, who have only recently had an Albert Pujols sighting to a true contender this year (if they can hold off those pesky Athletics, and yes I mean that surprisingly enough).
So this raises the question that is on everyones mind. How good is Mike Trout? Below are a series of questions that should allow us to get to the bottom of this debacle. Should find some clarity and have some fun along the way. It was a long night last night.
Question 1: Where did Mike Trout come from?
Milltown, New Jersey. His nickname is the “Milltown Meteor.” That is awesome. He hit 18 HR’s in his senior year of high school after moving from being a pitcher to being an outfielder. That is a New Jersey High School Record. He was kind of good immediately.
After showcasing his power ability in high school and his knack to play the outfield he was drafted in the first round, 25th overall by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009. Upon being drafted he did a stint in Arizona with the rookie club for the Angels and then was moved to beautiful Cedar Rapids, Iowa to play for the Kernels. Yes, it’s beautiful, and yes I am from there.
After enjoying the smells of CR Trout pushed through the minor league system and within 2 years he found himself on the Major League roster in Anaheim playing for the Angels.
His other nickname is “Prince Fish.” Also, awesome.
Question 2 (Two Parter): How good is he? Is he the best player in the league?!?!
Mike Trout is good. That is a fact. There is no getting around watching him go up and make insane catches to rob homeruns and him going to the plate, getting on, stealing 2nd and scoring shortly thereafter.
Although he is exceptional, Mike Trout is not the best player in the league. In fact, I will go as far as saying that Mike Trout is not in the top 10-20 players in MLB.
Cynics: Ooohhhh…. Aaahhhhh…. “Tyler Doesn’t like Mike Trout!”
This is simply not the case. I love a guy who hustles like Mike Trout. His swing is a thing of beauty. He steals bases like he is hungry for more. Plays the game right and there is not a heck of a lot to dislike about the guy.
Just look at the video. He’s damn good. The biggest issue I take with saying that Mike Trout is the best player in Major League Baseball has nothing to do with him.
When is the last time a 20 year old was the best player in MLB?
Never. Plain and simple. Every one of the greats was a young, great player at one point in time, but were they the best when they were 20? Mickey Mantle did not start crushing the ball over walls 30+ times a year until he was 24, Pete Rose was 22 when he made his Major League debut and was 32 when he won his MVP. Cal Ripken Jr. was considered one of the greats because of how long he actually playes, and Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens did steroids. Don’t refute that.
Can we really call a 20 year old phenom the best player in the big leagues?
Question 3 or 4 or whatever the hell # we’re on: If not Mike Trout, then who is better?
Andrew McCutchen is batting .373, slugging .642, with the highest OPS and WAR in the league this year. Miguel Cabrera has cracked 23 bombs with 27 two-baggers, 79 RBI’s while still batting .330 and he is in his late 20’s after playing 9 years in the league already. Being a veteran matters, ya know? Or how about Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has 80 RBI’s with 28 dingers and he is currently beating alcoholism and drug addiction.
What about pitchers? They matter too, right?
There’s a guy by the name of Justin Verlander who hurls in Detroit for Jim Leyland’s Tigers. Verlander won the AL Cy Young & MVP in 2011. Currently his record isn’t reflecting his dominance, but he has K’d 142 (2nd MLB), a 0.92 WHIP (1st MLB), and a 5.1 WAR (2nd MLB only to McCutch). Oh yeah, Verlander, you know, that guy who throws harder as the game progresses eclipsing the Century mark on the speed gun in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.
How about Felix Hernandez? King Felix consistently posts some of the best numbers on the hill with a current 2.82 ERA, 143 K’s (1st MLB), 1.17 WHIP. Remember when he won the Cy Young 2 years ago with a losing record? Best pitcher on the worst team. Imagine if he had hitting.
None of this is to say that Mike Trout cannot be the best player in baseball in his future. This brings us to our final question of the day: Will Mike Trout ever be the best player in MLB?
This is about the most loaded question I could possibly ask because regardless of my answer I could be crucified. If anyone ever actually reads this and decides to comment. I fully recognize the problem here and I am going to make a definitive answer here and wait to see if it pans out. Playing Dan Patrick if you will.
My Answer: No he will not.
Mike Trout has a very good opportunity to be the best player in Major League Baseball. Will he fulfill that potential? I strongly believe that he will, but does that mean that he’s going to be crowned the most ambiguous title possible.
The biggest issue with this entire thing is that we don’t know how good certain other guys are going to get. I have been as high on Andrew McCutchen as I can be on a youngster since the day I learned about the kid when he was named “Minor Leaguer of the Year” in 2006 for Pittsburgh. Bryce Harper is a household name now. Matt Kemp is 27. Elvis Andrus has been in the league for 3 years, has 2 all-star appearances and appeared in 2 straight World Series. Starlin Castro is in the process of getting his credentials together to be anointed as the Cubs savior.
All of those names are the future along with others, Kershaw, Strasburg, Upton, Freeman, Bruce, Sale, Posey, Kimbrel, Stanton. All of those names are guys that are the future of baseball and the future is bright. Each and every one under the age of 25 with incredibly bright futures.
Is Mike Trout the best player in Major League Baseball right now? Will Mike Trout ever be the best baseball player in the game? It’s slightly cliche and I fully recognize that, but only time will tell. Until time plays out, I do know one thing and will continue to stick to my guns on that. Mike Trout is a damn good baseball player. He was a damn good player in Milltown, Cedar Rapids, Rancho Cuccamonga, and now in Anaheim. It’s going to be a thrill to watch him throw on the cleats, strap on the leather, and grab a bat for years to come. Why can’t we just enjoy watching him play now?