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Mike Trout and the best 22-year-olds in baseball history

Jul 16, 2014, 12:48 PM EST

Mike Trout Mike Trout

As a follow-up to the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, being named the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game, here’s a numbers-based reminder of how amazing he’s been prior to last night.

In the entire history of baseball, here are the career leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) through age 22:

25.8 – Mike Trout
25.5 – Ty Cobb
23.6 – Ted Williams
23.5 – Mel Ott
22.9 – Alex Rodriguez
21.3 – Ken Griffey Jr.
21.0 – Al Kaline
20.9 – Jimmie Foxx
20.1 – Mickey Mantle

Note: Trout still has another half-season to add to those “through age 22″ numbers.

  1. Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Bookmarking this article for when I am told that sabremetrics doesn’t use WAR as the be-all end-all to compare players……

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      I don’t think that is what has happened here. Nowhere does he say that Trout is better than everyone on the list. Merely that he has accumulated more WAR than any player through age 22 (which is still fairly impressive).

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        No, but the headline of the article includes the words “The best 22 year olds in history”.

        The body of the post contains a list of the career leaders in WAR through age 22.

        Hmm….

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Yes, by this measurement (WAR) he is ahead of all 22 year olds, with time left on his clock to spare. Any article that tries to compare players uses some stat or other; this one uses WAR. I don’t think he is overstating the validity of WAR, but merely showing that, by one standard, Trout has accomplished something special. As far as hyperbole in a title, well, if we are going to round up all of those we will need a bigger wheelbarrow.

      • Alex K - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        I’m still missing your point, Bob. How is WAR being used as the be-all end-all of anything here? It’s being used as a shorthand way to compare Mike Trout to some all-time great greats. It’s not making any type of claims that WAR says this or that.

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        OK, maybe it’s just me. But what EXACTLY does the headline read…

        “BEST 22 YEAR OLDS IN BASEBALL HISTORY”

        So we are reading, according to the author, a listing of the best 22 year olds in baseball history, right? So when this list is ONLY a list of the baseball players with the highest WAR up to 22 years of age, it is saying the following, isn’t it…

        The list of the best 22 year olds in baseball history is composed of those players with the highest WAR up to the age of 22

        What am I missing here?

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        If WAR had never been invented, and one went around sleuthing to try and determine a list of the greatest players through their age 22 seasons, would the list not look nearly identical to what Aaron posted? WAR is certainly a useful shorthand. If you want to argue for Shoeless Joe Jackson, Arky Vaughan or Rickey Henderson (or anybody else), make the case. Somehow, I doubt Aaron sits there with his fingers in his ears shouting “but they didn’t have the WAR!”

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        How can something so simple be going over all of your heads? Again, not a rip of WAR. Not a rip of Sabremetrics. I am simply pointing out the facts.

        Fact 1: Headline is Mike Trout and the best 22 year olds in baseball history.

        Fact 2: Content includes the career leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) through age 22:

        Fact 3: What is being said here is that the best 22 year olds in history are the ones who are the leaders in career WAR through age 22.

        Now, am I saying WAR is bad? No. Am I saying Trout sucks? No. What am I saying? Simple. The writer is using WAR as the BE-ALL END-ALL for the listing of the BEST 22 YEAR OLDS IN BASEBALL HISTORY.

        Period. If you don’t get that, then you really are a bunch of morons.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        I don’t think anyone is trying to rip you personally, but your idea comes acroos as strictly binary: either WAR is perfect or WAR is useless.

        Yes the headline, like most headlines contains some hyperbole. But it would be a much less enticing headline if it read “Mike Trout and the Best 22-Year-Olds in Baseball History As Determined By Comparing WAR.” Even a literal reading does not say Trout is the Best 22YO In History.

        Your original argument was that sabermetrics uses WAR as the “be-all end-all for player comparison. I believe most folks who use it do so as a conversation starter, not ender.

      • asimonetti88 - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Are you suggesting that Mike Trout is not one of the best 22 year olds in baseball history?

