"Mickey Mantle is alive. He’s right out there in centerfield, every day, running down balls in the alleys, taking over games with his offense, defense, and speed. And this is prime Mantle, too—not later-years, shot-kneed, wee-hours-at-the-Copacabana Mantle. He debuted at 19, just turned 25, and he’s been the best player in baseball every year since he—"Great article from Mike Schur on Slate on the underappreciated greatness of Mike Trout.
I liked the comparison between Trout and Mantle. Mantle played in New York, partied, and was seldom healthy and sober (although the author overstated his case a little - Mantle had nine seasons of at least 620 PA). Trout plays in southern California, plays every day and with a smile on his face, doesn't do or say anything newsworthy off the field, and his biggest passion besides baseball is...weather.
Schur makes this compelling argument:
"Here is what you should know: Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. There’s an argument to be made that he’s had the greatest season ever, for a player his age, in every year he has played."I've already established (if you agree that WAR is at least in the ballpark at correctly estimating player value) that Mike Trout is the greatest player ever through the age of 24. But that doesn't mean he was the best ever at his age for each individual season. Or was he?
Mike Trout DID have the greatest season ever for a 20-year-old, besting A-Rod's '96 season by a fairly wide margin.
Trout is 2nd to Hornsby. But already, Trout and Frank Robinson are the only players in the top 10 of both lists - greatest 20-year-olds AND greatest 21-year-olds. Trout is 1st and 2nd; Robinson is 9th and 10th.
This was probably Trout's worst season, and also the only year so far he's taken home MVP honors. Harper's 2015 season is ahead of a Ty Cobb Triple Crown and A-Rod's 40-40, and second only to the year Teddy Ballgame hit .406.
23-year-old Mookie Betts (the 2016 AL MVP-favorite) is slightly ahead of 23-year-old Mike Trout (but NOT ahead of 2016 Mike Trout).
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Trout is 4th, behind the career years of Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Ty Cobb.
So there you have it. Trout didn't literally have "the greatest season ever, for a player his age, in every year he has played." But he was the best at age 20, the second-best at age 21 (to a player in the Dead-ball Era), in the top five at age 24, and in the top 10 at ages 22 and 23.
Ty Cobb, who Trout surpassed as the "greatest young player of all time," finished in the top five in four of the years, but missed the top 10 entirely at age 21 and doesn't rank higher than third at any age.
Mantle was only in the top 10 at three of the ages - 20, 23 and 24. Mantle didn't really become "great" until he was 23, and then he was the best player in the American League for about ten years.
Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball since he was a 20-year-old rookie.