What happens when a player is so good so young that there are no better versions against which to compare him?
Mike Trout is unique. The meaning of that word has expanded somewhat, so that it can mean either a) generically special or b) truly one-of-a-kind, without peer or comparison. Mike Trout is the latter definition.
Trout is closing out his age-24 season--his sixth year as a major leaguer and his fifth as a full-timer--and in doing so, is closing out the best stretch of baseball by a young player, ever. Not in the modern era, or with any other qualifiers attached, by but any player. During his time in the majors, he’s accumulated 48.3 WAR by Baseball Reference’s version of the metric, more than a win greater than Ty Cobb’s 46.7 in second place and nearly a full season above Mickey Mantle’s 40.9 in third.
WARP only extends back to 1950, but Trout’s 46.6 WARP is in first place among players in that period, leading Mantle by nearly four wins. And, just for completeness, Trout also leads using FanGraphs’ fWAR, with 47.4 to Cobb’s 47.2. Nor is it only a matter of playing time; to find a player with a higher WARP per plate appearance, you need to drop the minimum PA threshold to about half a season’s worth. By basically every measure we have, Mike Trout is the best player through age 24 baseball has ever seen.
If you Google “Mike Trout Mickey Mantle” you can see a real progression over time.
A big and exciting moment for Raul Mondesi Jr. turned into 12 minutes of the worst experience baseball could offer. Let's slow it down a little.
On Wednesday, the Angels played the Royals. I should note that I did not watch this game live. The Angels aren’t very good, and the Royals aren’t very good. These are two sub-.500 teams, and one of them was on the way to being even sub-.500ier, so I did other things with my evening. But then I came across this tweet from Grant Brisbee:
The Angels win a football game, Bryan Holaday throws a knuckleball, and the Indians fall just short of history.
The Weekend Takeaway
Which sport epitomizes the red-blooded American best: football or baseball? Do we see more of ourselves in Tom Brady’s perfect touchdown spiral or the graceful swing of a Mike Trout home run?
Five years ago this summer, Jered Weaver signed a deal that would keep him in Anaheim through the rest of his prime.
Throwing hard has never been part of Jered Weaver’s success. His fastball topped out in the low 90s when he debuted with the Angels as a 23-year-old in 2006, and from 2007-2011 he consistently averaged 90. During that five-year stretch Weaver logged more than 1,000 innings with a 3.40 ERA, held opponents to a .240 batting average and .678 OPS, and finished runner-up for a Cy Young award. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball and did a lot of things very well—deception, command, movement—but he never threw hard.
And then his fastball started shedding velocity. Initially it didn’t seem like a big deal because most pitchers threw harder at 23 than they do at 28 and, really, who cares about dropping from 90.1 mph to 88.7 mph when Weaver was also winning 20 games with a 2.81 ERA and finishing third in the Cy Young balloting? That was 2012. Then his velocity kept vanishing and his results began deteriorating as well. Weaver was still having some success, but beginning with 2011 his average fastball basically lost 1-2 mph each year and his secondary numbers got progressively worse.
Why our changing expectations are driving us all insane.
Pace of game (or time of game? It’s so unclear which problem the various hand-wringers want to solve, and there’s imperfect overlap when it comes to the solutions to each) is in the news again. The average length of an MLB game this season is three hours, some seven minutes longer than at the same point last season. This, everyone seems to agree, is a problem.
On Monday night, before I saw the Rob Manfred quotes that made it clear this would be a major topic of discussion this week, I sat on my couch, sorting socks and watching the Dodgers play the Angels. It was already past 11:30 Central time when I turned on the game, so I was mildly surprised to find that the top of the seventh inning was just beginning. Apparently, though, I had missed the quick part of the game. Pedro Baez was on the mound for the Dodgers, and pretty quickly, he began laboring. That’s not new. Of the 355 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings this season, Baez takes longer between pitches (an even 30 seconds) than all but two. The issue was particularly pronounced on Monday, though, because Baez was really up against it.
Or: The Mariners fan's guide to watching the Angels.
The thing is, you’re a jerk. Let me back up. I’m a jerk, too. I’m a jerk, and you’re a jerk, and our folks are jerks. Probably not really bad jerks, or scary jerks, or even particularly vocal jerks, but jerks of a sort. You’re not a jerk because you weren’t raised right (although with the influences of those other jerks, who’s to say?). You’re a sort of jerk because being a fan of one team rather than all the other teams means you are quietly rooting for the failure of other human beings. Not exclusively, and not all the time, and maybe not in ways that are really bad, or scary, or particularly vocal, but sometimes, at least a little.