MLB: About Those Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle Comparisons

Just how close are the comparisons made between Mike Trout and MLB Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle?

Do you think you’d be able to recognize greatness the first time you saw it? Walt Burrows apparently thought he could. In June of 2011 he was watching a baseball game while working as the Canadian director for the Major League Scouting Bureau. Burrows received a phone call, and the person on the other line asked him how the game was going.

Burrows replied, according to the story, “Oh I saw Mickey Mantle tonight.”

At that moment in time Burrows had no idea just how right he would be. Those words were spoken about Mike Trout. This week Trout won his second AL MVP award in just his sixth MLB season. Since making his debut in 2011, Trout has measured up well in comparison to some of the games greatest players.

Walt Burrows wouldn’t be surprised to know that one of the closest comparisons you can find to Trout’s first six seasons is in fact Mickey Mantle.

Just how well do these two players compare through their first six years?

Mickey Mantle

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
1951 19 96 386 341 61 91 11 5 13 65 8 7 43 74 .267 .349 .443 .792 117 151
1952 ★ 20 142 626 549 94 171 37 7 23 87 4 1 75 111 .311 .394 .530 .924 162 291
1953 ★ 21 127 540 461 105 136 24 3 21 92 8 4 79 90 .295 .398 .497 .895 144 229
1954 ★ 22 146 649 543 129 163 17 12 27 102 5 2 102 107 .300 .408 .525 .933 158 285
1955 ★ 23 147 638 517 121 158 25 11 37 99 8 1 113 97 .306 .431 .611 1.042 180 316
1956 ★ 24 150 652 533 132 188 22 5 52 130 10 1 112 99 .353 .464 .705 1.169 210 376
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2016.

Mike Trout

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2011 19 40 135 123 20 27 6 0 5 16 4 0 9 30 .220 .281 .390 .672 89 48
2012 ★ 20 139 639 559 129 182 27 8 30 83 49 5 67 139 .326 .399 .564 .963 168 315
2013 ★ 21 157 716 589 109 190 39 9 27 97 33 7 110 136 .323 .432 .557 .988 179 328
2014 ★ 22 157 705 602 115 173 39 9 36 111 16 2 83 184 .287 .377 .561 .939 168 338
2015 ★ 23 159 682 575 104 172 32 6 41 90 11 7 92 158 .299 .402 .590 .991 176 339
2016 ★ 24 159 681 549 123 173 32 5 29 100 30 7 116 137 .315 .441 .550 .991 174 302
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2016.

Strictly from a numbers perspective it’s incredible how close they are to each other in a number of categories. In Mantle’s first six seasons he hit .308/.412/.560 with a .972 OPS and 166 OPS+. He added to those totals 173 HR, 575 RBI, 43 SB, and 524 BB.

Trout on the other hand has hit .306/.405/.557 with a .963 OPS and 170 OPS+. He’s also accumulated 168 HR, 497 RBI, 143 SB, and 477 BB. .

That’s not to say there aren’t a few differences. Trout has clearly had more success stealing bases. Mantle’s highest SB total in his career was 21. Trout has already cleared that total three times in his first six seasons. In years 7-11 Mantle did start to swipe more bags, but never the quantity of Trout’s early seasons.

On the other hand Mantle had accumulated 400+ more RBI and runs at this point in his career. A couple of reasons can be offered for this difference. First, Mantle was a part of a more successful lineup than Trout currently finds himself in. Aside from HR, the ’51-’56 Yankees had more success in just about every offensive category than the modern LA Angels. Mantle reaped the benefits of having a better group around him.

Not only was Mantle’s lineup better, but his position in the lineup was more conducive to counting stats. Over the course of his career the lifelong Yankee primarily hit from the third spot in the order. Trout has had to rack up statistics largely hitting from the second or first spot in the lineup. It might not have made a huge difference, but Trout likely would have at least higher RBI totals with a move down the order.

If you look at the entirety of each player’s value over their first six seasons you can draw even more connections. Following the 1956 season, Mantle had accumulated 41fWAR over six years. With the conclusion of this season Trout now has 47.7 fWAR to start his career. While Trout has had more value by fWAR up to this point, there’s the possibility that might not hold for long. In ’56 and ’57 Mantle ran off back-to-back seasons in which he tallied 11.5 and 11.4 fWAR. Trout should be able to hang on to the lead, but it will still take a big season to keep a comfortable cushion.

There’s no reason to believe Mike Trout won’t continue to be one of the best players in baseball. As the years go on he will likely draw plenty of comparisons to some of the game’s greatest players. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the comparisons, we should all be able to agree that we’re watching a special player.

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