White Blood Cells says:
November 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm
I’ve got to go with the guy who has, “done it.” Trout has done the 10 WAR season, while Harper has not. I agree that Harper projects to be great, but I just can’t put more faith in a projection than in actual concrete history. Give me the better defender and runner and monster hitter over the guy who projects to be a slightly-more-monster hitter.
Well-Beered Englishman says:
November 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm
I just want to restate my conviction that the winner of Trout v. Harper is, and can only be, baseball itself.
November 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm
I agree entirely. It’s fantastic that we can even have a debate like this. I don’t really care which one people prefer or which one ends up better. Baseball wins.
November 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm
I don’t understand “glass ceiling effect” in this context, but a very nice article. Trout is almost certainly not a .380 BABIP guy going forward, but he could be a .355 BABIP guy and maybe Harper is a .310 guy. There might not be much room for improvement in that area.
November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm
What has Mike Trout’s power been rated at? He was still a 20-21 year old this year and hit 30HRs in less than a full season. With his inherent advanatage on the basepaths and seemingly underrated power, could he look much closer to Harper at the plate than is being talked about?
Steve 1 says:
November 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm
I don’t even have to read this to know which side Dave comes down on.
November 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm
But you do have to read it if you care at all about the explanation. If all we cared about was the very simple yes/no, Trout/Harper statements there’d be no need for any of the fangraphs writers to actually write anything. They could just title an article, “Who’s better? Trout or Harper” and then say “Harper.”
“What should the Sox do about Ellsbury?” “Trade him”. Why you, or anyone else, would come to fangraphs and choose no analysis over lots of analysis is beyond me.
November 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm
Trout is great, Harper is going to be great. From what I have seen, Trout is a smidge more gracious and humble which makes his performance more appealing. Harper has shown a propensity for the flair with some braggadocio, which can be good, but I like a guy who can be good, without the extra bravado. Let the writer’s be the one who tout their extraordianary talents. Then I can sit back and enjoy the show.
November 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm
It won’t be unanimous, you just know Evan Grant is going to vote for Yu Darvish…… Or Michael Young
November 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm
You do have to read it for the stunner at the end: the remarkable rare event of Dave actually acknowledging that he might be wrong about something.
November 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm
I tend to think Trout will have the more rounded out career in terms of counting stats and higher career WAR, but Harper’s peaks with the bat and prime year WAR’s will be higher.
I Agree Guy says:
November 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm
I’m voting for Edinson Volquez.
November 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm
I have a feeling this is going to be a Mays/Mantle situation. The one that is remembered as better (Mays) will be so because of longevity, and the other will still be one of the better players in history of the game. I am obviously getting carried away with that comparison, comparing anyone to two players who compiled over 120 WAR is ridiculous. But I’d be surprised if either didn’t get to say 70 WAR.
Brandon T says:
November 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm
I’d be very, very surprised if Harper ever manages to put up a 10 WAR year like Trout just did. In fact, baseball-reference lists Trout’s year this year as the 20th best of ALL TIME, with only Inner Circle Hall of Famers in front of him — Yaz probably had the worst career of them.
November 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm
I think Trout actually illustrates what we’re talking about with Harper nicely. He hit 16 HR’s in 2011, 11 of which came against inferior pitching at AAA. The next season he hit 30 against MLB competition. Because a professional athlete does a lot of growing between 19, 20 and 21. Trout’s power peak was not 2012, power peaks late and Mike Trout will probably average more than 30 HR’s in his peak power years, but probably not a lot more. But Harper hit 22 HR’s in MLB at age 19, and he is going to probably have the same power surge next year that Trout had this year. It’s pretty obvious that he has the power ceiling to put up monster HR numbers.
November 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm
With all due respect, Mr. Cameron, you will end up being wrong on this one. This is not meant to take anything away from Bryce but Trout is the better player and will put up more seasons equal to or greater than what he just did in 2012.
Barring a serious injury Mike Trout will walk, well actually blaze, into the HOF.
November 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm
Agreed, the only thing blocking him is injury. But I think a lot of people think that a 19 yo doing what Harper did last year means he will as well.
