Mike Trout: Runs > Games

March 17, 2013

 

 
It’s bold prediction time here at the BJOL….I’ll throw up some haphazard prognostications for the coming season sometime next week. I’d like to start things off with a bold prediction involving a player seldom talked about on these pages: Halos leftfielder Mike Trout.
 
As no one at all noticed last year, Mike Trout led the American League in runs scored, tallying an impressive 129 runs in 139 games. Does he have a chance to break the single-season runs scored record?
 
Okay… let’s back away from that question for a moment, and ask a slightly less intimidating one: can Mike Trout score more runs than games played? Can he score at least one run per game over the course of a season?
 
This is an astonishingly rare feat: counting full seasons it’s happened exactly once in my years as a baseball fan: Rickey Henderson’s 1985 season (146 runs scored, 143 games). It’s probably happened once in your years as a baseball fan: the last season before Rickey was Joe DiMaggio’s 1937 season (151/151).
 
There are, I suppose, five basic components to raking up a lot of runs scored:
 
-Getting lots of at-bats.
-Getting on base.
-Having speed so you can get around the bases.
-Having other hitters who’ll help get you around the bases, and,
-Having power so you can get yourself around the bases.
 
What makes Mike Trout so strong a candidate is that he has all five components covered. He’s the leadoff hitter for an American League team, and he gets on base at a respectable rate. He gets around the bases at a more-than-respectable rate. He hits a lot of homers, and he has Albert Pujols and John Hamilton hitting behind him if he doesn’t hit a homer.
 
To check on Trout’s chances, I thought I’d take a gander at how he compares to other notable members (and near-members) to the Runs Scored > Games Played club. Here a list of ten interesting players, with their baseball card stats:
 

Name
Year
Runs
G
PA
H
2B/3B
HR
BB
SB
S.B. Hamilton
1894
192
129
679
220
40
4
126
98
Hugh Duffy
1894
160
125
606
237
67
18
66
48
Babe Ruth
1921
177
152
693
204
60
59
145
17
Kiki Cuyler
1930
155
156
741
228
67
13
72
37
Chuck Klein
1930
158
156
721
250
67
40
54
4
Lou Gehrig
1936
167
155
719
205
44
49
130
3
Joe DiMaggio
1937
151
151
692
215
50
46
64
3
R. Henderson
1985
146
143
654
172
33
24
99
80
Jeff Bagwell
2000
152
159
719
183
38
47
107
9
Mike Trout
2012
129
139
639
182
35
30
67
49

 
What’s interesting in this list is how drastically different all of these players are. Slidin’ Billy Hamilton is sort of an uber-Brett Butler: a leadoff guy who chopped singles, walked, and stole bases. He must’ve been fun to watch.
 
Hugh Duffy, Kiki Cuyler, and Rickey fall into the category of fast players who could also hit a few out: maybe Rickey belongs with Hamilton as the two ‘true-speed’ leadoff guys, but Rickey out-homered Kiki and the Duff-Man, so we’re counting him with them.
 
The other five non-Trouts are pure sluggers: they can be divided into the sluggers who also walked a ton (Ruth, Gehrig, Bagwell), and the sluggers who didn’t walk that much (DiMaggio, Klein).
 
Because Trout didn’t play a full season, it’s a tad more accurate to look at rate stats, rather than raw numbers:
 

Name
Runs
OBP
1B%
2B/3B%
HR%
BB%
SB%
BABIP
Hugh Duffy
160
.502
25.1%
11.0%
3.0%
10.9%
7.9%
.433
S.B. Hamilton
192
.523
25.9%
5.9%
0.6%
18.6%
14.4%
.414
Babe Ruth
177
.512
12.3%
8.6%
8.5%
20.9%
2.5%
.363
Chuck Klein
158
.436
19.8%
9.3%
5.5%
7.5%
0.6%
.376
Kiki Cuyler
155
.428
20.0%
9.0%
1.8%
9.7%
5.0%
.371
Lou Gehrig
167
.478
15.6%
6.1%
6.8%
18.1%
40.0%
.322
Joe DiMaggio
151
.412
17.2%
7.2%
6.6%
9.7%
0.4%
.314
R. Henderson
146
.419
17.6%
5.1%
3.7%
15.1%
12.2%
.320
Jeff Bagwell
152
.424
13.6%
15.1%
6.5%
14.9%
1.3%
.313
Mike Trout
129
.399
18.3%
5.5%
4.7%
10.5%
7.7%
.383

