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Talking to myself: Why Cobb beats Trout, an explanation no one wanted or needed

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  • Talking to myself: Why Cobb beats Trout, an explanation no one wanted or needed

    Warning: I am not a sabermetrician, nor do I understand sabermetrics, nor do I want to understand sabermetrics. This is a fight of good old fashioned plain stats. It's also not very good.

    I feel like every time I have a conversation about modern baseball with somebody my age, Trout gets brought up, not simply as a great player, but as potentially the greatest player ever. I'm not talking about cheerful cries of "GOAT!" I'm talking about wholehearted belief that Trout is blowing everybody else out of the water, so to speak. I've heard it a lot, to which I always say "Cobb was entirely better," to which I get one of three responses: the first being, "It's not comparable, it was a different era," the second being, "Cobb is overrated, Trout is just better" and the third, funniest of all, and I promise you I really did get this once (albeit from a high school freshman), "Who?"

    I think I'm particularly defensive about my position, given that I'm a teenager myself, and people don't expect teenagers to prefer vintage baseball to the way it's done nowadays. (And chicks are supposed to dig the long ball!) So, as it turns out, I'm defensive enough about it that I want to lay it all out. Plus, I'm extremely bored, and looking over baseball stats always gives me some excitement. So this is my treatise, everybody.

    First of all, we have to acknowledge that Trout is currently in his tenth season, while Cobb played twenty-four. Does Trout have to play twenty-four seasons to theoretically be the best? No way. Addie Joss (hey, fellow Addie!) only played nine seasons, but I feel comfortable saying he was one of the all-time greats. But, for a better comparison between Trout and Cobb, we'd need to see the full arc of Trout's career. If Trout is still playing at age 41, as Cobb did, what will his statistics be? Will he still be putting out impressive numbers, as Cobb did (.323, good job old man!), or will he have fallen off or retired? We can't know. So, that certainly affects things, at least as far as his career numbers go.

    But, I feel comfortable saying that unless something absolutely amazing happens, unless Trout emerges in a ball of flame next season and hits .500 and then never lets up, he won't ever be as good as Cobb. And, I think I can make a good showing of that.

    Given his short career thus far, let's just compare his 8 full seasons (not counting his first nor the current season) to Cobb's first 8 seasons, and disregard the rest of Cobb's career. Let's live in an alternate universe for a moment where Cobb fell off the face of the earth in 1913, never to be seen again. They both started at around the same time; Cobb debuted at 18, and Trout at 19. They played in two very separate environments, but I promise I'll cover that in a minute.

    Let's start with just straightforward stats. In Cobb's first 8 full seasons (1906-1913), he hit .371, with 743 RBI in total, a .422 OBP, and 46 home runs. In Trout's first full 8 seasons (2012-2019), he hit .307, with 736 RBI in total, a .424 OBP, and 280 home runs. Cobb's batting average is better by .64 points, and he drove in 7 more runs, and had an OBP worse than Trout's by the negligible .2 points. Obviously, the massive difference is home runs. No competition there. Trout blows Cobb away with 234 more home runs.

    As far as batting average goes, we have a clear winner in Cobb. .64 is quite a bit of difference. A lot of people don't think batting average is particularly important anymore, and while I couldn't disagree more, I don't think that's particularly important to my argument. What is important, though, is the era in which these two guys played. Or, rather, the ERA in which they played. (Get it?) In Cobb's first eight years, the league ERA each year was between 2.66 and 3.37. In Trout's, it was between 4.07 and 4.83! So Trout isn't disadvantaged by his era; rather, he has the edge there.

    Well, it must be in the number of hits, right? There are fewer hits nowadays, but more home runs, leading to the inflated average? Not so. In Cobb's eight seasons, the average H/9 of the league was 8.35, and in Trout's, it was 8.69! The reality is, Trout is playing in an era where, on average, teams get more hits, and score more runs, and yet his average is .64 lower. Now, if you really don't think batting average matters, that's fine. But you would think that if a guy is the best player of all time, he'd be closer to his contender, especially in an era with easier pitching!

    How about RBI? Well, I think Cobb absolutely ran away with it. That's not immediately apparent; after all, he only beat Trout by 7. But think about it this way. Trout is playing in the era of the longball. The ball is hopped up, replaced constantly as to allow it to fly, and the ballparks are smaller. Cobb, meanwhile, played in the deadball era, and, at least in his first eight years, would frequently hit a misshapen, lumpy, brown ball around a field with outrageously deep outfields. Trout has the obvious home run advantage, and home runs not only score runners, they score you.

