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Trout joins elite company


Angelsjunky

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Mike Trout is going to finish the year first in fWAR again - he's at 7.8 right now, with #2 being far behind at 6.2 (Jonathan Lucroy). For those who prefer rWAR, he's also at 7.8 but Donaldson is much closer at 7.3, so it isn't quite a lock but it is close.

 

Anyhow, this will be the third year in a row that Trout has been #1 in fWAR. Aside from the amazing fact that he's done it not just any three years, but his first three years (and will presumably have more years of being #1 ahead), the list of players who have led the majors in fWAR three or more times is relatively small. Here it is, from 1900 to the present (I was going to pick 1901 because that's the year we had two leagues, but I added 1900 to give Honus Wagner his full array):

 

10 Ruth

8 Wagner, Mays

7 Bonds

5 Cobb, Williams

4 Mantle

3 Hornsby, Musial, Yasztremski, Schmidt, Boggs, Henderson, Ripken, Rodriguez, Pujols, Trout

 

In other words, Trout is the 17th player to do it. That's pretty good company. Of note are some pretty amazing players that did not make the cut of 3, including Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, and a bunch of other greats and Hall of Famers.

 

Now again, Mike is just getting started. While we can't expect him to lead the majors in WAR every year, at least not forever, it would seem that he is like to at least surpass Cobb and Williams, and maybe vie with Bonds, Wagner, and Mays. Ruth? Let's see how things look in a few years. Consider it like a no-hitter alert - you can't really start taking it seriously until the 6th or 7th inning. I think in order for him to have a legit shot at Ruth, he's going to have to enter his 30s with at least 7 - that would mean winning it 4 out of the next 7 years. Possible!

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Given that, I think it's pretty ridiculous to try to compare Mike Trout's WAR to Joe DiMaggio's.

I fully agree.  the talent pool on the low end of the bell curve is much closer to the middle in today's game vs. almost 70 years ago.  It actually makes what Trout has done that much more impressive.  

 

In 1939 when DiMaggio hit .381, the Yankees played 7 other teams more than 20 times each.  

 

Mike Trout has faced 275 different pitchers this year.   JD faced about 50-60 per year on average.  

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Given that, I think it's pretty ridiculous to try to compare Mike Trout's WAR to Joe DiMaggio's.

 

Remember that WAR is equalized across eras, so a "10 WAR" is 10 wins above whatever a replacement player is at the time.

 

Of course comparing WAR across eras is inaccurate, but what would you suggest as being better? All stats, especially non-advanced ones, are problematic. What is even more ridiculous is comparing batting averages across eras, or fixating on HR and RBI totals.

 

WAR is, for better or worse, one of the lesser evils in terms of cross-generational comparisons.

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Another way to put that, is that while it is very difficult compare Trout to DiMaggio, what we CAN do with WAR is compare Trout to the rest of the 2014 players to how good DiMaggio was relatively to his era.

 

Now of course being 2nd in WAR is something no different than being 1st. A 7.5 WAR performance isn't necessarily better than 7.0; I believe Fangraphs recommends a 1 WAR margin of error.

 

So let's try this:

 

Trout 2012-14: 28.4 fWAR

2nd best player 2012-14 (Andrew McCutchen): 20.8 fWAR

 

That means that Trout has been 37% better than the second best player over the last few years.

 

DiMaggio's first three years (1936-1938): 20.2 fWAR

Best player 1936-1938 (Mel Ott): 23.4 fWAR

 

DiMaggio was 5th in fWAR during that three year span, behind Ott, Gehrig, Vaughan, and Gehringer - but it is a relatively small gap. Gehrig was right behind Ott at 23.1.

 

DiMaggio's best three-year span according to fWAR (1939-41): 25.7 fWAR, 1st in majors

Second best player during that span (Ted Williams): 24.8 fWAR

 

DiMaggio was the best player in baseball during his best three-year span, at least according to fWAR - but it was very close.