      • Alex K - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        Question, Bob. If the same exact headline was on this article and batting average was the metric used would you think that batting average was being used as the be-all end-all stat to prove that those players were the best 22 year olds ever? Or would you just think that it was the metric being used to show that Mike Trout is one of the best 22 year old players in history?

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        Alex, any stat he used I would say the same thing. And for sabathia, that’s fine. He used hyperbole. Like when some use WAR in other arguments as well. See I don’t care what anyone says. There is no be all end all stat out there. But there are some who think WAR is that stat. Aaron is obviously one of those people because when he wanted to show a list of the BEST he used WAR.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:01 PM

        Whenever anyone wants to show a list of the best, they use some evidence to back it up. In Aaron’s case he used WAR.

        I suppose I just don’t understand why you have a problem with this. Trout is one of the very best 22-year -olds to ever play the game (and he was one of the very best 21yo’s and 20 yo’s). By one measurement he is the very best. I don’t think WAR has led anyone to a false conclusion here.

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:11 PM

        He could have thrown a few more numbers out there and it would have been perfectly fine. But he CHOSE to rank the best by using WAR and only WAR. He is one of those who overvalues WAR. That’s all. That’s the entire point of my post. Contrary to what the sabr people always argue, there are some people out there who use WAR as their be-all end-all and Aaron is one of them. That’s my problem with this. Not trout or Ted Williams or Mickey mantle.

      • moogro - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Bob’s right that better writing would include the missing clause “according to WAR.”

    • twinfan24 - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      Go lob your law bombs elsewhere, Bob.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Here’s a list of all their offensive stats through age 22, with the players included in Aaron’s list:

      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uPfdTrmcXstsRHOVWrC-9R4RmWqBHoppdreiyM9ZqfE/edit?usp=sharing

      Except for Ted Williams, who’s a damn freak, he’s doing extremely well on a per game basis. Then throw in excellent defense and base running, and is it a stretch to say that he’s not the best 22 year old in MLB history?

      So we could have done all the work I did above, or look at rWAR which compiles the same information in a neat, handy little number.

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        but he didn’t do that. He simply listed the “best 22 year olds in baseball history” and used the highest career WAR through age 22 to do that. He used WAR as the be-all end-all stat. Period.

      • chinahand11 - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        Bob is correct. You WAR snobs get off your high horses.

      • blacksables - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        Well, since Ted Williams was the best 22 year old in the history of the game, then it is a stretch to call Trout the best 22 year old in the history of the game.

        They can’t both be, and Williams is. Therefore, Trout isn’t.

      • Cran Boy - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        Nice spreadsheet, COPO. Another way of looking at it: Top 8 in OPS are Williams, Foxx, Ott, Trout, Mathews, Rodriguez, Robinson, Mantle. In OPS+: Williams, Trout, Cobb, Foxx, Mathews, Hornsby, Mantle, Ott. Runs Created: Ott, Williams, Foxx, Rodriguez, Kaline, Trout, Cobb, Griffey. All minimum 400 games played.

        Bob, WAR isn’t my favorite metric, but let’s not dismiss it. If WAR numbers were out of whack with other metrics, it wouldn’t be worth repeating. But it does clearly show that Trout’s historically great, a contention supported by other measures. If Aaron had used any of the stats COPO or I have listed, the conclusion would’ve been the same.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:39 PM

        He used WAR as the be-all end-all stat. Period.

        That’s not what he did, and adding period to your comment doesn’t make it any more true.

        Well, since Ted Williams was the best 22 year old in the history of the game, then it is a stretch to call Trout the best 22 year old in the history of the game.

        They can’t both be, and Williams is. Therefore, Trout isn’t.

        Ted Williams was the best hitter at 22, but defense and base running matter. No one lauded his base running and/or defense.

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Copo, he used WAR to give a list of the best 22 year olds in history. True or false?

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:15 PM

        Yes, he did. No where in his statement did he claim that WAR was the be-all and end-all to the discussion.

        Do you want to argue that Trout shouldn’t be the best player through age 22 in MLB history? And if so, what stat would you use to back it up?

      • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        So he said here’s the list of the best 22 year olds in baseball history using WAR but that isn’t be-all end-all???? Then why didnt he include OPS? Or SLG? Or HRs? Or BABIP? Or hits? Why include a stat that uses horrible subjectivity when it comes to defense, especially for players in Ty freaking Cobb’s time??? Don’t make excuses for Aaron. He was using WAR as the be-all end-all or he was being lazy. Either way shame on him.

    • jwbiii - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      Here are some other players who were really good through age 22: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench , Miguel Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Cesar Cedeno, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Conigliaro, Sam Crawford, George Davis, Joe DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Travis Jackson, Andruw Jones, Joe Kelley, Freddie Lindstrom, Sherry Magee, Stuffy McInnis, Joe Medwick, Vada Pinson, Albert Pujols, Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson, Jimmy Sheckard, Hal Trosky, and Arky Vaughan. These are the age 22 comparables for the other eight players listed above.

      Comparing Trout to Johnny Bench or Stuffy McInnis doesn’t make much sense. Let’s use traditional stats and compare Trout to the other CFs on these lists:

        G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA    OBP   SLG   SB  CS  OPS+ 
      Cedeno
      529  2050  320  618 135  20  64  275  137  300  .301  .365  .480  148  49  132
      DiMaggio
      289  1258  283  421  79  30  75  292   88   76  .335  .382  .624    7   0  147
      Griffey
      578  2165  311  652 132  12  87  344  222  313  .301  .366  .494   60  29  138
      Jones
      505  1679  257  436  93  15  80  257  179  368  .260  .335  .476   74  27  107
      Mantle
      511  1894  389  561  89  27  84  346  299  382  .296  .391  .505   25  14  148
      Pinson
      489  2003  359  626 125  29  57  240  152  275  .313  .362  .489   78  29  124
      Trout
      426  1616  323  506  98  22  84  269  239  400  .313  .403  .557   96  12  169
      

      Which one do you pick?

  2. mdpickles - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    You missed the asterisk next to A-Rod.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      I bet he stole that WAR from orphans.

      • dluxxx - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        No, he sent the orphans to war.

        Am I doing this right?

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      This is really all about Jeter, folks. Age 22? That’s a 2, and another 2.

      C’mon, Aaron, come clean.

      • jm91rs - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:50 PM

        And you can’t spell Re2pect without 2.

  3. RonKarate - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I’m so fortunate to live 20 miles from Anaheim Stadium. I can go watch Trout anytime I want. And because of an amazing lack of foresight, the Dodgers can’t be seen by vast amounts of the television audience here. The Angels are converting lots of fans because of Trout. Puig who? Go Angels!

    • moogro - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      No one has to be converted to be a Mike Trout fan. Converting more casual and indifferent Anaheim fans? For sure.

  4. Bar None - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    As you can clearly see, most of these guys didn’t pan out and had short unmemorable careers.

    • chrisernst82 - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      I know right, ive never heard of any of those guys!

      30 years from now fans will talk about how they wish they could of watched Trout play. Baseballs lucky to have a guy like him.

      Did anyone else see this game as a passing of the torch from Jeter to Trout? Baseball needs it more than ever since its dying and everything.

  5. happytwinsfan - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    So Ty Cobb was number one by this measurement from 1908 to 2014. Wow.

    • Bob Loblaw - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Yeah, but I thought one component of WAR was defense? You tell me…HTF do we know Cobb’s defensive ability? Range? Give me a break.

      • philliesblow - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Cobb was 22 in 1908. When weighing defense in Cobb’s WAR rating, look at what he was wearing on his hand compared to Trout.

      • happytwinsfan - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        I wondered about that to until I read that they take the league average number of put outs for the player’s position over a defined period – number of innings, and compare that to the number of putouts by the player. This provides an indication of how often compared to the league average the player was able to get to and successfully field a ball in play. With a large enough sample size I can see how this is an imperfect but persuasive indicator.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        @Happy … that said, this shows that a lot of defensive numbers are themselves somewhat subjective, especially on the infield. IMO, that’s part of why Zobriest’s and Longoria’s dWAR is down so much this year. A lot of teams have been shifting a LOT more this year, so Tampa IFers have lost that comparative advantage.

