The BBWAA made it official on Monday evening when it announced Mike Trout was the unanimous selection for American League Rookie of the Year. Of course, Angels fans, baseball fans, sports fans and anyone within shouting distance of my front porch every morning already knew Trout was going to win the Rookie of the Year for 2012. It was just a formality for the BBWAA to reveal all 28 first place votes for Trout.
Trout had a season for the ages. His .326/.399/.564 line and 30 home runs led all rookies while his 127 runs, 49 stolen bases and four stolen home runs led baseball. Trout finished 2012 with a 10.7 rWAR (Baseball-Reference wins above replacement). While WAR isn’t perfect or the end-all be-all by any means, it is a good reference point and a reasonable all-in-one stat for attempting to determine a player’s total value. And 10.0 WAR’s don’t come around that often.
Trout’s 10.7 WAR is the best in the last 20 years by anyone not named Barry Bonds (11.6 WAR in 2001 and 2002) and is good for the 20th best season in the history of hitters. It’s more impressive considering six of the seasons above Trout’s on the list belong to Babe Ruth. So did Trout have the greatest rookie season of all time? It’s a good thing I did some quick research or this would be an awkward place to end the post.
Yes. Trout had the greatest rookie season in the history of the game. Okay, he pretty much had the greatest rookie season of all time. Trout gets a boost in his WAR from being terrific in center field and on the base paths. His closest competition is Shoeless Joe Jackson who posted a 9.0 rookie rWAR but we’ve come a long way in evaluating defense since 1911. Jackson hit an incredible .408/.468/.590 with 41 steals while definitely playing some kind of defense somewhere in the outfield. It’s possible Jackson’s defense was undervalued. So Jackson has the best case against Trout but until there’s a time machine, I’m giving Trout the nod.
Also rans. Mark Fidrych won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1976 with a 9.3 rWAR. In my book, Fidrych gets bonus points for being a crazy person. The awesome kind of crazy. Dick Allen (8.5), Ichiro (7.5) and Fred Lynn (7.1) also fit in somewhere if you’re using the Baseball-Reference formula for WAR. If you prefer Fangraph’s WAR (Trout had a 10.0 fWAR), then Dwight Gooden (8.4), Ted Williams (7.9) and Albert Pujols (7.7) also deserve some love but fall short of Trout. As long as we’re discussing rookie fWAR, Trout (10.0) and Jackson (9.7) are a coin flip.
Congrats to Mike Trout for being the youngest player to ever win the AL ROY and most likely being the greatest rookie of all time. Trout joins Tim Salmon (also unanimous) as the only Angels to win Rookie of the Year. Trout already has over 30% of Salmon’s career WAR. Sorry, I can’t help myself.