November 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm
I agree with TKDC. It is possible, especially if Trout is a superstar talent, that he will maintain a ~.350 BABIP over his career. And if Harper’s BABIP hovers around .300 then Trout will have a significant advantage in OBP. It would have been helpful to see a some projections of each player’s average WAR season assuming different projections of their BABIP skills. With that we could estimate when the advantage shifts from one player to another. This would be better than the somewhat vague “I’ll take power over speed” conclusion.
November 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Isn’t FanGraphs’ baserunning stat only complete from 2002 onward? Before that, isn’t it just base stealing? Assuming my memory is correct, that would make the comparison of Rickey’s and Trout’s numbers apples and oranges. Trout may well have the talent to be a one-win baserunner for a few years.
November 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm
Can somebody forward this article to Rickey Henderson so that he will come out of retirement in an effort to put up more baserunning wins than Trout did this year?
November 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm
You’re assuming that Rickey actually:
a) owns a computer
b) knows how to click on a linked article
November 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm
If Rickey had his choice, he would be playing.
Has he ever even filed retirement papers?
November 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm
Who wants to take a hundred dollar bet that Trout never has a 10 WAR season again ?
November 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Gotta give me 2 to 1 odds though :)
Mitt Romney says:
November 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm
$10,000 and I’m in.
November 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm
The internet links directly to Ricky’s brain.
Doug B says:
November 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm
sure Trout should be unanimous, but you never know… somebody didn’t vote for Yaz as their 1st place MVP in 1967. so crazy things can happen.
November 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm
This is probably true, I’m thinking more in terms of a few years down the line where Harper would be putting a consistent 8+ WAR for a good 4-5 year stretch
Scott Ferris says:
November 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm
Bruce Chen! Bruce Chen!
Ben Hall says:
November 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm
I think .355 and even .350 are, while possible, not good expectations for BABIP. Since 1980, only Jeter and Ichiro have BABIPs over .345 while playing 1000 games.
I took Trout’s numbers from this year and changed his BABIP to .340 and his HR/FB rate to 18%. His resultant triple slash line was .286/.365/.488.
I also think it’s likely that Harper’s BABIP rises. Though he’s not as fast as Trout, their batted ball profiles this year were basically identical: 22.6% to 22.5% line drives, 33% to 32.9% fly balls, 44.4% to 44.6% ground balls. And certainly it’s not like Harper’s hitting the ball softly.
Well-Beered Englishman says:
November 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm
I should also point out that when Dave Cameron uses the word “whomped” in an essay, we are all winners.
Well-Beered Englishman says:
November 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Eh, I see two replies to this.
1. Harper has, at the major-league level, been exceedingly modest, almost irritatingly so. Yes, he stole home against Cole Hamels, but in interviews he is so deferential and I’m-just-a-kid-who-works-hard that you almost wish he would brag a little more.
2. No harm in a little “propensity for flair.” There is excess in each direction; not everyone should be Brian Wilson, but not everyone should be… uh… who’s really boring?
November 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm
Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer and Matt Holliday all have career babips listed at exactly .345. Before I saw your post, I’d started off looking a bit further back as well and the list was topped by Rod Carew (career .359 babip) during a period (1967-1985) where the league average babip was about 15-20 points lower than it is today.
I don’t think Trout will maintain his 2012 babip, but I also think it’s too early to assume almost all the difference between the two players’ babips is noise.
Antonio bananas says:
November 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm
Trout is already pretty thick. It would seem to me that his power projection wouldn’t be much more than it is now, and that his slugging will actually drop (less triples and stretched doubles bringing his total bases down). Maybe he squares up more pitches later on, but I think trouts age 20-25 years will be the best of his career.
I’ve always thought that, if they both pan out, trout is better 20-24, similar values 25-27, Harper better 28-32.
November 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm
never tell me the odds!
Persona non grata says:
November 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm
Ben: Don’t forget the difference in IFFB% in their profile. As shown today on this site, IFFB% certainly as a profound effect on BABIP. I’m not saying that Harper will maintain an IFFB% of that rate or greater, but it is definitely one point in Trout’s favor, along with home-to-first time (not sure on the exact difference between the two, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was almost moot, with Trout being faster, but Harper being a left-handed batter).
Persona non grata says:
November 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm
In regards to point 2: the fact that it’s almost impossible for you to think of anyone boring cements the point better than any actual reference could.
Aj Grands says:
November 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm
Just interested: You say that Trout put up a historically good baserunning total in his rookie year, and that it’s likely to go down because there’s no historical precedent for such good baserunning.