      • happytwinsfan - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:20 PM

        @socratic
        True, all the shifting must greatly undermine the reliability of put out ratios, but the numbers from Cobb’s playing days when they weren’t doing near as much shifting would still hold up.

        All the numbers are imperfect and subjective. I don’t know how for instance you could quantify the strength of an outfielder’s throwing arm, when the usual manifestation is not the percentage of times he’s able to throw out the runner but the percentage of the time the runner doesn’t go for the extra base out of respect for the outfielder.

        In the case of Cobb, I’d supplement the numbers by noting that he stole 894 bases and he may or may not have been a burner but he must have had at least good speed and range and that he was an intelligent and fanatical perfectionist so it’s safe to assume that he rarely made mental mistakes like throwing to the wrong base.

        But I don’t have the energy or aptitude to go deep into the numbers, so I defer to those that do (maybe you?).

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        @Happy … that said, this shows that a lot of defensive numbers are themselves somewhat subjective, especially on the infield.

        Historic dWAR should be taken with a large grain of salt, but that has nothing to do with current iterations of defensive metrics. Which leads me to:

        IMO, that’s part of why Zobriest’s and Longoria’s dWAR is down so much this year.

        With the caveat that defensive metrics are best used in three year plus sample sizes, it’s entirely different that historic defensive measures. And wait a sec, Zobrist has a 0.3 bref and 5.9 fangraphs rated dWAR. He’s 33 years old and yet still a plus defensively, and you are complaining?

        A lot of teams have been shifting a LOT more this year, so Tampa IFers have lost that comparative advantage.

        Different metrics handle shifts differently. UZR ignores them completely (fangraphs).

      • f.verd - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:26 PM

        Speaking of defense stirs up bile from my early days of watching (very carefully) ballgames on TV (black and white…the 50’s). I am sure official scorers were much tougher on defenders than they are today. If a fielder got to the ball and was not able to get the putout or assist, it was almost always an error. Today’s game seems faster, but the official scorers are also much more lenient. “Too hot to handle…bad hop…the light’s bad, his foot slipped…” Today’s gloves practically catch the ball on their own, yet errors are only for the obvious (and not even then sometimes for home cooking). Anyone else feel this way?

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 16, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        @Happy, right. Except for Williams at his peak, you didn’t hear much about shifts way back then, so actually, dWAR and other stuff are probably less subjective then than today.

        On Cobb, spike sharpening aside, I agree. We could also note that Tris Speaker played a very shallow CF; he had several years of double figures in defensive double plays, including the occasional unassisted one from the OF.

        As for today, this is why I tell Tampa fans to cool their jets on how great Zobrist is. He’s not. He just got puffed up by Maddon doing shifts before anybody else.

        ==

        @COPO … true on 3-year samples. But, on year-to-year, and going to B-Ref, Zobrist is only 0.3 this year, his lowest since 2008. Longoria is at 0.1, his career worst except for his injury-riddled 2012. Escobar’s only been there 2 years, but it’s -1.0 this year vs. 1.4 last year.

        So, while adoption of shifts by other teams may not be all the cause of the “decline,” I think it IS a fair-sized chunk, and a real chunk of what’s on paper a real decline, at least in comparative fielding.

        And none of the three is hugely old; Zobrist 33, Escobar 31, Longoria only 28. So, again, with more teams shifting more, apples-to-apples is applying more and Tampa’s IF is more human.

        On B-Ref, I believe its Total Zone Runs works at least somewhat similarly to UZR. Anyway, taking a gander at Zobrist at least, it doesn’t show such a decline like dWAR. But, by the same token, it doesn’t show him ranking so high 5-6 years ago. Which reinforces my case that dWAR is fairly subjective, and that especially in the IF, it should be used with caution.

        It also reinforces my case that Tampa fans tend to overvalue Zobrist.

