By Dan Cook, WCCO Radio
The calendar has turned to September. Kids are back in school. Football season has begun. And the Twins find themselves on the wrong side of another lop-sided record.
The temptation to turn the page on the baseball season and forgo any further trips to the ballpark is strong. But that would be a mistake.
It can be argued that there are plenty of reasons to come watch the Twins themselves – arguments which you’ll find in this same place later this weekend.
But today, the focus is on a reason to come to the ballpark, regardless of how the Twins are faring: to see some of the best players in baseball ply their trade.
We were spoiled earlier this summer when most of the greats were here for baseball’s Midsummer Classic.
But for those of you who weren’t able to find your way into the ballpark for the All-Star Game, there are still chances to see some of those same players. And the best part is, this time, the games actually do count.
This weekend, the Los Angeles Angels are in town trying to extend their lead in the AL West, and with them comes arguably the best player in all of baseball (not to mention the MVP of the aforementioned All-Star Game): Mike Trout.
Trout made his Major League debut on July 8, 2011. All he’s done since then is compile a .306/.394/.546 slash-line with 223 extra-base hits, 294 runs driven in, 350 runs scored and 981 total bases in just under 1,800 at-bats. He’s been an All-Star three times and finished second in AL MVP voting twice.
How good are those numbers?
Just compare them to the man Trout is most often comped to: Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.
In the Mick’s first four seasons, he compiled a .296/.391/.505 slash-line with 200 extra-base hits, 346 runs driven in, 389 runs scored and 956 total bases in just under 1900 at-bats. Mantle was also a three-time All-Star at that point, but hadn’t finished higher than third in the AL MVP voting, and he hit that threshold only once.
Give Trout another 100 at-bats and it’s likely he will eclipse all of Mantle’s numbers from his first four seasons.
What separates guys like Trout from the rest of the field, however, is the value he adds beyond the bat.
Trout’s attempted to steal 113 times in his career. Catchers have thrown him out just 14 times. So if he doesn’t drive the ball in the gap for a double, he’s nearly as likely to turn a single into a double with the strength of his speed.
He’s no slouch in the field either. Fangraphs has a statistic called “Ultimate Zone Rating” which attempts to measure a players contribution in runs above or below average. For his career Trout is a full 14.3 runs above the defensive level an average outfielder would play at.
Baseball Reference calculates forms of WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in both offensive and defensive categories. For his career, Trout’s added 1.2 wins above a replacement player for his defense alone. By way of comparison, Mantle wasn’t able to get above 0 dWAR until his fifth season in the big leagues.
But not all of you are stat-heads, right? So how does this translate for you?
Simple. If you want to see a guy hit the cover off the ball, run the bases like he was shot out of a cannon and cover more ground in the field than Alexander the Great, you want to go watch Mike Trout play baseball.
All the more so because he seems to enjoy playing at Target Field.
“I love it, the atmosphere is great, and the fans are great,” Trout said.
Does he think there’s a downside to Minnesota baseball’s pride and joy?
“I would like to see a dome on it,” Trout said laughingly, “but it’s great to play here.”
Perhaps you’re not a Trout fan? Possibly you’re one of those folks who come down on the Miguel Cabrera end of the AL MVP debate? Maybe you’re not sure?
No worries, Cabrera brings his Tigers to town one week from Monday. So check out Trout this weekend and Cabrera in a week and decide for yourself.
Either way, there are still plenty of reasons to head out to Target Field to watch baseball over the last month of the season.