 
Just to clarify: singles, doubles+triples, HR, walks, and stolen bases are all divided by plate appearances…how often did each players single? How often did they walk? How often did they steal a base? I threw in batting-average-on-balls-in-play, too, just for fun.
 
Let’s see where Trout ranks among these luminaries:
 

Name
OBP
S.B. Hamilton
.523
Babe Ruth
.512
Hugh Duffy
.502
Lou Gehrig
.478
Chuck Klein
.436
Kiki Cuyler
.428
Jeff Bagwell
.424
R. Henderson
.419
Joe DiMaggio
.412
Mike Trout
.399

 
Trout ranks last in on-base percentage, which is a slightly auspicious start to this adventure. Getting on-base is centrally important to scoring runs. Trout is near DiMaggio and Henderson.
 

Name
1B%
S.B. Hamilton
25.9%
Hugh Duffy
25.1%
Kiki Cuyler
20.0%
Chuck Klein
19.8%
Mike Trout
18.3%
R. Henderson
17.6%
Joe DiMaggio
17.2%
Lou Gehrig
15.6%
Jeff Bagwell
13.6%
Babe Ruth
12.3%

 
Trout is comfortably in the middle of the pack in terms of his singles rate. Trout should do well in this category, because he’s extremely fast. He’s ahead of Rickey and the sluggers.
 

Name
2B/3B%
Jeff Bagwell
15.1%
Hugh Duffy
11.0%
Chuck Klein
9.3%
Kiki Cuyler
9.0%
Babe Ruth
8.6%
Joe DiMaggio
7.2%
Lou Gehrig
6.1%
S.B. Hamilton
5.9%
Mike Trout
5.5%
R. Henderson
5.1%

 
Trout is towards the bottom of this list, but within range of Rickey, Gehrig, and SBH. It’s worth noting that it was a lot easier to hit a triple in the 1930’s than it is in the 2010’s.
 

Name
HR%
Babe Ruth
8.5%
Lou Gehrig
6.8%
Joe DiMaggio
6.6%
Jeff Bagwell
6.5%
Chuck Klein
5.5%
Mike Trout
4.7%
R. Henderson
3.7%
Hugh Duffy
3.0%
Kiki Cuyler
1.8%
S.B. Hamilton
0.6%

 
Trout is in the middle of the pack here. Side bar: the big question about Trout going forward is about his power…about whether he’s more of a mid-range power hitter, or a potential slugger. He hit 23 homeruns in 286 minor league games, and then hit 30 in 139 major league games last year….a lot of folks anticipate a regression there. I’ll just mention that Jeff Bagwell hit a paltry six homers in 206 minor league games.
 

Name
BB%
Babe Ruth
20.9%
S.B. Hamilton
18.6%
Lou Gehrig
18.1%
R. Henderson
15.1%
Jeff Bagwell
14.9%
Hugh Duffy
10.9%
Mike Trout
10.5%
Kiki Cuyler
9.7%
Joe DiMaggio
9.7%
Chuck Klein
7.5%

 
Trout’s walk rate, which could certainly improve considering his age, is already respectable: he’s not in the category of the great walkers, but he’s holding his own.
 

Name
SB%
S.B. Hamilton
14.4%
R. Henderson
12.2%
Hugh Duffy
7.9%
Mike Trout
7.7%
Kiki Cuyler
5.0%
Babe Ruth
2.5%
Jeff Bagwell
1.3%
Chuck Klein
0.6%
Lou Gehrig
0.4%
Joe DiMaggio
0.4%

 
What is startling is how seldom DiMaggio stole a base, for being such a well-rounded player. I guess I’d stay on first, too, if I had Lou Gehrig hitting next.

