Tag Archives: Albert Pujols

The Mike Trout Conundrum

When it comes to Major League baseball my friend Jay is second to none. He isn’t simply one of the more knowledgeable when it comes to baseball, he’s one of the angriest fans you’ll meet. Especially when a sportscaster brings up a highly questionable comparison. That’s why I wasn’t surprised by the texts I received this weekend.

Jay: Dude, I have your next blog for you.

Wayniac: I told you I’m not blogging about my thoughts on the new Braves stadium, it’s too controversial.

Jay: Whatever, I’m not talking about that. Check this out. You know I love Trout, but Greg Amsinger on MLB Network just said if Mike Trout wins the MVP again it is the greatest start ever to a career. 

Wow. That is a pretty bold statement. So bold that it has gotten The Wayniac riled up a bit. Like Jay, I love Mike Trout. He is one of my keepers on my fantasy team (due to a ridiculous steal of trade concocted by my partner in crime JD) and he is one of the most exciting athletes to watch in sports.

But, what is defining Trout’s start as “the greatest ever”? Back-to-back MVP Awards? Certainly not back-to-back All Star Game MVP Awards, is it?

Jay: Those awards are given by voters. I’d rather go with most home runs through first four seasons or steals, or anything measurable. I don’t care about awards.

He’s right. The MVP Award, whether it is in the regular season, post season, or All Star Game is usually skewed. I mean, come on, Mariano Rivera won the All Star Game MVP three games ago for registering a hold.

Plus, there is always a bias when voters are involved. The Kansas City Royals currently have the best record in the American League. They have a very good shot at repeating as the AL pennant winners, and Lorenzo Cain is a large reason for that. Do you think he stands a chance against Trout at the end of the year? Trout puts up sick numbers, makes those big time wow plays in the outfield, and is just so darn likable.

That being said, the second Jay told me about that statement, I was able to think of five guys in the not so distant past that have had — at the very least — equal starts to their career. Should Trout win that second MVP Award, his trophy cabinet will be the fullest over the shortest amount of time, but greatest start to a career? That’s questionable.

Two things I am excluding from the list below are steroid use and pitchers. I don’t care to hear any of these well they played in the Steroid Era debates. Take a look at the Minor Leagues. There are close to 100 suspensions, many from PEDs. The Steroid Era is still alive and well, and that makes Trout a part of it — although I have no question he is clean. It happened, it’s part of the history, so it has to enter discourse.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Secondly, if hardware is all that matters, Dwight Gooden had one of the sickest starts to any career I have ever seen. Rookie of the Year in 1984, Cy Young in 1985 and a World Series ring in 1986. Let’s not forget that Dr. K’s 1985 season is still one of the sickest pitched seasons I have ever witnessed and he was only 20 years old. A league leading 24 wins to just four losses, a league leading 1.53 ERA, a league leading 16 complete games, eight shutouts, a league leading 268 strikeouts and a 0.96 WHIP. And I reiterate… he was 20 years old. For you SABR junkies, his WAR was nearly 12. It is widely considered one of the single greatest seasons in history. Hardware, history and a World Series ring. Not too shabby.


(USA Today archives)
(USA Today archives)

Ryan Howard

Howard won Rookie of the Year in 2005 while only playing in 88 games. He blasted 22 home runs in just 312 at bats. That’s a home run every 14.2 at bats compared to Trout’s 18.6 rookie year average.

Howard would never stop hitting home runs, as he would take home the NL MVP Award in 2006 with a league leading 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He wouldn’t win an All Star Game MVP Award, but he would win the Home Run Derby that year, which has to count for something. At the end of Howard’s fourth season — in which Trout is amid right now — he would lead the NL in home runs and RBI again and win a World Series ring.

By the time Howard finished his fifth season, he would be back in the World Series and become the quickest player in history to reach 200 home runs. That’s a pretty good start to a career.

Jose Canseco

Did he cheat? Yup. Is he a bit of a nut job? You tell me.