    So I'm going to adjust for home runs, crudely, but, I hope, at least somewhat effectively. Trout hit 280 home runs, and each time he hit a home run, he drove in himself. This means that 280 of his RBIs are Mike Trout, giving him a total of 456 men batted in who were not Mike Trout. But Ty Cobb only hit 46 home runs. Only 46 of Ty Cobb's 743 RBIs were Ty Cobb, giving Ty Cobb a total of 697 men batted in who were not Ty Cobb. So, in eight seasons, Ty Cobb batted in 697 runners who weren't him; Trout batted in 456. That's a difference of 241 runs. That's pretty massive. Cobb has the edge. Even if you completely disregard my adjustment, Cobb STILL beats Trout by 7!

    Here's a stat I failed to mention earlier: in Cobb's first eight years, he scored 790 runs, and in Trout's, he scored 883. Cobb loses by a pretty big margin, but you'd think it would be much bigger! Remember that Trout had the advantage of 280 home runs that Cobb literally could not have even come close to, due to the state of the ball and the size of the ballparks. Think about this. Without the benefit of home runs, Cobb scored 744 runs, and Trout scored 603. Why did Cobb score so many more runs? Was it because his team was so much better at batting him in? Hardly. Cobb's Tigers hit .266 as a team in that span, while Trout's Angels hit .254 behind him. Certainly the Tigers had a higher batting average, but since it's only higher by .12 points, this doesn't explain the entire 141 run difference. .12 points does not 141 runs make. Why was Cobb able to score from the basepaths 141 times more than Trout?

    BASE STEALING. Cobb stole like an insane person, but it worked. Cobb stole 451 bases in those eight years, to Trout's 196. That's 255 extra bases. Cobb stole his way into scoring position at his leisure, leading to an increase in his number of runs scored. He didn't have the advantage of being able to hit so many home runs, but he made things happen for himself despite that. (Also, he stole home 28 times in those eight years. Trout has never stolen home. Does stealing home affect who's the better player? Not really, but stealing home is awesome, so Cobb gets points from me.)

    (Important note: one could argue that I'm disadvantaging Trout here by eliminating all of his home runs. Those were hits, you may say, and even if we're getting rid of the homers, they should be turned into doubles, or singles, or something. However, keep in mind that a lot of these homers would just be long outs now! Certainly some of them, 70% is my layman's guess, would fall for singles, doubles or triples, with an inside-the-parker thrown in now and again. But, with a batting average of .307 compared to Cobb's .371, even if you turned every single Trout home run into a triple, this would not even come close to closing the gap between Trout and Cobb.)

    Finally, just to round everything out, OBP. They basically have the same OBP, but one must acknowledge that Cobb's is slightly smaller. This is due, mostly, to the fact that Trout, over his eight year span, walked more than twice as often as Cobb, with 794 walks to Cobb's 334. However, it is noteworthy that despite doubling Cobb's number of walks, he was still only able to just barely eke out a lead, with the .2 point difference in OBP being remarkably small. (Also, not to get too into the nitty-gritty, but any pitcher with two brain cells is much more likely to walk Trout than Cobb. Walking Trout diminishes his risk, given that he could easily hit a home run otherwise. Walking Cobb increases his risk, given that he was a cyclone on the basepaths.)

    So, that's it. There's my case for Cobb's supremacy over Trout. This epic battle of two food items has come to a close. If anybody disagrees, or thinks this write-up sucks, let me know. It was entirely born out of boredom. Have a great night everybody!
    Last edited by addie05; 09-10-2020, 05:41 PM.
    How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned batter / who scattered line drives from the spring to the fall / He did not resemble the up-to-date batter / who swings from the heels and misses the ball.

    The up-to-date batter, I’m not very strong for / he shatters the ozone with all of his might / And that is the reason I hanker and long for / those who doubled to left, and tripled to right.

  • #2
    I have Cobb as a top 5 player. Trout probably would make my top 20.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

    "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
      I have Cobb as a top 5 player. Trout probably would make my top 20.
      Cobb is my number one. Whatever serious faults he may have had in his personality, he embodied playing the game the way I think it should be played. Fast, unpredictable, intelligent, crazy! Trout isn't on my list at all, but he is undeniably good. It's mostly just a matter of taste. As somebody who puts a ton of weight on batting average, base stealing, and triples (how I love triples...), my personal best list isn't a place for a guy who plays in the style of Trout. Just not for me!
      How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned batter / who scattered line drives from the spring to the fall / He did not resemble the up-to-date batter / who swings from the heels and misses the ball.

