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Examining the greatest rookie performances by a positional player
The Angels’ Mike Trout continues to chase history as a 21-year-old rookie bidding to become just the third rookie to win AL MVP honors. How does his season stack up against the best rookie seasons by a positional player of all-time?
Here’s our ranking:
1. Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1939
The Splendid Splinter burst onto the scene in Boston leading the American League with 145 RBIs and 344 total bases. His command of the strike zone was immediately evident by his 107 walks.
2. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, 2001
After a meteoric rise in the minor leagues, the 13th-round draft pick started more than 30 games at four different positions in 2001. On a team that included Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds, the rookie led the Redbirds in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
3. Dale Alexander, Detroit Tigers, 1929
His career was brief — only five seasons — due to a knee injury, but his rookie season was stellar. The Tigers’ first baseman led the circuit with 215 hits and did not miss a game. He won a batting title in 1932.
4. Fred Lynn, Boston Red Sox, 1975
Some of his numbers pale when compared to other eras, but the 1970s were not kind to hitters. The Gold Glove outfielder is one of only six rookies with 100 runs and RBIs, and he led the AL in runs, doubles, slugging and OPS. He was the first rookie to win an MVP.
5. Richie Allen, Philadelphia Phillies, 1964
Later known as Dick Allen, the enigmatic slugger had some difficulty finding a home later in his career. But during his rookie season, the Phillies’ offense leaned on him as he led the NL in runs and triples. He started every game at third base.
6. Mark McGwire, Oakland A’s, 1987
Before his arms blew up like Popeye’s, McGwire was a feared slugger for Oakland. Part of the Bash Brothers with Jose Canseco, McGwire established a rookie record with 49 home runs, which led the AL that season.
7. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners, 2001
Ichiro came to America as the owner of seven batting titles in Japan, not exactly inexperienced. But winning a batting title, a stolen base title and earning MVP honors in his first season in the U.S. is impressive.
8. Tony Oliva, Minnesota Twins, 1964
Oliva won a batting title and led the American League in hits, runs and doubles. He joined Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew to form a formidable lineup for the Twins in the 1960s, leading the team to the World Series in 1965, and to two division titles in 1969-70.
9. Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, 1936
Joltin’ Joe certainly had a spectacular supporting cast, but DiMaggio began his assault on American League pitching right out of the box. He finished eighth in MVP voting and it marked the only time in his career that he led the league in triples.
10. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox, 1972
Fans most vivid memory of Fisk is the stout catcher waving a home run fair to walkoff Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. But Pudge won a Gold Glove as a rookie and led the AL with nine triples. His OPS+ of 162 that season ranks among the best ever for a first-year player.
11. Johnny Mize, St. Louis Cardinals, 1936
The Hall of Famer had a .400 on-base percentage in each of his first six seasons in the majors. He also never dipped below 30 doubles during that time. He missed three full seasons due to military service during WWII, and wasn’t quite the same player when he returned.
12. Frank Robinson, Cincinnati Reds, 1956
Robinson, who would become the first player to win the MVP award in both leagues, got the attention of National League pitchers quickly in 1956. His OPS of .936 finished second in the NL to Duke Snider, and ahead of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.
13. Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox, 1997
Nomar led the league in hits and triples during his rookie campaign. He earned a trip to the All-Star Game, finished eighth in MVP balloting and won a Silver Slugger award.
14. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 2007
His rookie season was briefer than most since he didn’t make his debut until May 25. But his 34 home runs tied for fifth in the league and his .634 slugging topped the NL.
15. Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1993
The second of five consecutive Dodgers to win the NL Rookie of the Year, Piazza started 141 games behind the plate. He led the Dodgers in average, runs, homers and RBIs.
Del Bissonette, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1928
Del Ennis, Philadelphia Phillies, 1946
Mitchell Page, Oakland A’s, 1977
Paul Waner, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1926
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