Sunday, November 4, 2012


Use the chart below to contextualize the great young hitters of baseball history.

By looking at the columns below, we can see why so many people are as excited about Mike Trout as a platoon of housewives at a Tom Jones concert. The kid is only the sixth age-20 player to crack 40 batting runs (using the offensive component of WAR, in order to offend the least number of folk across the techno-political spectrum).

Players who are still active are shown in red.

There are 33 players who had a 50+ batting run season by the age of 23, and as you might expect, there are only a handful of these who aren't in the Hall of Fame (Dick Allen, Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez...we are presuming that Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas will make it in).

Pete Reiser (l) and Pee Wee Reese sneaking in past
curfew during the Dodgers' 1942 spring training. 
You will note that we are seriously on the left side of Ye Olde Bell Curve with the folks on the chart. No 19-year-old prodigies cracked the 40 BR barrier (not unless you count my fictional years with the San Antonio Trotters, that is...but that's another story). We have just six at age 20, ten at age 21, and seventeen at age 22.

Two non-HOFers at age 21 (Cesar Cedeno and Hal Trosky) start the parade of young players who didn't sustain their early brilliance. They are joined at age 22 by Allen (a special case), Jimmy Sheckard, Boog Powell, and Pete Reiser.

When we reach age 23, we have a bifurcation in career achievement at the 50 BR line. Two of the sixteen (Canseco and Gonzalez--we're not counting Shoeless Joe in the group, as he's another special case...) fall out of the HoF from the 50+ group, while we see at least six of the twenty-one who have or who are likely to remain on the outside looking in at the Cooperstown plaque room (Troy Glaus, Hanley Ramirez, Fred Lynn, Jeff Burroughs, Don Mattingly and Tommy Davis).

And should we go down further (into the 30-39 BR group), we'd find a higher percentage of players whose fine early years didn't sustain into a sufficient level of career excellence to crack the HoF).

Mike Trout--a stone wunderkind. From this list it's hard to imagine that he won't wind up being one of the all-time greats. Note, too, the presence on the list (in fact, appearing twice) of the man that a certain segment of the population (no, they don't comprise 47% of anything...) is not going to be marking on any form of ballot--former hitting prodigy and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

How many appearances will Trout make on this list? The only player who made it in every year from age 20-23: Ted Williams.