Why is that necessarily true?
Perhaps Mike Trout happens to be a historically great baserunner?
Jaybo Shaw says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm
I continue to not understand Dave’s position here.
If you entirely discount Trout’s speed-based skills that are likely to regress, he was still better than Harper in all the more-sustainable aspects of the game (BB%, ISO, slugging, etc.) over a slightly larger sample size.
So basically, the only actual reasons that Dave cited for preferring Harper is that scout’s gave him an 80 power rating in the minors and that he is ~290 days younger (maybe not explicitly stated in this article, but I imagine that is why he is allowing more growth projections).
I’ll happily disregard those two factors and take the guy who has shown superior skills in the more-sustainable aspects of the game and has performed at all-time levels in the other aspects of the game.
This seems like a rare instance where Dave is being contrarian for its own sake. Even in their player-value series, Dave talked about how they more highly-valued recent performance. Yet we are going to opt for a guy because his power rating in the minors was better and he is (barely) younger over a guy who just put up 10 WAR in the big leagues who can definitely stick at a premium defensive position? This just does not seem consistent.
And what about regressing Harper’s speed skills? If he was an average baserunner at 19, what are we expecting him to be going forward?
Primarily, I have a lot of respect for Dave and think his content is consistently great. I was hoping to read this article and finally see why Dave tends to lean toward Harper. Instead, it was just “80 power rating in the minors” and I was disappointed.
Jaybo Shaw says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm
This seems like a good point. I’d be interested to hear a follow-up.
November 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm
What were Trout’s BB%, ISO, slugging, etc. in his age-19 season?
james wilson says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm
Trout couldn’t cut it against ML pitching when he was 19. Although he was expected to become a star, no one predicted it to happen at age 20. Harper was rushed to the show. It’s what he wanted, and he handled it well (unlike Mantle at 19), but there is no way to estimate Harper’s ceiling. He was uneven at the plate and his plan evolved to settling for meeting the ball and not being stupid, which is smart. If he were to make the jump at age 20 which Trout did, his numbers will be crazy. That is not a prediction. They cannot be compared yet at the plate except to acknowledge that they are once in a generation players, or better.
Ben Hall says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Greg and Persona,
I should have been clearer: I do not think they will have the same BABIP going forward. Trout is faster, and had a much higher BABIP this year. I agree he will likely have a higher BABIP. That said, if Harper maintains this batted ball profile (and it would probably be better for him to hit more fly balls to take advantage of his power), it seems likely to me that his BABIP will rise. To what, I don’t know. .320, .330? Regardless, I think it’s an area in which there’s a good chance that his numbers get better. But again, I agree that Trout will probably have a higher BABIP.
I also didn’t say that .355 or .350 are not possible for Trout. Just that it’s probably not a good idea to EXPECT him to post a BABIP higher than just about everybody of the last thirty years.
Jaybo Shaw says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm
It seems that you are constructing an incredibly weak strawman. I will attempt to escape this trap!
As I said, if you want to put a lot of weight into Harper being ~290 days younger, by all means, do so. That seems insignificant to me.
In terms of his actual numbers, I trust that you can search the interwebs. I don’t think very much of 135 PA, but he was a slightly below average hitter and a plus fielder and baserunner. Also, he had a .247 BABIP when otherwise he’s never had a BABIP below .346 at any level. Again, these are all very small and insignificant samples.
Crumpled Stiltskin says:
November 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm
Harper was an average base runner because of over agressiveness, not because of speed. He is plenty fast, turning several doubles into triples this season, as well as already playing a good outfield in any position, with hardly any experience. I’d expect him to get better in the field and on the base paths. I’d also expect 40-50 homers a year by the time he’s 23 and possibly sooner. He’s going to be a year in, year out 8 or 9 win player.
But Trout is as well. His BABIP will likely regress, but he’s going to raise his BB% and lower his K%. His approach is already incredibly sound. And Trout has easy power as well. (I saw him hit a couple of home runs while protecting with two strikes which just doesn’t happen if a guy doesn’t have way above average power.) It seemed to me from watching that 30 home runs will be the rule, not the exception, but even if he bottoms out at 20 home runs, he’s going to hit a lot of doubles. He could hit Biggio numbers of doubles going forward. Which means he’s an 8 or 9 win player going forward as well when you factor in defense, position and base running. (Trout’s essentially a four or five win player every year even if he doesn’t hit, and it seems unreasonable to assume he won’t hit.)