Speed is sort of the underrated metric: in addition to stealing 49 bases (in 54 attempts), Trout went first-to-third on a single 28 times last year. He scored from first on a double seven times. He went from second to home on a single twenty times. That’s 55 extra bases that Mike Trout tallied that aren’t reflected in his stolen base count. If there is a point where Trout excels, it’s in his ability to get around the bases once he gets on.
 

Name
BABIP
Hugh Duffy
.433
S.B. Hamilton
.414
Mike Trout
.383
Chuck Klein
.376
Kiki Cuyler
.371
Babe Ruth
.363
Lou Gehrig
.322
R. Henderson
.320
Joe DiMaggio
.314
Jeff Bagwell
.313

 
Unsurprisingly, Trout does well in the BABIP category. While a rate of .383 seems unsustainable, Trout has routinely had extremely high batting averages on balls-in-play throughout his career. Granted, the defense in the minor leagues isn’t as good as defense in the majors, but Trout should be able to post a BABIP north of .330 for a few years to come.
 
Among the players who have scored a lot of runs, Trout can generally hold his own. That said, there is one metric where Trout needs to make up some ground: contact rate. Simply put, he strikes out a lot more than these other guys:
 

Name
K%
Hugh Duffy
2.5%
S.B. Hamilton
2.5%
Joe DiMaggio
5.4%
Lou Gehrig
6.4%
Kiki Cuyler
6.6%
Chuck Klein
7.0%
R. Henderson
9.9%
Babe Ruth
11.7%
Jeff Bagwell
16.1%
Mike Trout
21.8%

 
I suppose that Henderson is the closest ‘match’ to Trout: I don’t know that Trout will develop into a pure power hitter of the Ruth/Gehrig/Bagwell variety, and he’s not a singles hitter like (the elder) Billy Hamilton. DiMaggio seems a logical fit, but DiMaggio and Trout have drastically different approaches at the plate. DiMaggio excelled at making contact, and ended up walking about twice as often as he struck out. Trout will probably exceed DiMaggio’s single-season high in walks (80), but Trout is already halfway to DiMaggio’s strikeout record. So Rickey Henderson, the last player to average more than a run per game in a season, seems Trout’s closest comparable.
 
Trout’s actual comparables are players like Eric Davis, Mickey Mantle, and Vada Pinson: fast outfielders who could hit for power and get on base at a young age. Of the three, Mantle put up the most impressive tallies of runs scored, leading the AL five times in seven years.
 
Trout’s biggest issue is his strikeout rate, which reduces his ability to get on base. His strikeout rate increased slightly during the second half of the season (from 19.7% to 23.5%), but his walk rate also increased (from 8.6% to 12.0%). In spring training, Trout has drawn seven walks to six strikeouts, and though we’re talking about small sample sizes, there are a few indictation that Trout’s on-base percentage will improve in 2013.
 
*              *              *
 
Could Trout break the record for runs scored?
 
The ‘modern’ record is Ruth’s 177 runs scored, from 1921. Ruth had a season best described as ‘Ruthian’: he out-homered every team in the league, and posted an on-base percentage of .512. It is unlikely that Trout will out-homer, say, the Blue Jays (unlikely: not impossible), and it is unlikely that Trout will make outs in fewer than half of his plate appearance.
 
That said, Trout has a few edges over Babe Ruth. For one thing, Trout will be hitting leadoff for a team that will play 162 games in 2013…while Babe Ruth tallied an impressive 693 plate appearances for the Yankees in 1921, Trout could eclipse that by twenty or thirty appearances. And while Ruth has an edge in power and walks, Trout has a distinct advantage on the bases: Trout is more likely to score on a single or a walk than Babe Ruth.  Ruth was backed up by Wally Pip and Bob Meusel…Meusel was excellent in 1921, but Wally Pip, the cleanup hitter in most of Ruth’s games, was a little less than league average as a hitter.  This should’ve put aside any talk about ‘protection’ a century ago, but it didn’t.
 
