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Jose Ramirez vs. Mike Trout: An unfair comparison

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The Tribe’s resident Five Tool Player is put up against the best in the biz.

Cleveland Indians Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

We all love Mike Trout. He’s amazing. When a player simply does things better than anyone living, it’s hard to not simply marvel at it, even if he brutalizes your team. But he’s unfair - he sets the bar so high that mere mortals always fall short when held up against him. He’s everything a baseball player should be, a perfect Five Tool Player. The Indians don’t have a Mike Trout. they’ve got some good position players, guys like Jose Ramirez who are pretty tooled up in their own right. Considering his own all-around ability, it would be right to all Ramirez a five-tool player. After his mega-breakout, how does Ramirez stack up?

Defense

The prototypical five tool guy is a center fielder. It’s the player we create in MLB The Show probably half the time. he’s the coolest guy, and covers the most ground, the king of any defense. Any great team will have at least a serviceable one out there. Trout has demonstrated excellence in the past in center field, though at negative 3.5 defensive runs in 2017 he was quite sub-par. Not just for him, in general. He rated a negative 4 on Statcast’s Outs Above Average stat. Not only that, with a Sprint Speed 28.5 meters per second according to Baseball Savant, he rated as about the 21st fastest center fielder in baseball. Speed is a big part of being a center fielder, less-so for an infielder, so the 28.3 m/s Ramirez matters a bit less, at least here. To compare though, at least UZR exists, and at -7.3 runs by UZR/150, Trout rated poorly. At third Ramirez was a +7.6 per 150 games, and a negative 0.1 at second. Between that and the fact he so quickly flipped to second without a hiccup, I’m giving this part to RAMIREZ. I expected this though.

Speed/baserunning

We touched on it a bit ago, but by raw sprint speed Trout was faster than Ramirez was in 2017. That’s a definite nail in the coffin for Ramirez. Then there’s the stolen base numbers - 22 for Trout in only 114 games, only caught four times, while Ramirez had 17 swipes in 38 more games and was caught one more time, as well. Looking good for Trout. Is there anything in Ramirez’s favor here? Spoiler, no. There isn’t. Trout took the extra base more - 58 percent of total opportunities compared to 46 for Ramirez. Trout made three outs on the basepaths this year, Ramirez twelve. Trout even scored nearly as many times from second on a base hit as Ramirez did - 11 times to Ramirez’s 13 - and again, played 38 fewer games. Yeah. TROUT wins this one. Man, he is good.

Throwing

This is a hard one to judge. Assist totals obviously favor Ramirez, since he makes plays on the infield. Even if Baseball Savant made it available, using their Arm Strength metric from Statcast is tough too, since you don’t really need the same kind of power to get a guy running to first after fielding a grounder at second. But Ramirez was a great third baseman too, often flashing an excellent arm on tough plays. Considering the body contortions you have to get into when barehanding or going back on a ball and the fact he can still get some good speed on it, there’s something there. But we have no real metrics, and they play different positions. A part of me wants to give it to Ramirez, but Trout is the one who has to throw it 250 or 300 feet. Though the one knock on his ability has always been that his arm isn’t amazing, merely solid. I call it a TIE.

Hit for average

Ramirez hit .318 in 2017, Trout .306. Done deal, right? No. Batting average is too flawed, and anyone who judges Trout in particular by it is doing him a serious disservice. The real, modern tool here in the “Five Tool Player” would have to be, in one case, on-base percentage. In that Trout blows Ramirez out of the water. Just in 2017, he beat the Indians infielder .442 to .374. His walk rate is 18.5 percent, compared to Ramirez’s 8.1 (which itself was an improvement from 2016). Trout even keeps defenses more honest, pulling the ball just 40.2 percent of the time compared to Ramirez’s 46.3 percent. Ramirez did hit .329 as a left-hander, and Trout didn’t record a single hit left-handed. So that’s something. A technicality perhaps, but as irritating Internet pedants say, technically correct is the best kind of correct. We all knew where this was going from the outset, didn’t we? TROUT is a good hitter. Yet another dazzling discovery.

Hit for power

Traditionally this meant extra-base hits and more specifically home runs. In one small way, Ramirez did do something Trout has never done. His 91 extra-base hits in 2017 is eleven more than Trout has ever hit in a season. With an extra-base hit in 14.1 percent of plate appearances, he tops Trout there too. So things are looking good. But power is, at its base, how hard you hit the ball, right? More than that, extra-base hits come from fly balls and line drives, hit real hard. Let’s see who did better at those things in 2017:

Ramirez vs. Trout, power production

Player FB% LD% GB% Exit Velo(mph) FB Velo(mph) LD Velo(mph) GB%(mph)
Player FB% LD% GB% Exit Velo(mph) FB Velo(mph) LD Velo(mph) GB%(mph)
Mike Trout 44.9 18.4 36.7 88.8 94.9 93.9 84.1
Jose Ramirez 39.7 21.4 38.9 88.4 90.3 93.9 85.3

The line drive thing is a little amazing. This also tells the story of why Ramirez hit so many doubles - hard, hard hit liners at a very good rate. But Trout has him beat not only in basic hit speed, but the kinds that get you more bases and, by extension, runs. Plus, quite simply he hit more home runs than Ramirez in way less games. He’s amazing. He’s powerful. TROUT wins this one going away.

Conclusion

Jose Ramirez is very good. Mike Trout is otherworldly.

We all knew how this was going to shake out. Trout is the best around for a reason. As marvelous as Ramirez was in 2017, seeing what true superhuman ability looks like in comparison puts both men in perspective. Ramirez is still very good among normal players. Maybe it is unkind to place him, or any player, up against Trout, but considering how close they seem to be (absent the walk numbers, wow) and the fact that Ramirez is still growing into the player he will become, it makes the future a bit exciting. He had such an incredible year and we all loved it. He’s probably never going to reach the level of Trout. Nobody on the Indians right now is. Excellence can’t just be one man though, can it? Besides, Ramirez does have the extra-base thing. Checkmate, fish man.