    • blacksables - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      If you use it as a straight counting stat, then yes.

      If you break down by games played, or plate appearances, then Ted Williams is the biggest stud of them all.

      • happytwinsfan - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        I didn’t know that but suspected that. I noticed that Kaline is ranked above Mantle, which is probably because he went to the Tigers straight out of high-school (and as histro might note has green eyes).

  6. ahrmon - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    WAR. What is is good for?

    • cohnjusack - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      Evaluating player performance.

      • jm91rs - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:52 PM

        And getting rid of WMDs

  7. bronco58lb - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    Sorry Red Sox homer, Tony Conigliaro didn’t make the list.

  8. rickrenteria - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    WAR, what is it good for? Making couch potatoes who have never held a bat and stood opposed feel as if they know what they’re talking about.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      And you played for which team again?

      • Kevin S. - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        He played for Pittsburgh, Seattle and Florida. Currently manages the Cubs.

        Wait, you mean to tell me that’s not the real Rick Renteria?

      • rickrenteria - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:15 PM

        The Twins for 2 years and the Pirates for two more.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        If you are going to claim to be someone, don’t have your WP profile link back to a parody twitter account.

      • yahmule - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        I peaked @ 12, but for four shining months I was as deadly a hitter as anybody in Northridge Little League.

    • asimonetti88 - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      I played baseball and I understand how to evaluate WAR as a statistic.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      I have never converted sunlight into energy, yet I have a pretty good grasp on photosynthesis. I don’t think my geranium can even spell photosynthesis.

      • yahmule - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        Neither can most baseball players.

      • largebill - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:05 PM

        Well done. That is a rebuttal to be saved for these type of discussions.

    • DJ MC - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      So does internet commenting.

  9. 461deep - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    old.No pitchers on list why not? Babe Ruth & Bob Feller shined as young pitchers. Willie Mays had to do Army duty at that age. Why no DiMaggio as he was great at 22. This is all about coming up very young and starting off strong. WAR is a nice stat but is subjective to some extent since some moderate stat areas may inflate the value. For instance, Mantle could steal more bases at a young age but only stole on occasion. Trout is perhaps the best all around player now and should be terrific for years to come but he will not always have Albert & Josh batting behind him which allows him to see more fat pitches. Positive results are mostly derived from ones talents but size of ball parks, line-up configurations, strength of other division teams especially their pitching & defense, & of course good health help. Also good behavior is needed to avoid problems as well. Alternately PEDs allowed Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro, & others to shine past 38 years old. Lower hitting stats now prove this.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      For instance, Mantle could steal more bases at a young age but only stole on occasion.

      Mickey Mantle had 153 SB in his career. His single season career high was 21. Is he who you meant to reference?

      Trout is perhaps the best all around player now and should be terrific for years to come but he will not always have Albert & Josh batting behind him which allows him to see more fat pitches.

      Since being with LAA: [OPS+/wOBA/wRC+, ’12 > ’13 > ’14]

      Pujols: 138/.360/133, 115/.329/112, 129/.348/126
      Hamilton: 141/.387/141, 107/.319/105, 133/.357/132
      Trout: 168/.409/167, 168/.423/176, 182/.428/181

      Trout has been significantly better than both since he came up. They aren’t protecting him (which doesn’t exist to begin with).

      Alternately PEDs allowed Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro, & others to shine past 38 years old. Lower hitting stats now prove this.

      So what PEDs were Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and others on?

      Williams, age 38: .388/.526/.731, 233 OPS+, 38 HR
      Aaron, age 37: .327/.410/.669, 194 OPS+, 47 HR
      Ruth, age 37: .341/.489/.661, 201 OPS+, 41 HR

      • 461deep - Jul 16, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        Regardless of what Albert & Josh hit they still protected Trout by allowing him to see better pitches. All hitters benefit from a good hitter behind them. Mantle did not try to steal many bases but his exceptional speed would have allowed him to steal more if he chose to. Williams .388, was a astonishing 44 points above LAVG. Aaron 47, Ruth 41 were not grossly above their lifetime averages. Aaron avg 33, but the launching pad FCS allowed him to go for HR in his later years since they brought in the fences. Ruth avg almost 39 as a full time OF for 17 years. Great years no season records here but not outlandish PED aided record numbers. Shilling said, PEDS make you April fresh in September. They don’t take dangerous PEDs for nothing. Yes this debate will rage on.