 

with Trout, however, it isn't even close. The only thing that is close, at least recently, is Bonds from 2001-04 when he accumulated 46.6 fWAR, with second being A-Rod at 33.5. That's a 39% different.

 

Those of a certain age, say 25 and older, remember how ridiculously good Bonds was from 2001-04 (steroids or no steroids - I'm talking about just performance on the field). According to fWAR, Trout has been about that good relative to the field over the last three years. Think about that for a moment.

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Not to take anything away from Trout, but how did his fWAR increase so much over the last 5 days? There's been some odd stuff going on with Fangraphs, especially with defensive metrics. 

His rWAR increased a shiitload in the past 5 days too. I think it had a lot to do with that 3-3, 2 HR, 2 walk game he had where he single handedly won the Angels that game.

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Two career numbers that will never be approached are Ruth's .690 SLG and his OPS+ of 206.

 

Those are insane.

 

It depends upon how the game changes. I'm guessing that, 15 years ago, no one thought that Ted Williams' record .553 OBP in 1941 would ever be broken, but then in 2002 Bonds did with a .582 OBP. And then he broke that with a .609 OBP in 2004. .60-freakin-9!

 

That said, I agree that it is highly unlikely that those two career records will be broken. The OPS+ has a greater chance, though, because it is contextualized.

 

By the way, here's a really crazy stat. There are only 39 seasons in which a player hit as good or better (according to OPS+) as Ruth did for his entire career. Ruth is responsible for 10 of those, which whittles it down to 29 seasons by other players. How many players? 16. If we take out players from the 19th century (Dunlap, Barnes, Browning, O'Neill, Brouthers), it goes down to 11: Bonds, Williams, Cobb, McCovey, McGwire, Gehrig, Mantle, Thomas, Bagwell, Hornsby, Foxx. No other players has hit as well in a single year as Ruth did for his entire career.

Edited by Angelsjunky
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Can anyone explain to me how WAR is calculated for players who played before defensive metrics existed?

 

Jeff, I've brought this up several times and get excuse after excuse about how the guys that played back in the day just weren't all that good, there was segregation, etc... and yet none will admit that Trout, Miggy, for God's sake Donaldson are all getting accolades for reaching milestones that were not calculable back 15 let alone 50 years ago.

 

MLB is selling the sizzle as much as they can and letting the stat guys do it for them. They are more than willing to step on the jerseys of those that went before just to say, hey look over here, the best ever is playing now.  I don't blame them for selling what they have but then again it is disingenuous all the same,

 

Trout is not having a stellar year. He may win the MVP even though he would have to rely on the guys over at Fangraphs to tweak their tWAR (Trout WAR) formula to account for running in circles last night missing a simple fly ball and striking on at an Adam Dunn pace without hitting 50 home runs. We've seen better over all play out of a position player over the last 10 years than what Trout has done this season.

 

But he is better than Joe DiMaggio according to Fangraphs.

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Jeff, I've brought this up several times and get excuse after excuse about how the guys that played back in the day just weren't all that good, there was segregation, etc... and yet none will admit that Trout, Miggy, for God's sake Donaldson are all getting accolades for reaching milestones that were not calculable back 15 let alone 50 years ago.

 

MLB is selling the sizzle as much as they can and letting the stat guys do it for them. They are more than willing to step on the jerseys of those that went before just to say, hey look over here, the best ever is playing now.  I don't blame them for selling what they have but then again it is disingenuous all the same,

 

Trout is not having a stellar year. He may win the MVP even though he would have to rely on the guys over at Fangraphs to tweak their tWAR (Trout WAR) formula to account for running in circles last night missing a simple fly ball and striking on at an Adam Dunn pace without hitting 50 home runs. We've seen better over all play out of a position player over the last 10 years than what Trout has done this season.

 

But he is better than Joe DiMaggio according to Fangraphs.

 

Get-Off-My-Lawn.jpg

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Remember that WAR is equalized across eras, so a "10 WAR" is 10 wins above whatever a replacement player is at the time.

