Mike Trout is setting Major League Baseball on fire with such righteous fury that he ought to be nicknamed “The Dragon.”
And after 1,000 games in the big leagues, ESPN’s MLB staff writers stepped back and took a look at the Angels slugger — who turns 27 on Aug. 7 and might still have his best years ahead of him — and boggled minds with a roundup of just how dominant Trout has been since getting his first cup of coffee in 40 games in 2011.
For starters, Trout has 1,126 hits through his first 1,000 games. Players with more hits than games played are rare enough to find in a single season, and guys like Ichiro Suzuki built legends on being able to do it year in and year out.
But the gold standard is all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who had 1,231 hits in his first 1,000 games.
Granted, Trout’s probably not going to catch Rose; Charlie Hustle has 1,289 hits in his next 1,000 games, and Rose was also able to hang on as a player-manager in Cincinnati long enough to drag himself over the finish line and break Ty Cobb’s previous career hits record.
But Trout is well on his way to at least 3,000 hits by the time he’s done if he stays healthy. And unlike Rose, Trout doesn’t just hit singles.
In fact, Trout already has 224 career home runs. Rose only hit 160 in his entire career.
Trout also has, since leaving the minor leagues for the final time in 2012, yet to go more than two games where he did not reach base. Willie Mays had three streaks of three such games in his first 1,000. Ted Williams had one streak like that in 1939.
And on games following those 13 two-game oh-fer streaks for Trout? He’s hitting .326 with an OPS of .970. If you’re a pitcher and you’re playing the Angels when Trout’s in a “mini-slump, just intentionally walk him. It’ll do the least damage.
Trout has also broken the Angels franchise record for Wins Above Replacement. His career WAR through 1,000 games is 61.7.
The previous franchise record? 52.1, held by Charlie Finley.
And how impressive is that 9.6 WAR difference? Well, in 1941, the year he went on a 56-game hitting streak and won the MVP over Ted Williams despite Williams hitting .406 that year, Joe DiMaggio had a WAR of 9.1.
So you could spot Finley Joltin’ Joe’s best season … and he’d still be 0.6 WAR behind Trout.
In fact, Trout has done so much in just 1,000 games that if he suffered a career-ending injury in his next game, he would have a statistical case, according to the various Hall of Fame metrics that sites like Baseball Reference use, that would make him a legitimate candidate to be voted into the Hall of Fame — maybe not on the first ballot with only six and a half seasons under his belt, but before he was in danger of having to be kicked over to the Veterans’ Committee.
The other guys with Hall of Fame numbers like that? Guys like Sandy Koufax.
And thanks to all those walks mentioned earlier, Trout has a .414 career on-base percentage. Through 1,000 games, that’s better than Rogers Hornsby, DiMaggio, Rickey Henderson, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson.
Trout’s slugging percentage (.574) is better than Hank Aaron (.560), and Trout’s hit more home runs through 1,000 games (224 vs. Hammerin’ Hank’s 211.)
And unlike a certain other home-run hitter who hit most of his home runs in his late 30s after he learned how to eat right and exercise and take his daily dose of Vitamin S, Trout’s hit all those jacks in an era of testing and tough suspensions for those who juice, making him a fairer comp for Aaron.
Plus, Trout’s fast. He’s stolen 178 bases while hitting .302, which puts him in a club of guys to hit .300, hit at least 450 extra-base hits, and steal 150 bases in their first 1,000 games that includes just two other guys: Mays and Alex Rodriguez.
Trout is doing things with a baseball bat the likes of which compare only to truly special players, the kind you have to reach across sports to come up with comparisons for, where guys like Barry Sanders, LeBron James and Wayne Gretzky live.
And at age 26, Trout’s just getting started.
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