|This man is very good at baseball. (Getty Images)|
As previously noted, it's Mike Trout's 21st birthday. Trout, because of his astounding success at such a young age, is on every baseball fan's mind these days. That's understandable, of course. He'll surely win AL Rookie of the Year, and at this juncture he's probably the favorite for AL MVP honors. In this, his age-20 season, Trout has been the best baseball player on the planet.
It's no surprise, then, that he's on pace for all kinds of history. He's got a shot at joining the 30-30 club despite not being recalled until late April. He could become just the sixth rookie to win a batting title. He could also become just the eighth player in major-league history to tally 25 or more homers and 50 or more steals in a single season.
But it's a stat called OPS+ that really puts Trout's precocious miracles into perspective. OPS, of course, is on-base percentage added to slugging percentage. It provides a very useful one-shot glance at how well a hitter does his two most important jobs: getting on base and hitting for power. OPS+ takes the next step of adjusting OPS to reflect the conditions of player's era and his home park. Thus, you can compare a hitter who, say, spent half his time in Dodger Stadium in 1968 to one who played his home games in Coors Field in 2000.
An OPS+ of 100 is league average. Each point greater than 100 means one percentage point better than the league mean on a park-adjusted basis. Each point below 100 is one percentage point below the league average. An OPS+ of 125? That's 25% better than average. An OPS+ of 88? That's 12% worse than average.
Here, then, is a list of the highest OPS+'s ever by qualifying 20- and 21-year-olds. Although Trout is, as of today, 21 years of age, this is his age-20 season, so that means some players on the list to follow will be older than Trout. Keep that in mind as you peruse these names, which come to us courtesy of the Baseball-Reference Play Index ...
That's a list of every qualifier to notch an OPS+ of 160 or better in his age-20 or -21 season. Of the 12 names on that list, you'll find nine current hall of famers, one future hall of famer (Rodriguez) and one of the all-time "what could've been" guys (Cedeno).
You'll also find, comfortably at the top of the rankings, Mike Trout.
Folks, we're witnessing something very special.