Of course comparing WAR across eras is inaccurate, but what would you suggest as being better? All stats, especially non-advanced ones, are problematic. What is even more ridiculous is comparing batting averages across eras, or fixating on HR and RBI totals.

WAR is, for better or worse, one of the lesser evils in terms of cross-generational comparisons.

The point is it's not even calculated the same then as now. They were guessing on the defensive stuff. I'd be ok with using offensive WAR to compare.

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Seriously though, come on Eric, you can do better than that. I mean yeah, I hear and agree with the point that WAR is inexact, especially when it comes to defense, and that we simply don't have the data on older players. But let's not throw it all out just because it isn't perfect. WAR tells us something and, quite frankly, it tells us a lot.

 

By the way, you're being very liberal with your interpretation with numbers and my Fangraphs research. Fangraphs isn't telling us that Trout is better than DiMaggio in 2014 or overall. What Fangraphs tells us is that Trout has been better from 2012-14 relative to the rest of the field than DiMaggio was for any three-year span of his career. I think you are underselling just how great Trout has been these last three years simply because he's having his worst year in 2014; 2012-13 was incredible, but he's still been the best player in the game in 2014.

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The point is it's not even calculated the same then as now. They were guessing on the defensive stuff. I'd be ok with using offensive WAR to compare.

 

Sure, but then we're only talking about offense. That's fine, but it doesn't tell us everything about a player.

 

By the way, Trout has still been the overall best offensive player in the game from 2012-14 - first in wRC+ at 171 and Offensive Runs at 187.2. Cabrera is second in both with 168 and 146.6.

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The point is it's not even calculated the same then as now. They were guessing on the defensive stuff. I'd be ok with using offensive WAR to compare.

Defensive stats are too subjective and often times self-contradictory. WAR lumps the positional handicaps into the offensive component for some reason, not the defensive component where it should go, so even offensive WAR is not good. I consider wRC+ far more useful than WAR.

Edited by ScottLux
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Sure, but then we're only talking about offense. That's fine, but it doesn't tell us everything about a player.

By the way, Trout has still been the overall best offensive player in the game from 2012-14 - first in wRC+ at 171 and Offensive Runs at 187.2. Cabrera is second in both with 168 and 146.6.

First, let's not make this about Trout. I am not saying Trout is or isn't better than anyone historically.

All I'm saying is that we are comparing players using metrics that dont exist for some of the players so were guessing.

Does it provide an incomplete picture if we only use offense? Sure.

But it also provides an incomplete picture if we use fabricated defensive stats, and it's a misleading picture because it claims to be complete.

If we only use offense, at least were being honest about what we can measure and what we can't.

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First, let's not make this about Trout. I am not saying Trout is or isn't better than anyone historically.

All I'm saying is that we are comparing players using metrics that dont exist for some of the players so were guessing.

Does it provide an incomplete picture if we only use offense? Sure.

But it also provides an incomplete picture if we use fabricated defensive stats, and it's a misleading picture because it claims to be complete.

If we only use offense, at least were being honest about what we can measure and what we can't.

 

I hear you, but again, just because it is problematic doesn't make it absolutely useless. Actually, I believe Baseball Reference's WAR uses the same defensive stats in every year - so it is equally inexact every year!

 

At the very least, including defense allows us to see positional adjustments, so players like Honus Wagner and Johnny Bench get "rewarded" for playing more difficult positions. Comparing Jimmie Foxx's OPS+ or wRC+ to Brooks Robinson's is all well and good, but using it--or any offensive number--as the sole basis for comparison is like saying that Karl Malone was a better player than John Stockton because Malone scored more points. Sure, Malone might have been better overall, but they were two very different players serving two different roles. But the point is, points aren't enough. At least WAR gives us something behind word-of-mouth.

 

I personally think that defense should be diminished in WAR, perhaps by as much as 50%. I know Jason Heyward is a great outfielder, but fWAR (5.2) has him (.273/.351/.388) equal to Jose Abreu (.321/.383/.597) and significantly better than Victor Martinez (.333/.401/.567, 3.9 fWAR).

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