      The up-to-date batter, I’m not very strong for / he shatters the ozone with all of his might / And that is the reason I hanker and long for / those who doubled to left, and tripled to right.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by addie05 View Post

        Cobb is my number one. Whatever serious faults he may have had in his personality, he embodied playing the game the way I think it should be played. Fast, unpredictable, intelligent, crazy! Trout isn't on my list at all, but he is undeniably good. It's mostly just a matter of taste. As somebody who puts a ton of weight on batting average, base stealing, and triples (how I love triples...), my personal best list isn't a place for a guy who plays in the style of Trout. Just not for me!
        Ok? So are you actually interested in a discussion or is this thread just for your long winded soliloquy about how awesome Ty Cobb was? Cobb is well regarded here at BBF. Former BBF member Bill Burgess posted thousands of posts about Ty Cobb. He was the resident Cobb expert. Sadly, he passed away in 2014 but his work is still here. Check it out if you have some time.
        Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post

          Ok? So are you actually interested in a discussion or is this thread just for your long winded soliloquy about how awesome Ty Cobb was? Cobb is well regarded here at BBF. Former BBF member Bill Burgess posted thousands of posts about Ty Cobb. He was the resident Cobb expert. Sadly, he passed away in 2014 but his work is still here. Check it out if you have some time.
          Discussion! I hope, at least. I just wanted to respond to chicagowhitesox1173's post with my own personal ranking and opinion. I hope my original post, and my argument behind it, can stand on its own, but if not that's understandable (I'm not a statistician by any means and there are certainly a ton of people on this forum who could do a better writeup than me).

          I appreciate the recommendation and I will check out his posts!
          How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned batter / who scattered line drives from the spring to the fall / He did not resemble the up-to-date batter / who swings from the heels and misses the ball.

          The up-to-date batter, I’m not very strong for / he shatters the ozone with all of his might / And that is the reason I hanker and long for / those who doubled to left, and tripled to right.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by addie05 View Post

            Discussion! I hope, at least. I just wanted to respond to chicagowhitesox1173's post with my own personal ranking and opinion. I hope my original post, and my argument behind it, can stand on its own, but if not that's understandable (I'm not a statistician by any means and there are certainly a ton of people on this forum who could do a better writeup than me).

            I appreciate the recommendation and I will check out his posts!
            Here is a Ty Cobb General Thread.

            https://www.baseball-fever.com/forum...general-thread
            Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

            Comment


            • #7
              I am a Trout fanboy, but anyone who's says Trout is the "GOAT" or is anywhere near surpassing Ty Cobb at this point in his career is not a serious person. IF he doubles his current career totals and accomplishments while maintaining his current rate stats, which is extremely unlikely to happen, I'll say he's Cobb's equal. I'm a big Ty Cobb guy too. I ranked him #2 or 3 last time we did our Top-100 project, which is higher than most did (I know I had Babe #1 but don't remember if Cobb or Bonds was my #2).
              My top 10 players:

              1. Babe Ruth
              2. Barry Bonds
              3. Ty Cobb
              4. Ted Williams
              5. Willie Mays
              6. Alex Rodriguez
              7. Hank Aaron
              8. Honus Wagner
              9. Lou Gehrig
              10. Mickey Mantle

              Comment


              • #8
                I have never heard anyone claim Trout is the GOAT, nor all that close to it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post
                  I have never heard anyone claim Trout is the GOAT, nor all that close to it.
                  I take it you don't spend much time on Twitter
                  My top 10 players:

                  1. Babe Ruth
                  2. Barry Bonds
                  3. Ty Cobb
                  4. Ted Williams
                  5. Willie Mays
                  6. Alex Rodriguez
                  7. Hank Aaron
                  8. Honus Wagner
                  9. Lou Gehrig
                  10. Mickey Mantle

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GiambiJuice View Post

                    I take it you don't spend much time on Twitter
                    Nah. These people are no doubt majority-Angels fans, zoomers and/or casuals.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post

                      Nah. These people are no doubt majority-Angels fans, zoomers and/or casuals.
                      That's true. I live in WI, so the people I talk to around school about baseball aren't Angels fans, but they are all high schoolers and many of them are casuals. I don't think many people who are super into baseball stats or history would claim Trout is the GOAT, at least not having only eight full seasons under his belt as of right now. But, among high school age fans - at least those I know - Trout is king. (Mostly based on WAR and homers.)
                      How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned batter / who scattered line drives from the spring to the fall / He did not resemble the up-to-date batter / who swings from the heels and misses the ball.

                      The up-to-date batter, I’m not very strong for / he shatters the ozone with all of his might / And that is the reason I hanker and long for / those who doubled to left, and tripled to right.

                      Comment

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