Joe Posnanski completed his series, The Baseball 100, yesterday over at The Athletic with Willie Mays topping the list. The series counted down the best 100 players in the history of baseball. Every single one of the write ups was incredible and if you haven’t checked it out and you love the history of the game, maybe use some of your newly found free time to check some of these out.

With the series completed, it led to an incredible podcast featuring Joey Votto. He joined C. Trent Rosecrans as well as the Poscast crew of Joe Posnanski and everyone’s favorite character from The Office, Michael Schur (who was also a writer on The Office, creator of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place). It’s just over an hour and a half and much like my advice above, you’ve got the free time now – so go to the link above (for the Joey Votto only version) or hit play on the player below to listen to the full 2+ hour version (that also includes all of the C. Trent Rosecrans and Joey Votto portions, too).

The conversation eventually shifts to Mike Trout. And that’s when you get some outstanding quotes from Joey Votto on the player we all consider the best on the planet right now.

“I don’t think you can put him ahead of the top handful,” said Votto of Trout. “This start is just so special that very easily if he decided to retire, I think we have the conversations – is he the greatest player of all time?”

Through the age 27 season, at least according to Fangraphs version of WAR, Mike Trout’s put up the most WAR of anyone ever. Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle are the only players that are even remotely close. Trout has 73.4 WAR. Eddie Collins, who ranks 10th among position player WAR through their age 27 season has 53.7 WAR.

Some players really came on after that, guys like Ruth and Bonds, just went to next levels from that point forward. Both of those guys put up 116 WAR (116 and 116.5, respectively) from age 28 to the end of their careers. Of course, there’s something to be said about the “replacement” level when Ruth was playing.

Is it too early to say that Mike Trout is the best player ever? I guess that depends on exactly what you are trying to ask. Has he had the best career ever? That is an obvious no. He’s 28-years-old. But has he had the best peak of a career ever, and thus making the question is he the best player ever? That’s a real question that could be answered, truthfully, with a yes. Your mileage may vary there – but you can most certainly make the argument that the answer to that question is yes.

Photo of Mike Trout by Julie Fennell. It’s been modified. License can be found here.

12 Responses

  1. Andrew Scharnhorst

    I have the greatest respect for all those players (other than Bonds), and Trout is arguably the best player today – but Ruth takes the top spot: how many of those others could pitch?

  2. Don

    Ask me when Trout is 35 and has played 15 years

    Being great over a long period of time should be a major factor to me for greatest of all time. For baseball players that is more than 15 years of full time playing at the MLB level. See you in 7 or 8 years for the Trout and GOAT conversation.

    Today, he should be compared to those greatest players to never win in the playoffs, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Ty Cobb. When he can put a team on his shoulders and carry them to the playoffs and into (and win) a world series, then talk GOAT.

    A GOAT must be a winner/champion or they are a player with great personal statistics but should not be considered in the GOAT.

    • Doug Gray

      Literally no player has ever put a team on their shoulders in baseball and carried them. That’s just not how baseball works.

  3. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Maybe we can include this on Trout, also. . .

    From what I can remember hearing, Koufax was considered a rather pedestrian pitcher, except for 5 years where he was proven to be the top of the class. And, Koufax is in the HOF. Trout?

  4. Stock

    It is far too early to consider Trout the best ever. The last time people were talking about someone being the best ever was when Griffey was 27. Griffey was a much better defensive player than Trout. It seemed like he made SportsCenter every night.

    Trout may have Griffey beat on WAR but he was not better.

    In 2015 Trout hit 41 HR and Stole 11 bases. He had a 0.299 BA and his OPS was 0.991. His offensive WAR was 58.7. His Defensive WAR was 6.6. Overall WAR was 9.3

    In 1993 Griffey hit 45 HR and Stole 17 bases. He had a 0.308 BA and OPS was 1.025. His offensive WAR was 54.2 His Defensive WAR was +8.0. Overall WAR was 8.4.

    Griffey had more HR, more SB, a higher BA and a higher OPS. Griffey had more Runs and RBI. Griffey had a higher BB% and a much lower K%. He was a better defensive player. His year was clearly better than Trout’s, yet Trout crushes him in WAR.