      • largebill - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:08 PM

        461deep,

        You’re partly right in that stolen bases were down overall in the 1950’s. Also, Mantle was very fast when he first showed up. However, you’re ignoring fact that Mantle’s knee was blown out during the World Series after his rookie season.

  10. gatorprof - Jul 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Trout an absolute pleasure to watch, but there is no way that you can use WAR to evaluate players with careers separated by over 100 years. It is silly to even try.

    Aside from data keeping differences regarding defensive range, etc., the equipment is vastly different, the league was segregated for a fair amount of that period, the ball parks are re vastly different (size, astroturf, in doors, etc.), equipment technology has evolved, pitching has changed (specialized relievers, starters don’t pitch over 300+ innings per year, 5 man rotations), etc.

    I just want to enjoy the guy play ball. I don’t need some stat head trying to make some stupid argument that has zero merit to start a debate.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      the equipment is vastly different, the league was segregated for a fair amount of that period, the ball parks are re vastly different (size, astroturf, in doors, etc.), equipment technology has evolved, pitching has changed (specialized relievers, starters don’t pitch over 300+ innings per year, 5 man rotations), etc.

      Most of that is factored in since the numbers are scaled to league averages (technically replacements). So only your complaint about defensive numbers really hold water, which is explained above.

      • tmc602014 - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:01 AM

        I’m a guy who works with numbers for a living. Of course I use calculators, computers, and spreadsheets but my expertise does not extend to some of these advanced metrics. When Copo says “factored in,” my thought is how was it determined, weighted, and factored? I am sure that some of these numbers include calculations that unintentionally reflect the bias of the creator. For instance, why is Fangraphs and Baseball Ref both called WAR yet are different stats? How was a replacement player baseline developed when different replacement players were available in different years? (If Ted Williams was off to war along with millions of other potential “replacement players” did that not degrade the value of the RP and therefore inflate the value of the original player?) I have come to the understanding that my childhood faves, the counting stats, are flawed but at least I understood them. I get lost very quickly with some of the sabermetrics, and I can’t put absolute trust in things I don’t understand. Yet, like Loblaw before me I sometimes feel assaulted by the justification: “Here’s the number. See how this is higher? That means he’s better.” I want to be able to understand -AND AGREE – that the higher number is valid and justifies the judgment.

      • gatorprof - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        COPO,

        Yes and dWAR is certainly a significant contributor to WAR…perhaps too large. For example, Josh Donaldson is currently #6 in WAR for both leagues and is only batting .238 /.317 /.449.

        Yes, “factored in” is the key point as tmc602014 stated below. Every estimation model has both statistical and bias errors (see for example global warming prediction models).

        Scaling things to a league average is nice, but the league average can vary greatly over different time periods. Do you think that the league average when up or down when the league desegregated? What about during WWII? How do you account for a players career WAR when he took several years of his prime off to serve our country?

        Does expansion era baseball (pick an era) skew the average downward compared to when there was fewer players of arguably higher quality? How did the DH affect the average in the AL? Did the steriod era artificially elevate the average?

        The point that I am getting at it is that baseball is so complex that it cannot accurately be modeled to the point that it permits a true comparison between eras. Read this and tell me how confident you are about being able to compare eras. If they had it correct, why so many revisions in so short a time frame?

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained.shtml

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained_comparison.shtml

        That being said, it is a reasonable tool to evaluate current players.

        Then again, it still cannot properly account for a guy who has home / away splits like this.

        Home: .417 / .497 / .748
        Away: .265 / .367 / .463

  11. dexterismyhero - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    What does Bryce Harper think?