But there was no denying that Canseco was one of the most fun players to watch in the late 80s on one of the most dominant teams of that era. Canseco would win Rookie of the Year in 1986 and two years later would become baseball’s first 40/40 guy en route to the 1988 AL MVP Award. He would get injured (out of juice?) in his fourth season, but returned right in time to slash .357/.500/.571 with a home run in the World Series. Not a bad first four years either, ay?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 15:  American League All-Star Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees speaks with American League All-Star Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels during batting practice prior to the 85th MLB All-Star Game at Target Field on July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter

Am I a homer? So what? Derek Jeter lived every little kid’s fantasy. He won a World Series in four of his first five seasons. Not only was he on some of the best teams of the 90s, he was the centerpiece of them and the spark that made their engine go.

Jeter won Rookie of the Year in 1996 and would go on to hit .361 in his first postseason with a very memorable home run (thanks Jeffrey Maier). He would “digress” in ’97, but comeback with two of his best seasons in ’98 and ’99. Jeter would make history in his fifth season by being the first player to win All Star Game MVP and World Series MVP honors in the same season.

Is his trophy case filled with shiny MVP Awards or fancy bats commemorating other honors? No, no it isn’t. But his hand is certainly too heavy to point that out to you with all those damn rings on it.

Albert Pujols

Talk about an unreal start to a career? Pujols was amazing. If you were a baseball fan at the turn of the millennium, when you watched Albert Pujols play, you thought you were watching a kid rewriting history.

He won Rookie of the Year (notice the trend?) and would start his career by going 12 — TWELVE — straight seasons before hitting less than 30 home runs. He wouldn’t win an NL MVP Award in his first four years, but he did win the 2003 Major League Player of the Year Award as well as the 2004 NLCS MVP.

Pujols quickly became the heart of the St. Louis lineup, known for his monster power and uncanny ability to hit over .330. People often forget that he led the league in runs scored three years in a row.

Now Trout’s team mate and possibly his stiffest competition for the 2015 MVP Award, Pujols’s first four seasons ended with the following stat line: .333, 500 runs scored, 160 home runs and 504 RBI. That’s not just good, that’s video game good.


Buster Posey

People either love him or hate him, but Buster Posey has been Jeter-esque to start his career.

Guess what? Posey won Rookie of the Year in 2010 and would pretty much instantly become the centerpiece of baseball’s current dynasty. Posey would hit .300 with a home run as a 23-year old rookie in the World Series and start a run of winning three rings in his first five years.

Posey was mangled in a play at the plate in his second season and the Giants would miss the playoffs in their title defense. He would return in 2012, win the NL batting title, NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, the NL MVP and his second World Series title. Posey would belt yet another home run in that World Series victory against the Tigers.

Jay: Buster’s start has been pretty damn good and I hate Buster. If Trout gets another MVP, Buster could trade him one of his World Series rings for it… and still have more rings than Trout.

If hardware is what matters, I’ll take an MVP Award and three World Series rings over consecutive All Star Game MVPs and back-to-back AL MVPs. Trout is an absolute stud. I can’t argue that he isn’t the best player in the game right now, because that he is. But to say with such confidence that his will be the greatest start to a career — especially when Pujols put up better numbers, Jeter won more rings, and Posey became immortal — is a bit unfair.

Everyone Loves a Little Billy Ball

Baseball is almost here, folks. We are only 12 short days away from the first pitch Down Under, mates. It’s getting real exciting, too. If Spring Training had any sort of meaning behind it, we would have an exciting match-up between the Cleveland Indians versus the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. As it stands, Spring Training means nothing, and that’s precisely why I’m here telling you exactly how this season is going to play out.


5. The Houston Astros

(Covers.com has the Over/Under at 57.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 67-95)

It has to be tough to be an Astros’ fan. The last time they had a winning record was in 2008 when Usher unleashed Justin Bieber upon the world (so, we have all been struggling ‘Stros fans). They have lost over 100 games for three seasons in a row. They got booted, not only from their division, but the whole damn National League. They can’t even get poor Craig Biggo into the Hall of Fame.

