Aside from Kyle Schwarber’s torn ACL, the biggest story from baseball’s opening week was Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story. Two homers in his big league debut, one more in his second game, another in his third, and two more in his fourth. Then, after a temporary power outage in his fifth game, he hit another homer on Sunday for a grand total of seven home runs in the first six games of his career.
To put those numbers in perspective, 10 MLB teams generated seven home runs or less out of their shortstops in all of 2015!
With Story’s historic rookie start in mind, I began thinking about the best rookie seasons of all time. And after a weekend of research, here are my top three.
3. Dwight Gooden
Featuring a fastball that hovered close to 100 MPH and a devastating curveball, Dwight “Doc” Gooden put together a dominating rookie campaign in 1984. The lanky 19-year-old compiled a 17-9 record with 2.60 ERA (MLB average 3.81) and 1.073 WHIP. For the season, Gooden threw 218 innings and finished with a 8.3 WAR. And if not for Cubs right-hander Rick Sutcliffe’s ridiculous record (16-1) and a misguided press, Gooden would have won the Cy Young (Gooden had the better ERA and WHIP). For a taste of Gooden’s excellence, watch him strike out the side in the 1984 All-Star Game.
2. Dick Allen
After enduring racism as a minor leaguer in Arkansas, Allen made his debut with the Phillies at the age of 21. Using his power and speed, he burst on to the scene in 1964 with 29 HR and 91 RBI, along with a .382 OBP (MLB average .313) and .557 SLG (.378). At a time when greats like Clemente, Mays, Santo, and Frank Robinson were in their primes, Allen led the National League in runs scored, triples, and total bases. He finished with the third highest WAR in all of baseball at 8.2 and was top 10 in SLG, OPS, and extra base hits.
Side note: 1964 also featured one of the most controversial modern-day presidential candidates in Barry Goldwater (in many ways not unlike Trump). My all-time favorite campaign slogan (democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson referencing Goldwater): “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”
Side side note: Dick Allen had some swag.
1. Mike Trout
Ever heard of Donavan Tate, Matt Hobgood, Matt Purke, or Bobby Borchering? They were all taken in front of Trout in the 2009 draft. Meanwhile, Trout has compiled 38.5 WAR in just four big league seasons. In the greatest rookie season in the history of baseball, Trout finished 2012 with the best WAR in either league (10.3), an OBP just shy of .400, and an MLB-leading 49 stolen bases, not to mention 30 home runs and 129 runs (another MLB best). For his efforts, the 21-year-old phenom from New Jersey received all 28 first place votes for ROY and came in second to Miguel Cabrera (7.2 WAR and .330/.393/.606) for MVP. Oh yeah, and his defense was amazing.