Billy Hamilton’s record, whether you want to credit him with 192 or 198 runs scored, is a magnitude harder. Hamilton notched his record playing for the 1894 Phillies, a team that averaged 8.9 runs scored per game, but finished just fourth in the NL. Baseball-reference has Hamilton as appearing in 132 games in 1894, which is strange considering that the Phillies record (71-57) adds up to just 128 games. Whatever the math, the team was deep with hitters: Lave Cross hit .387, which was good enough for fifth on the team (Ed Delahanty, Sam Thompson, and Hamilton all topped .400, as did half-time outfielder Tuck Turner). Hamilton, who posted an on-base percentage of .521, was aided around the bases by seven batters who got on-base at a clip better than .400. Not that he needed help: he stole 100 bases.
 
Hamilton’s record, set in a tremendously high-offense era, is unlikely to be broken. Ruth’s 177 mark is similarly distant, though Trout has a few advantages over Ruth that make him, at least, an interesting candidate. I doubt he’ll pass either player.
 
The record that Mike Trout could threaten is the post-WWII tally for runs scored: 152, collected by Jeff Bagwell in 2000. And Trout could be the first player to score more runs than games played since Rickey Henderson accomplished the feat in 1985.
 
My first bold prediction for 2013? That he does one or the other. Mike Trout with either score 152+ runs in 2013, or he’ll score more runs than games played.
 
The rest of the predictions are coming.
 

David Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. He’d like to give a shout-out to the New Zealand Black Sox, who won the Fast-Pitch Softball World Championships in Auckland last week.

 
 

COMMENTS (19 Comments, most recent shown first)

OBM
In writing about Ruth's record for runs scored in a season, you make a comment about how Ruth probably wasn't getting around the base paths all that well. In that season, Ruth was 26. Ruth's image in our minds has been cemented as a fat, slow, softball hitter in large part because most of the photos and movies we have of him are from 10+ years later. At 26, he was probably the most impressive athlete in the game up to that time.

He scored 177 runs in part because he was hitting in front of Gehrig, but also because he was doing a fine job getting around the bases.
11:52 PM Mar 30th
 
DaveFleming
"...if he wants to be Bill James' sidekick."

What would my sidekick alias be? I like "The Metricer." I'd also go with "Sabr-Boy." There's a television show in this somewhere:

Sabr-Boy: "Dusty Baker is batting Cozart in the leadoff spot! He has an on-base percentage of .288!"

Bill James: "To the bullpen car, Sabr-Boy!"

And...scene.
2:35 PM Mar 24th
 
eddykhuizen
Unlike this cyberjin fellow, I'm able to acknowledge that a person is allowed to write an article while not being omniscient. So I'd like to respectfully point out a few minor mistakes here: Wally Pipp's last name is "Pipp," not "Pip," and you called Josh Hamilton "John" Hamilton by accident. Regardless, it didn't detract from a wonderful article, one that convinced me to join the site.
11:43 PM Mar 23rd
 
greggborgeson
Trout's biggest advantage over Ruth and many others in the list is batting leadoff. Most games Ruth batted third in the first inning -- so very often came to bat with two outs. If he singles or walks, he has less than 25% chance of scoring. Trout always bats leadoff in the first, presumably 162 at bats, or close to it. If he singles or walks in the first, because there are no outs his chance of scoring, even on a typical team, exceeds 85%.
6:01 AM Mar 23rd
 
ventboys
How about this, Cyberjyn? Shut up, you jackass. My freedom of speech allows that, right?
7:18 PM Mar 22nd
 
ChitownRon
cybergin,

Certainly you have freedom of speech on this forum. Say what you want.
However we all have freedom of speech just like you.

Here is an example of my freedom of speech. cyberjn, you come off as a snot nose 13 year old kid who wiped buggers under your desk in junior high school.

You have recently graduated to eating them when you think no one is looking. Oh and I should tell you one more thing... [b]Your are an ass.[b]

Does anyone disagree with me? It is ok if you don't agree. I can handle
criticism. Can you cyberjn?