This season doesn’t look like things will be getting any better as GM Jeff Luhnow has this team prepping for the future. I know a lot about sports, an unhealthy amount, so for me to tell you that there are only four people I in this line-up speaks volumes. It’s not so much who will be on the 2014 Astros’ roster, but who is waiting in the wings as the Astros have what several experts are calling the top farm system in baseball with elite prospects at every position. The simple fact that I know more about Jonathan Singleton (1B), 2013 number one overall pick Mark Appel, and one of the top prospects in the game, shortstop Carlos Correa than most of their starters shows that the Astros will be prime contenders… in two years.

Until then, Houston will have to watch second baseman Jose Altuve and All-Star catcher Jason Castro lead a cast of no names to the basement of the West. I guess newly acquired Scott Feldman, who has gone 27-35 since his 17-8 2009 breakout, is the ace of this staff. That’s mainly because Jarred CosartBrett Oberholtzer, and Brad Peacock have appeared in 44 major league games combined. Chad Qualls, more famous for falling off of pitchers mounds than striking people out, will be the teams closer. Be patient Astros fans. Good times are ahead… way ahead.

Projected 2014 finish: 61-101. For ticket information check out Ticket Monster.

Unbelievable, right?
Unbelievable, right?

4. The Seattle Mariners

(Covers.com has the O/U at 80 while FanGraphs has them finishing 83-79)

I am not a bitter Yankees’ fan. I loved Robbie Cano. I think he was a more of a made things look easy kind-of-guy rather than the lackadaisical, no effort type-of-guy that everyone seems to suddenly be bashing him about. That being said, $240 million is absolutely absurd. He couldn’t lead a Yankees team to the playoffs last season that had very similar talent to what this Mariners’ team has this season and he’s not going to do it this year, either.

The revamped offense seems to have given up on Jesus Montero, the colossal bust acquired from the Yankees two years ago. His batting average has lowered, his home runs have dropped, and he appears to have eaten former Mariner Edgar Martinez. They brought in outfielder Corey Hart and DH Logan Morrison along with Cano to try and revitalize this offense. A lot will depend on the continued growth of 1B Justin Smoak and 3B Kyle Seager. Both have developed some nice pop but it would be nice if they could hit their weight and they would become All-Stars if the could hit Montero’s weight.

The pitching staff is anchored by Felix Hernandez who is simply one of the best the game has to offer. It’s scary to think what his numbers would be if he pitched on a contender. The rest of the rotation has already taken a big hit this spring. Hisashi Iwakuma is dealing with a finger issue and the Ms hope to have him back by May. Top prospect Taijuan Walker has a bum right shoulder and he is also doubtful until May. King Felix and the four castoffs they have attempting to hold the team together until both return may put them out of contention early.

Fernando Rodney leads an uninspiring bullpen. He returned to reality last season after his superhuman 2012 and that reality is that he is shaky closer. Should Rodney fail, the Ms will have to turn to Tom Wilhelmsen who struggled big time last season. Things are as bleak as the weather in Seattle this season.

Projected 2014 finish: 79-83. For ticket information click here.

Don't drop Trout
Don’t drop Trout

3. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles that were once California

(Covers.com has the O/U at 84.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 85-77)

The Angels are a prime example of how money does NOT buy championships. Mike Scioscia built this team on a small ball philosophy and when the big brass brought in sluggers, their success changed. It appears that they bought some broken down pieces on offense and their once vaunted pitching staff is half of what it used to be.

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, folks, and he is only 22. We as baseball fans are very lucky to watch Trout in the AL and Harper in the NL taking over their leagues. It is the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson of the MLB. What is also undeniable is how terribly awful Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton played last season. I know, they both suffered through injuries, but the reality is these guys are getting up there in age and have a lot of mileage on them. A bounce back from these two highly paid superstars is the only way the Angels can return to the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. Pujols unfortunately is on the wrong side of 30 and dealing with a torn plantar fascia which is never easy to come back from. The entire line-up is getting older and the addition of 41-year old Raul Ibanez to replace the departed 28-year old Mark Trumbo may not be enough.