Basically, both these guys are going to be amazing. They already are.
November 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm
So you want to bet your $20,000 against my $10,000 dollars that Trout will again exceed 10 WAR ?
(Which WAR by the way….fWAR or bWAR ?)
We would have to set the money up in an escrow account and wait 20 years.
Probably not worth losing the interest.
Jon L. says:
November 12, 2012 at 10:58 pm
Henderson is attempting a comeback. He stole 26 bases (against 9 cs) for the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League this year, but his hit tool is no longer a strength and he’s not hitting for much power anymore either. I’d say at best we’re looking at the short end of a left field platoon and occasional pinch runner in his age 54 season.
Jon L. says:
November 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm
It’s just a statistical likelihood, just as it’s probable that the best team in baseball will do worse the next year, and the worst team will do better. The idea is in essence that the biggest statistical outliers are based partially on skill, and partially on chance.
Jon L. says:
November 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm
290 days matter! Look up Bill James talking about career projections based on age, or read the chapter on hockey players who were born in January in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
November 13, 2012 at 12:18 am
Giving the tiny career edge to Trout because he is the prototype leadoff hitter. Harper had the green light to hack away all season in the 2-6 spots whereas Trout perfectly set up that Angels lineup. Trout had a distinctly higher P/PA (though Harper is no slouch in this regard) and has consistently shown better discipline since the minors. Also, Trout’s swing is simpler meaning it may be less prone to get mechanically out of whack.
November 13, 2012 at 1:56 am
When the only comps are Mel Ott and Ty Cobb…
November 13, 2012 at 2:07 am
In 131 games between AA and the Majors last year, in his third year playing pro ball, Trout had a 9.9 BB%, a 19.34 K% and a .196 ISO.
In 139 games in the Majors this year, in his second year playing pro ball (9 AFL games mean nothing), Harper had a 9.4 BB%, a 20.1 K% and a .206 ISO.
November 13, 2012 at 8:16 am
One thing I don’t hear spoken of about Trout is asking the question: how many players who have truly great rookie years at, say, age 21 or younger end up never surpassing those numbers? If we call “great” 7+ WAR, I think we’re going to find a very small list of players. Even if we include all players and not just rookies, there are only 23 seasons from 20 players who have had a 7+ WAR at age 21 or younger. The list includes:
Trout, Hornsby, Rodriguez, Jackson, Matthews, Ott (2), Cedeno, Henderson, Foxx, Williams (2), Kaline (2), Pujols, Robinson, Cobb, Griffey, Jones, Mantle, Donie Bush, Speaker.
The clear outliers are Cedeno, Jones, and Bush – everyone else is a surefire Hall of Famer who had multiple seasons at or near that initial season.
Cedeno, in my mind, is the best low-end comp for Trout, but I see Trout’s overall skill package being far superior and so I think he’ll age better.
November 13, 2012 at 8:23 am
The bigger thing with BABIP is that Harper is likely to have a true BABIP well in excess of .300, given the power and that he’s not exactly unathletic. Yes, it probably won’t be as high as Trout’s, but I suspect it will be relatively close.
November 13, 2012 at 8:31 am
While you might be right, your argument is somewhat unconvincing.
November 13, 2012 at 8:36 am
The fact that you deem Harper being about 10 months younger is insignificant doesn’t make it so. Especially at the age of 19-20, it’s highly significant, as any aging curve will demonstrate.
November 13, 2012 at 9:06 am
He’s actually 14 months younger. Trout turned 21 2 months before Harper turned 20. It’s more like ~425 days.
November 13, 2012 at 10:32 am
It seems likely that Trout will get worse and Harper will get better just based on the league “awareness”. Pitchers will be much more careful with Trout, Harper will continue to learn, he alteady plays hard.
Scotty Allen says:
November 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm
My question is, what the hell happens when Trout proves to be just as valuable on the bases in 2013 and still hits well over .300 with more than 30 HR? Something Dave conveniently ignores is Trout’s ability to make adjustments. That’s what everyone raves over. Sure he’s fast and strong and young, but the biggest thing anyone with a mind for the game notices, Trout makes adjustments so quick, so precise. He’s got an Albert Einstein baseball IQ. On top of which, I think Dave lacks perspective. I mean, do we not all see the bigger picture, which is to say that regression is coming to a 21 year old player is completely nuts?