5:22 PM Mar 22nd
 
Jack
Misspelling "amateurish" is comical.
11:59 AM Mar 22nd
 
cyberjn
to bobburpee: No need to criticize me. No need to tell me to relax. Forgetting that ties exist is a truly amaturish mistake from a professional baseball writer. If he wants to be Bill James' sidekick and be the big shot then he's got to do better than that. I've got nothing against him personally.

Your pedantic little chirping is insulting. You are trying to control me and limit my freedom of speech. WELL IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. I will say what I want and you will have to deal with it.
9:39 AM Mar 22nd
 
ChitownRon
Dave,
Congrats on the Blacksox. I follow Mens fastpitch in Aurora IL.
We had a couple of World championships with the Sealmasters Team
and the Home Savings club in the 60's ,70's & I believe 1 in the 80's.

At the Elite level, I enjoy watching it as much, if not more than MLB.
I got a hit off of New Zelander Mike White in game. That was 20 yrs ago, I dont know how much you follow him. He played for the Aurora Club for a few years.. He was crazy good!


12:47 PM Mar 20th
 
Florko
I wouldnt expect an increase in his walk rates, they have been pretty steady throughout the minors and his first full season with the Angels. His BABIP was insanely high, he will always have a higher than average BABIP but .383 is not sustainable.
8:44 PM Mar 18th
 
bobburpee
cyberjn -- Relax. No need to throw around insults. Better to simply state your information and allow Dave to make a correction.
11:24 AM Mar 18th
 
Jack
Trout's all of 21, and drew 67 walks in 139 games as a 20-year-old. I think there's a very good likelihood that his walk rate and OBP increase this season.
10:01 AM Mar 18th
 
DaveFleming
rgregory:

That's a great thing to check on...the rate that elite runs scorers have managed to score on non-HR's.

Trout scored 99 runs on non-HR's. He got on base 219 times, which means that he managed to score 45.2% of the time he reached base.

How does that rate among the other comparables?

SB Hamilton - 55.0%
Hugh Duffy - 49.8%
Kiki Cuyler - 49.5%
R. Henderson - 49.4%
TROUT - 45.2%
DiMaggio - 45.1%
Chuck Klein - 44.7%
Bagwell - 43.2%
Gehirg - 41.3%
Ruth - 40.7%

Good company....it'll be interesting to see if that rate jumps with the addition of Hamilton. I wonder who'll hit in the 2-spot for the Angels.
9:25 PM Mar 17th
 
rgregory1956
Perhaps even more important to Trout joining the Runs > Games Club is how well the guys behind him do. In 2004 when Bonds also scored 129 runs, he got on base 320 times and scored only 84 times. Trout had better hitters behind him last year, scoring 99 times in 219 times on base. For a really bizarre example, in 2002, when Bonds hit 73 HRs, he only scored 44 additional runs, even tho he was on base 270 times. If Trout has a good year, he might join the club, but only if Hamilton and Pujols and Trumbo (or whoever) also have good years as well.
7:52 PM Mar 17th
 
DaveFleming
I thought Tom Hanks made it very clear that there's no tying in baseball....
4:44 PM Mar 17th
 
mauimike
Damn, You.
2:52 PM Mar 17th
 
mauimike
Florko, Bobby Knight has a book out, "The Power of Negative Thinking." I might find it interesting.​
2:51 PM Mar 17th
 
cyberjn
You said that:

"Baseball-reference has Hamilton as appearing in 132 games in 1894, which is strange considering that the Phillies record (71-57) adds up to just 128 games."

Strange? Are you stupid? A game does not have to end in a win or a loss. The Phillies had 4 ties and they did indeed play 132 games. In case you forgot that ties exist, Retrosheet's standings even have a column in their standings for ties labeled "T". Next time you should double check things like this.
2:06 PM Mar 17th
 
Florko
I would venture a guess that trout regresses in every category in 2013
9:40 AM Mar 17th
 
 
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