    Plus he was at a disadvantage because many of the pitchers he faced were on Steroids making it more difficult for him to succeed. But because so many hitters were on steroids, and in my opinion he clearly was not, He gets dinged on WAR.

    Career wise, Griffey had 350 HR through age 27 vs. Trouts 285.

    History tells us that at age 27 those who claimed Griffey the best ever were wrong. Likewise, it is far too early to say Trout is the best ever.

    Offensively Comparable Defensively Griffey was much better. Yet Trout has the better WAR.

    At this point in their careers Griffey was a much better defensive player and a better offensive player. He is punished for WAR because he did not take steroids. So looking at the stats Griffey was the best ever through age 27.

    • ctr

      i believe that was talked about in the podcast (i know it was talked about, i don’t remember if it’s in the actual pod, but i think it was)

  5. greenmtred

    This kind of argument/discussion is fun, and like the Reds’ all-time team thread, it gives all of us a chance to indulge in recency bias and memory bias. Years ago, I read (probably in Sports Illustrated) a suggestion that the best meassure of a great player is how much better he was (is) than his contemporaries. Not perfect, but sensible.

    • ctr

      yeah, that’s where it comes. It’s funny, though, I think in baseball, compared to other sports, nostalgia trumps recency bias. On Pos’ list, 13 of the 26 players ranked ahead of Trout played pre-integration. 13! Can you imagine 13 players from before the AFL-NFL merger (1969) being named to the Top 100 players in NFL history? Or even 13 of 100 in NBA history coming before Bird/Magic? Yet, in this list, half of the first 36 (18) were pre-integration

      • CFD3000

        This is a very interesting point ctr. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with Posnanski’s list, but I will say that I think the games of football and basketball have changed a lot more than baseball has in the past 80+ years. I don’t know the old school greats from the NFL or NBA as well as I know MLB, but if I had to guess I’d say that old stars like Bill Havlicek or Bob Cousy wouldn’t even be all starts in the NBA now, let alone Hall of Famers. But I’m pretty sure Ted Williams and Stan Musial would still hit modern pitching at all star levels. And of course it’s not Ruth or Gehrig’s fault that they played 90 years ago and before integration. But it’s one of the great, age old debates in sports – how good were those superstars of the day, and how good would they be against modern competition?

        Also on the topic Trout is not the GOAT for baseball, but he might be someday. Though I’ll admit it’s going to be tough to beat that “yeah but could he pitch?” Card that Ruth fans can play…

      • Doug Gray

        I mean if you took a time machine and picked up 25-year-old Ted Williams and brought him into 2019, I very much doubt he’d be much of any kind of standout. Guys throw sliders harder than like 98% of the fastballs he saw in his career. Now, if you picked up 1-year-old Ted Williams and placed him in 1996 and let him grow up with all of the things that modern players grew up with, he’s be among the greatest players ever still. But simply “kidnapping him” and dropping him off? The game has changed too much.

      • greenmtred

        Nostalgia particularly trumps recency for older fans (like me), and the obstacles to comparison of players from different generations are formidable if not impossible. The argument about pre-integration players speaks for itself, but there are other factors, too: Baseball was nearly the only game in town, so a high percentage of superlative athletes played it, not football or basketball. How do you evaluate players of the dead-ball era? How do you account for 460′ to center in Municipal stadium?

      • Doug Gray

        The “no one played other sports” argument just doesn’t hold water for me. The worlds population has more than tripled since 1950, and we aren’t just picking from white guys in America anymore, either. The pool, even with people playing more sports now than ever, is still vastly larger per roster spot, than it was back then, because we are picking from people of all colors from everywhere on the planet rather than just white guys in America.

        That said, we try to do the best we can by comparing players within the era that they played in. There are some issues with that, of course. An OPS+ in 1927 isn’t the same as one in 1999 of the same value because of the fact that the league in 1927 was watered down due to the fact it was only a bunch of white guys, some of whom would have never sniffed the Major League field if there was integration. The gap from best to worst player in the league was much larger because of that. It amplified the great ones because the bad ones were really bad, too, because they shouldn’t have even been on the field. They were minor league talents at best, but because they were born white, they now made up the bottom 25% of the rosters in baseball.