Harper has one tool in his tool belt, power. Great power. Power that’s going to develop into 40 HR power someday. Power that’s going to last for 15 years. Power, power, power. Well that’s great. Trout’s got power, very good power, to go along with great speed, great defense and a great attitude (the last one may make only the slightest difference).
Is Harper’s future power going to be so great that it makes up for all the things he doesn’t do as well as Trout? Is Harper really ever going to hit that many more HR than Trout so as to offset the 30 less stolen bases, the less value on running the bases and the tremendous gap in defensive ability? Very highly doubtful. I’d take .300 30 HR 30 SB and great defense at a premium position over .280 with 40 HR, 15 SB and ok defense at a non premium position.
November 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm
I gotta go with Trout; being an Eagles’ fan.
On the other hand, that doesn’t bode well for his smarts…
November 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm
Dave is the man, but I really feel he’s underselling Trout’s power potential. The dude is Bo Jackson strong and athletic. Trout could bang out some 40 HR seasons. And even if Harper has some 50 HR seasons, those ten bombs won’t push him over the rest of the Trout package.
Ps-Did I just use “trout package” in a post?
November 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm
Harper’s only tool his power? Have you watched a single game Harper has played? Have you taken a look at his stats?
He’s pretty much got all the tools. He’s a got great range, a great outfield arm, and great speed. As he fills out his power, I imagine he’ll get on base a bit more, though he’s no slouch in that department now either. There really isn’t anything he doesn’t do well. He could probably pitch pretty well if they let him – I’ve read he can throw 95.
November 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm
Trout’s BABIP will drop, but I expect his K rate is going to drop as well, which will mean a smaller drop in batting average that everyone seems to be calling for,
Many times this year, Trout struck out the first time he faced a pitcher. In subsequent PA, he came back and made adjustments. You can see that in his splits against SP:
1st time: 138 PA, 291/348/512, 35 K
2nd time: 138 PA, 378/420/622, 25 K
3rd time: 133 PA, 393/466/732, 17 K
4th+: 42 PA, 368/429/816, 6 K
The more he sees a pitcher, the better he hits him.
The only place he struggles a bit is against relievers:
1st time: 181 PA, 262/376/389, 50 K
Once he gets to know the relievers around the league a bit better, watch out.
That’s not to say the league won’t continue to make adjustments against Trout, but he seems to be showing an ability to make rapid adjustments to how he is being pitched to.
November 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm
Are you kidding me? Do you know how to read?
Harper’s strikeout numbers fell at every step up the ladder, Trout’s went up. Harper’s walk rates were nearly identical all the way up while Trout’s rates fell at every step up. So yeah, to say that Trout showed consistently better discipline is ludicrous.
Harper will have the superior plate discipline as soon as next season.
November 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm
Don’t even bother. The AL lunatic fringe can’t fathom anyone being better than their overrated golden boy.
November 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm
Agree on the “easy power” thing with Trout. He has tremendous power to CF and RF.
And my personal favorite, into the CF camera bay in Oakland:
Yankee John says:
November 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm
Who cares? They aren’t yankees. But in all seriousness I bet at least one of them ends up in New York after their rookie contract. Why would they wanna be anywehere else but to play in the pinstripes??? Bronx bombers!!!!
November 14, 2012 at 2:15 am
I’m calling a 15 year contract for Harper after his age-24 season right now.
Scotty Allen says:
November 14, 2012 at 11:42 am
Harper has great range? HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah I’m guilty of over-exaggerating, Harper’s got a great arm and is decent enough at making contact so he’ll hit for a decent enough average. But now you’re guilty of the same. Harper has range lol. Yeah, so does Vernon Wells.
And as far as “the whole package” don’t even try. Comparing the tools of Harper to the tools of Trout is silly. Power-Harper, Speed-Trout, BA-Trout, OBP-Trout, Arm-Harper, Glove-Trout, Range-Trout, Money-Trout, Intangibles-Trout.
These two aren’t even close. And even if Harper develops into something resembling an MVP like Mike Trout someday, he still won’t have the across the board skill set of Mike Trout. Both figuratively and literally, Bryce Harper simply isn’t in the same league as Mike Trout.
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