Early on in the 2018 baseball season, there have been talks (mostly from Red Sox fans) of Mookie Betts being a better player than Mike Trout. In fact, WTP prez Joe Skoczylas recently ran a poll in which almost 75% of fans (most of them Red Sox fans) voted they would not trade Mookie Betts straight up for Mike Trout even if the contracts were the same.
I would love to end this argument by just saying if you just watch or know baseball, then you would know Mike Trout is the best player in the world and there should not be an argument. However, that wouldn’t change anyone’s opinions considering some Red Sox fans are so set on their hometown belief. So let’s begin.
First of all, let’s get this age argument myth cleared up. Because Mike Trout has been in the league for eight seasons and has a much bigger contract, there is a belief he is much older. Mike Trout is twenty-six years old, Mookie Betts is 25. The difference is exactly fifteen months.
Now, another popular argument is the fact that Trout has been playing in the Major Leagues much longer. Well, this isn’t basketball. The strain of the game on the major league level is not much different compared to the minor league level. In reality, Mike Trout played one more season of baseball than Mookie Betts in which he played 40 games at the major league level. So if your argument is based on one year and forty games, there’s really no number that can swing your bias.
So let’s go to the actual numbers. In 2012, in Trouts first full season, he played in 139 games while hitting 30 home runs, and batted .326. From 2013-2016, Mike Trout played at least 157 games in all four seasons. In these seasons he averaged over 33 home runs, 100 RBI and had a .306 batting average. Last year, despite having what many considered the worst supporting cast in the league, hit 33 home runs with a .306 batting average despite only playing in 114 games due to a thumb injury. Throughout his career, Trout has also stolen over 15 bases every season except one, including 49 stolen bases in 2012 and 33 the following year.
Mookie Betts started his Boston career in 2014, although did not play a full season until 2015. In his three full seasons as a member of the Red Sox, Betts has averaged 24 home runs, 97 RBI, and a .291 batting average. He also has averaged over 22 stolen bases in those three seasons.
Now, these are just the basic numbers, but these show there really is no debate on who the better player is. As we dive deeper into the numbers, things get even more lopsided. Starting with on-base percentage, which may be one of the more effective stats in baseball. What percent of the time can a player get on base? For Mike Trout, six out of the seven seasons he has been in the league (not counting his rookie season) Mike Trout has had an OBP of .400 or above, including an OBP of over .440 his last two full seasons, good for best in the league.
While Betts has always been known for having a good batting average, he does not walk very much. Because of the lack of walks, and his free-swinging style, Betts has not posted an OBP better than .368 in any full season in the league.
In the on-base+slugging category, Trout once again dominates. In Mookie’s best season, he had an OPS of .897. In Mike Trout’s worst season, he had an OPS of .939. Trout has also had three seasons in which his OPS was better than .988.
Diving even DEEPER into the numbers leads us to the Wins Above Replacement category (WAR). The way WAR is explained is a player with a 2+ WAR is a starter in the league. 5+ is an All-Star and 8+ is an MVP-caliber player. Mike Trout has had a WAR above 9 in four of his major league seasons and has been above 10 in two seasons. As for Mookie Betts, he has only been above 9 once, with his next best season having a WAR of 6.4.
Career WAR isn’t a question either. Mike Trout posts a 57.8 Wins Above Replacement for his career while Mookie Betts posts a 27.8. However, it wouldn’t be completely fair to compare total WAR considering Trout has played longer. So instead, lets average out each player’s WAR totals for their full seasons. In three full seasons, Betts has averaged a 7.3 WAR. In Trout’s seven seasons including last year when he only played 114 games and had a career-low WAR, he averages a 9 WAR per season, almost two win shares better than Betts.
Well, what about awards? who has more hardware? By now, you should know the answer. Mike Trout has two MVPs to his name, five Silver Sluggers, 6 all-star appearances, including two all-star game MVPs as well as the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year. As for Rookie, two gold-gloves including a Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the year, two Silver Sluggers, and two All-Star appearances. Mookie also finished second in MVP voting in 2016. Trou, on the other hand, finished top-2 in MVP voting for five consecutive seasons.
So here we are. I love Mookie Betts and believe he is a top-5 player in the league. But his numbers do not come close to the greatest player in the world. Mike Trout has Mookie Betts beat in the basic numbers, advanced numbers, very advanced numbers and hardware. Trout has played longer, been more consistent, is just as good defensively, hits for more power, gets on base more and is responsible for more wins. So my question now becomes, what exactly is Mookie Betts better at than Mike Trout?
(Photo: Boston Globe)