    • Paul Bourdett - Jul 16, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Bryce Harper is currently ranked 24th in WAR through age-21 season. He’s got a chance to move into the Top 15 with a solid second half. If he plays like Mike Trout over the next 55-60 games, he could move into the Top 10, ahead of A-Rod and Mantle. Still not too shabby.

      • asimonetti88 - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:18 PM

        Bryce Harper is another great player. I’m an Angels fan and I love Trout obviously but it’s hard not to like Bryce too

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 16, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Look fellas, there are obviously lots of ways to measure player performance. WAR is merely one of them. It attempts to be comprehensive in a way no other stat does, but it is imperfect. Imperfect does not mean it is useless, however. It does a pretty good job of showing a player’s value relative to his peers. Therefore, it is not saying that Trout is better than the other guys on this list. It says that the difference between Trout and the league bottom feeders was greater than the difference between the other guys and the bottom feeders n their eras. Even still, many of these numbers are so close that they are within the standard deviation (either literally or practically) meaning that their relative value is essentially equal.

    In other words, Trout has been really, really good, and really good at lots of different things, and has arguably been the best player in baseball since he was called up. And he did all thing before his 23rd birthday. Somewhere between 0-10 people in baseball history can claim to have accomplished so much so early. That’s pretty cool.

    • largebill - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      Correct. War is not a perfect metric. People fail to understand that WAR actually isn’t a specific stat. It is merely a way collecting and compiling all stats that might show a player’s contribution during a game. I see a lot of complaining about WAR, but from my viewpoint it does a pretty good job in ranking players. All time career WAR leader is Ruth. That is one way to test a metric. If it gives a result that sounds like BS it might be BS. If it says Ruth is best, well it is doing something right.

  13. mpzz - Jul 16, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Wow! If anyone ever needed any evidence that WAR is the stupidest “metric” of all the stupid “metrics”, this should be the clincher. Ted Williams stats, for example, are so much better than Trout’s that there is simply no comparison, and I’m not saying that to run down Trout, who is having a great season so far.
    The fact is, “WAR” tries to measure performance in a way that cannot be measured. There are far too many variables to take into account for it to be in any way accurate.

    • largebill - Jul 16, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      That isn’t evidence that WAR is stupid. It merely shows you don’t understand the metric at all.Ted Williams was a fantastic hitter. However, he was indifferent as a left fielder whereas Trout is a great center fielder. Guess what: Fielding has value. Williams was just an okay base runner whereas Trout is an exceptional base runner. Base running also has value.

      • gatorprof - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        largebill,

        That is a pretty strong statement about Williams. Did you watch Ted Williams play? How many full games? Stats don’t even exist regarding how many innings he played in the field.

        Can you in a couple of sentence to educate all of us about how accurate dWAR estimates are of players from ~ 1940?

        It isn’t just that Williams was a fantastic hitter, he was BY FAR THE BEST HITTER over the past 75 years. His age 22 slash line .406 / .553 / .735. with an OPS+ of 235. He was the BEST HITTER in all of baseball at age 22 winning a batting title, winning a HR crown, leading in OPS+, leading in runs…historic season.

        Trout is NOT the best hitter in baseball, not even close…ditto for all time to age 22. He is not the best CF in baseball either (avg. this year according to dWAR, below average in 2013)…ditto for all time to age 22.

        His average OPS+ for 162 games for his entire career was 190. Trout hasn’t gone over 180 for a season yet. Williams career OPS was 1.119, Trout’s best season is this one with 1.005 at the halfway point.

        Trout is an awesome player who is a pleasure to watch and will be one of the best players of his time, but trying to use a flawed metric like WAR to state that he is the best player through 22 ever is a joke.

  14. jm91rs - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    The comments in this post are a little nerdy for me. Can’t we just say Mike Trout is a freaking badass baseball player? I don’t think Bob Lablaw can argue that.

    • largebill - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:12 AM

      Darn-it, you know Bob does not accept “freaking badass” as the perfect be all to end all metric for evaluating players.

  15. blabidibla - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    God, I loathe semantic arguments.

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