Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Attack of the Trout

By The Common Man

Last night, Mike Trout reminded us that he is, indeed, very good at baseball and going to get even better, hitting two homers off of a clearly overmatched Anthony Vasquez. In doing so, he became the 9th youngest person in baseball history to hit two homers in a game. Here’s the list:

NameDateOpposing Pitcher(s)Age
Danny Murphy9/27/1961Larry Jackson19 years, 35 days
Mel Ott5/18/1928Pete Alexander19 years, 18 days
Andruw Jones8/22/1996John Smiley19 years, 121 days
Mel Ott9/5/1928Claude Willoughby19 years, 187 days
Ken Griffey5/30/1989Jimmy Jones19 years, 190 days
Ken Griffey7/5/1989Juan Berenguer, Mike Dyer19 years, 226 days
Brian McCall9/30/1962Bill Stafford, Ralph Terry19 years, 248 days
Tony Conigliaro9/16/1964Blue Moon Odom, Ted Bowsfield19 years, 253 days
Ed Kranepool8/14/1964Rick Wise19 years, 280 days
Harmon Killebrew5/29/1956Erv Palica, Johnny Schmitz19 years, 335 days
Mike Trout8/30/2011Anthony Vasquez20 years, 23 days

As you can see, Ott and Griffey both appear on the list twice, which is cool in and of itself, but it’s a very interesting list. Ott, Griffey, and Killebrew are all inner-circle Hall of Famers, and Tony C looked to be on his way there before a Jack Hamilton fastball destroyed much of his promise. Andruw Jones is a borderline Hall of Fame player who probably will never get in, one who peaked early and lost much of his momentum thanks to an expanding waisteline (although he’s hitting again). Of the other players on the list, you see that both Murphy and McCall had their moments in the sun during September of expansion seasons, when diluted pitching was diluted even further by expanded rosters.

Danny Murphy was a highly regarded high school prospect both in the outfield and on the mound, who the Cubs paid $135,000 to in 1960, when he was just 17 years old. This was billed, at the time, as the largest bonus in baseball history. Lenny Merullo, the scout who signed him announced that he would immediately join the Cubs, and “We may even insert him in the lineup in right field.” Indeed, Murphy started the next day and went 0-for-4 against Cincinnati. He stuck around for about a month, starting 9 games and serving as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement, hitting .116/.156/.163 in 46 plate appearances. He was sent down to AA, where he hit .294/.389/.514 in 47 games before coming back in September. He would spend almost all of 1961 down in the minors, earning a September call-up just in time to hit two homers off of Larry Jackson. Murphy broke camp with the club in 1962, but started the season 0-for-8 before getting sent down. He was traded to the new Houston franchise in 1963, and then to the White Sox for Nellie Fox after a season. There, he took up pitching again, and relieved for the White Sox in 1969 and 1970. For his career, he finished with an 82 ERA+ and a 53 OPS+, and hit just two other homers in his career.

McCall was also a high school phenom, and 17, when the White Sox signed him to the largest bonus in team history, just three months after the Cubs signed Murphy, and assigned him to Class C Idaho Falls. He put up strong numbers, and showed great patience, and in 1962 the Cubs called him up for September. In his first and only start, in the last game of the year against the eventual World Champion Yankees, McCall went 2-for-5 with two homers off of Bill Staffard and Ralph Terry. He started one more game in his career, on September 28 of 1963, and never hit another homerun. While he was terrific in the low minors, the high minors seemed to flummox him, as he posted just a .246/.343/.370 line at AA before retiring at 23 years old. Which is just a weird possibility to even think about.

Kranepool was much more successful than these other two bonus babies, signing out of the Bronx as a 17 year old for around $75,000 in 1962. He had just broken Hank Greenberg’s high school homerun record. He was assigned to Syracusue, but did make it into three games in September, starting one of them. In 1963, the Mets turned the starting job over to him, but he played his way out of it (as an 18 year old would probably do), hitting .190/.242/.284 through July 7. He was awarded the job again in 1964, and delivered league average offense, including his two-homer game against Rick Wise. Kranepool never really became the player the Mets hoped for, topping out at 16 homers in 1966 and with a 124 OPS+ in 1971. His career OPS+ was just 97, and he was worth just 4.4 Wins Above Replacement over an 18 year career.

Trout is much more justifiably more hyped than these relative flops. He has flown through the minors, but has dominated at every level and has demonstrated an advanced approach to hitting. He is almost certainly more Jones, Griffey, and Conigliaro than McCall. The omens are good, so buckle up. The Common Man, for one, welcomes our new Mike Trout overlords.

1 comment:

James said...

A Nation of Angels fans approve this post! Seriously, he needs to play every day. Sitting him would be akin to asking Daniel Day Lewis to only do T.V. commercials for Purina puppy chow.