When comparing a first ballot Hall of Famer for the White Sox and a future Hall of Famer that just signed a record-breaking contract, which player is better?
Earlier this week – as many fans know- Mike Trout signed a record 12 year, $430 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels. This makes Trout not only the largest paid athlete in baseball history but in all of the North American sports. While the Angels have only made the playoffs once since Trout’s debut in 2011, nobody is going to argue against Trout’s individual success.
However, in the wake of such eye-opening news, comparisons with former players are being made. One of those former players is a guy White Sox fans know well…Frank Thomas!
According to Sebastian Del Principe at 12up.com:
"”There’s no doubt that Mike Trout is a generational talent, a true five-tool player who has racked up accolades like few others throughout his first eight seasons in the big leagues. But is his career up to this point actually unprecedented? We actually have seen a level play on and even exceeding this level not so long ago in the form of the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas.”"
Del Principe points to certain statistics, including batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and weighted runs created plus (wRC+). In each category, Thomas slightly edges out Trout over his first eight seasons
Still, there are some who will disagree with that assessment.
With Thomas’ priority position being designated hitter as his career progressed, some will say that Trout is a better player because of what he can contribute in the outfield.
Others will point to what Trout can bring on the basepaths. Never a baserunning threat, Thomas stole 18 total bases over his first eight seasons. In all but three of the individual season’s Trout has played thus far – one being a year in which he played only forty game – Trout has stolen more bases.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – a statistic that “ is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic” – features Trout consistently beating out Thomas over the course of his first eight seasons.
Yet, there are still categories in which Thomas beats out Trout – including total bases (2,294 to 2,219) and on-base plus slugging percentage, abbreviate as OPS (1.05 to .962).
Perhaps the best all-around assessment would be to say that Thomas, the first man elected to the Hall of Fame as a designated hitter, slightly beats out Trout in total offensive numbers. Yet, all around, Trout has the edge.
Having said that, Thomas was a first ballot Hall of Famer and Trout – barring something unusual – seems to be headed in that direction. Comparing the two is very interesting, but at the end of the day, it’s like two football teams arguing with each other to see who the best Super Bowl champion is. They’re both champions either way.
Trout and Thomas are both considered great because of what they could bring to the game. One man’s value as a player shouldn’t go down because of what another player looks like by comparison.