Mike Trout’s First 1,000 Games
Mike Trout played his 1,000th Major League Baseball game Thursday night and is already well on his way to cementing himself as an all-time great. Trout is still just 26 years old, an even more impressive feat considering that only 35 players have eclipsed game number 1,000 at a younger age.
To this point in Trout’s career, only two other players have posted a higher career OPS+ (On-base Plus Slugging Plus) than his 175: Ty Cobb (181) and Mickey Mantle (176). What is even scarier is that Trout is only getting better in this category. He has surpassed his previous season OPS+ in each of the last three seasons, starting with 173 in 2016, followed by 187 in 2017, and so far, an absurd 219 through his first 74 games of 2018. For reference, a 219 or higher OPS+ has happened just 19 times. Among those players are Babe Ruth (six times), Barry Bonds (four times) and Ted Williams (twice).
Here is a look at how some of his other career numbers through 1,000 games stack up against some other all-time greats through their first 1,000 games:
Trout has recorded 1,126 career hits through his first 1,000 games, which is just 105 hits behind Pete Rose, the MLB’s all-time leader in hits with 4,256. However, it is highly unlikely that Trout will ever be able to match Rose’s career hit total. According to Baseball Reference, Rose actually collected more hits in his next thousand games than his first thousand – 1,289 in his second thousand compared to 1,231 in his first thousand.
Rose was also an exceptionally durable player all the way up until he retired at age 45. Mathematically speaking, the only way Trout would be able to break Rose’s hits record would be if he played until he was 48, which seems next to impossible. Plus, Rose and Trout are very different players despite their comparable hit stats through 1,000 games. Rose hit just 160 homeruns for his career, while Trout has already hit 224.
Furthermore, Trout draws much more walks than Rose did, which is also a testament to how modern baseball has changed since Rose’s era. Offense today is far more reliant on homeruns and walks to score runs rather than singles, which was Rose’s bread and butter. Therefore, it would be almost insurmountable for Trout to ever reach Rose’s average of 200 hits per season.
Trout’s aforementioned 224 homeruns through his first 1,000 games also put him well ahead of all-time leader Barry Bonds’ 172 homeruns through his first 1,000 games. Similar to Rose’s hit numbers though, Bonds’ power numbers surged during the twilight of his career as a result of the Steroid Era.
In 2001 at the age of 37, Bonds broke the single-season home run with 73 of them, despite failing to amass more than 50 any previous season of his career. Bonds played a total 2,986 career games, and if Trout were to match that he would be on pace to hit 669 homeruns, which is still well short of Bonds’ 762 career homeruns. Trout will also likely come up short of 669 homeruns if his career begins to naturally decline as he gets older, unlike Bonds’ bizarre increase in power output as he aged.
However, Trout has also topped Bonds in two other statistical categories through 1,000 games. His 638 walks and 61.7 WAR are both better than Bonds’ 603 walks and 50 WAR through the same number of games.
Again though, Bonds’ first 1,000 games were well before pitchers basically stopped throwing to him. 1992, his final season with the Pittsburgh Pirates was the first year he led the league in walks, with 127, including 32 intentional. At that point, he averaged 0.60 walks per game, but from then on, he averaged 0.98 walks per game.
From Bonds’ homerun record season in 2001 to 2004, he averaged an unreal 189 walks per season, including 232 in 2004 with an otherworldly 120 of them intentional.
Intentional walks aren’t issued at the same rate in today’s game, and Trout has been intentionally walked just 69 times despite being arguably the most dangerous hitter in the game. He is on pace for 131 walks this season, and he would need to average 130 walks per season for 14.3 more seasons to catch Bonds. Trout would turn 41 by then, but that record is slightly more within reach.
Where Trout has the potential to make a compelling case for possibly the greatest player of all time, assuming he can keep up his incredibly high level of play for years to come, is WAR. No modern MLB stat illustrates a player’s true value better than WAR, which measures a player's all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins a player is worth than a replacement-level player at the same position.
Just looking at the current season, Trout through his 1,000th game is on pace to post an MLB single-season record WAR of 14.2 in 2018. That would break Babe Ruth’s record of 14.1 set back in 1923 when he hit .393, drew 170 walks, homered 41 times, posted a .545 on-base percentage threw out 20 baserunners from the outfield.
Ruth is the all-time leader in career WAR at 182.5, having played 2,503 career games. If Trout were to end his career with the same number of games played, he would be on pace to finish sixth all-time in career WAR at 154.4, between Willie Mays and Ty Cobb. However, if Trout could somehow play the same number of games that Bonds did in his career, he would be on pace for a record WAR of 184.2. If that happens he would statistically be the most valuable player in the history of the sport.
Very few people would doubt that Trout is the best player in baseball today. What we are witnessing is all-time great performance is so many different areas of the game, and he will turn just 27 years old in August. Through 1,000 games Trout is a full year younger than Bonds was at the same point in his career. If the last three seasons are any indication, Trout does not appear to be slowing down any time soon either. In fact, it appears that he will only get even better in the near future – a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Junior / Broadcast Journalism and Political Science