Up until last year, ESPN’s web site had a monthly feature that tracked where Mike Trout was on the all time bWAR list. It profiled each of the players he had passed, showing how exceptional Trout it by reminding the reader of just how good those other players were. I did not see what should have been the first one of the season this AM. That makes me sad…but not to worry, I can just do it myself.
Before the season began, I saw multiple articles stating this player or that one was poised to surpass Trout as the best player in baseball. To me, that seemed like poking the bear. Sure enough, he’s put up 1.9 WAR in the first month of the season. (The rule of thumb is that an average major leaguer should accumulate 2 in a season, so Trout can take the next 5 months off I guess.). He’s now at 75.9 WAR for his career, 75th best all time. He’s in his 11th season, so although in his prime right now, he could retire today and would be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in five years. Right now he’s hitting.425. For his career he’s at .306/.419/.585 with 308 homers and a ridiculous 176 OPS+. …but what about the players he passed this month? There were 6:
Lou Whitaker, 75.1 WAR. He was, simply, one of the best defensive second basemen ever. He was the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year. He hit .276/.364/.426, made 5 all star teams, garnered 4 silver sluggers and 3 gold gloves in his 19 year career. By JAWS, he is the 13th best second baseman ever. There are 20 in the Hall of Fame, but for inexplicable reasons he is not one of them yet.
Johnny Bench, 75.1 WAR. My favorite player when I was a kid. The first games I remember watching on TV were the 1970 World Series. The Reds lost, but my 7-year-old self thought #5 was the coolest thing ever. I’m from a Cubs fan family, but I latched onto the Reds and never let go. Turned out I had a pretty good eye. He’s only the best catcher ever. He won the 1968 NL RoY, 2 MVP’s and was an all star 14 times in his 16 full seasons. He won 10 gold gloves. He hit 389 homers and had a career 126 OPS+.
Bill Dahlen, 75.2 WAR. He played from 1891-1911. JAWS rates him the #11 shortstop all time. There are 23 shortstops in the Hall of Fame; he’s no borderline candidate. So why isn’t he in the HoF? Best I can tell, it’s off the field issues. He had the nickname “Bad Bill.” Apparently he partied hard and was drunk frequently, to the point he almost lost his career. He got sober, but then resumed drinking after he retired…and was given a job as a night watchman at the Giants’ stadium at the behest of manager John McGraw to keep him from becoming destitute. Apparently he wasn’t a happy drunk, either. He frequently did not get along with teammates, and there are reports of domestic abuse leading to a divorce. He sounds like an alcoholic back when there was no AA or rehab. Still, the only players with more WAR than him who aren’t in the HoF are either ineligible or PED-tainted.
Sam Crawford, 75.3 WAR. He played from 1899-1917, mostly for the Tigers. He’s the all time triples king with 309. He hit .309 for his career (OPS+ 144).
Old Hoss Radbourn, 75.4 WAR. Another 19th century player, and the only player on this list who racked up WAR at a similar rate to Trout, as his career was only 11 years. Just showing how different the game is from today, his career record was 310-194 in just those 11 years, with a 2.68 ERA. His 1894 season was one for the ages: 60(!)-12, 1.38 ERA, 73 complete games (with “only” 72 decisions), 678.2 IP, 441 K’s.
Paul Molitor, 75.7 WAR. He racked up 3,319 hits in his 21 year career. He also had 605 doubles, a .306 batting average and a 122 OPS+. He also made 7 all star teams and took home 4 silver slugger awards.