The pitching staff is a question mark. Only James Shields and Justin Verlander have thrown more pitches than CJ Wilson has over the last two seasons. It may catch up to him as he has always had a high WHIP and is entering his mid-30s. Jered Weaver was once a perennial Cy Young candidate, however both his strikeout rate and velocity have been in a steady decline for a few years now. Rounding out the rotation is a new and relatively young staff. What effect Hector SantiagoTyler Skaggs, and Garrett Richards can have in turning around this team is yet to be seen.

Ernesto Frieri is an enigma in the pen. He’s a bit like Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn. He is either going to strike you out or the ball his going to leave every park but Yellowstone. This is never a good sign for a long-term answer at closer.

Projected 2014 finish: 83-79. For ticket information click here.

Still the best Texas Ranger
Still the best Texas Ranger

2. The Texas Rangers

(Covers.com has the O/U at 86.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78)

Ron Washington is the winningest coach in Rangers history and will always have this team competing. They could wind-up the last Wild Card spot if it weren’t for my most outrageous prediction yet (which hasn’t been made, so stay tuned!)  They made some big changes for the better this past offseason and like Chuck Norris’s beard, it makes them stronger.

Shin-Soo Choo was brought in from Cincinnati and instantly makes the offense more potent. The guy does everything well but most importantly knows how to get on base. That will be huge with fellow Ranger newbie Prince Fielder waiting in the hole. The veggie burrito eating monmouth is built for the home run-frienldy confines of The Ballpark at Arlington (I don’t believe in corporate name changes to stadiums, so back off Globe Life) and alongside Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios form a pretty sexy heart of the line-up. Ian Kinsler was sent to Detroit for Fielder which makes room for he prospect we have all been waiting on: Jurickson Profar. He will have his chance to prove his worth with no real threat on the roster.

The pitching staff is a bit iffy, but if you haven’t noticed, that appears to be the theme in the AL West. Yu Darvish is the clear cut aceThe Rangers really need Matt Harrison and Derek Holland to return to full health because it gives them a very formidable front end of the rotation. Joe Saunders and Tommy Hanson will be forced into action without their services and that’s not good for anyone.

Neftali Feliz is officially the closer… again… I think. He wants to be a starter but because of his mechanical flaws, the Rangers feel he is more suited for the bullpen. Well, that doesn’t make much sense, now does it? Should he stumble the Rangers are actually in good shape as they have Joakim Soria and Tanner Schepps waiting in the pen.

Projected 2014 finish: 90-72. For ticket information click here.


1. The Oakland Athletics

(Covers.com has the O/U at 86.6 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78)

The A’s are geared and ready for another run like the early 90s. They don’t have the power or swag that the Bash Brothers had but the back-to-back AL West Champs have all the goods to keep the title run going for at least another season.

The A’s return the same line-up that has been the best of the West. Josh Reddick needs to bounce back from an injury plagued 2013 and become the power surge in the middle of the line-up he was in 2012 when the A’s nabbed him from the Red Sox. Yoenis Cespedes must continue to adjust to pitchers as they have clearly begun to figure him out. He has all the tools and raw talent to take the next step, the question remains on when he will do it. Jed Lowrie is still the unsung leader of this offense while Josh Donaldson quietly continues his rise as one of the best third basemen in baseball.

The loss of last year’s ace Bartolo Colon should not be a problem for this young staff as their rotation gives them the edge in this division. Jarrod Parker must now become the leader of this staff and at 25 he should be ready to shine. The addition of Scott Kazmir brings some veteran leadership to the young staff, although a history of injuries along with it. I still feel like even at age 30 we are waiting for that one amazing season from Kazmir, but those expectations may be a result of too much hype early in his career. Sonny GrayDan Straily, and AJ Griffin round out a staff that is growing into one of the most solid rotations in the league.

The A’s let Grant Balfour walk and brought in Jim Johnson as their new closer. It will be interesting to see how he pans out. He amassed 101 saves over the last 2 years in Baltimore, however, he walked a ton of batters and blew a lot of saves that the O’s potent offense frequently bailed him out of losing. Should he struggle, the A’s are safe with possibly the best bullpen in the AL featuring Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Luke Gregerson.

Projected 2014 finish: 95-67, AL West Champs. For ticket information click here.