Mickey Mantle comps have followed Mike Trout since he was a minor leaguer. It’s been an understandable comparison, but it turns out the early skeptics of Mike Trout may be right. He hasn’t been Mickey Mantle reincarnate as of late. He has been even better.
It is no secret that Mike Trout is walking at an incredibly high clip. In fact, his 21.3% walk rate is the highest in the majors at the time of this writing and is 1.4% above second place Justin Bour. That is easily in the elite category of walk rates and falls 38th all time, a fraction of a point behind a Ted Williams season. But that is just the beginning.
Through the first four games of the season, Trout did not draw a single walk. If we narrow the size of the sample to 5 games in (April 2nd) and onward, then Trout’s BB% jumps up to 23.4% with an outstanding .500 OBP. That walk rate would fall into a virtual three-way tie for 12th all-time, with Mickey Mantle (hey!) and Ted Williams again. Only 11 walk rates have ever been higher across a season. And yet, that arbitrary (and still almost all-consuming) sample size on the season does not fully illustrate just how much Trout is reaching via the free pass at this point. For in the month of May, Trout is walking at a surreal rate of 28%.
Because of his propensity for patience, he leads the majors in walks taken at 48. That is a pace of 152 walks over the course of a season. Let’s see where that would land on the all-time season leaderboards.
If he were to take 152 walks across the season at his current rate of 21.3%, then his 2018 would fall 9th all time in walks. But what if that April 2nd starting point is closer to his true talent level at patience this season? If he continued his current pace of plate appearances across the remaining 111 games of the season with a 23.4% walk rate, he would acquire 115 walks or so. Add that to his current total of 48, and you have the 5th highest walk total of all time, just edging out Ted Williams’ 1947 and 1949 seasons and McGwire’s 1998. Only Barry Bonds (thrice) and Babe Ruth will have had higher walk total seasons. Oh, and Trout has only been intentionally walked four times all season, so he’s doing this without the Bonds treatment.
It gets even better though. Let’s assume Trout’s walks regress to his conservative ZiPS rest of season projection and he winds up with a weak career-high of 130 walks this year. Excluding 2011 as it was not a full year, he will have averaged almost 99 walks per season so far. If Trout plays for 15 more seasons and averages 87 walks per, he will reach the top tier of patience, the incredibly exclusive 2000 Walk Club.
Only four players in MLB history have 2000 walks to their name. The top ten list is as follows:
I chose Baseball-Reference instead of Fangraphs so you can see the handedness of each batter. The only right-handed batter to hit that mark is Rickey Henderson, who took until the end of his age 41 season to reach 2000. The next highest person who never batted lefty was Frank Thomas, falling 323 walks short.
Trout has reached a new tier in the game. He has surpassed inner circle Cooperstown heroics. Considering the conservative estimates I used and the fact that he may play longer than until he’s 42, he just might end his career with the second-most walks of all-time.
I really hope I don’t wake up from this 7-year long dream too soon. I’m just beginning to enjoy it.