Category Archives: Top Ten

Top MLB Players 9/17/2017

We last did this a month ago and a lot has changed.  This will be the last top MLB players  report for this season as we’ll focus on what really matters, playoff horse races starting tomorrow.  Here are your top ten players in MLB.  As always, pitchers get ranked with hitters,  AL and NL are combined to create a larger pool of data to draw averages from.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 8.25 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
+002+ 8.19 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+003+ 8.11 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+004+ 7.90 Giancarlo_Stanton_MIA RF
+005+ 7.60 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+006+ 7.22 Gio_Gonzalez_WAS PITCH
+007+ 7.10 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B
+008+ 7.08 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+009+ 6.99 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+010+ 6.89 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF

Kershaw again fighting for the top spot but Kluber has taken the lead.  Harper has been hurt so his WAA has been frozen or he’d be on the top of this pile as well.  Kluber has had an interesting season because he struggled in April and May.  He averaged out at the start of June and here is his trajectory.

Date WAA Name_TeamID Pos
2017-06-04 0.00 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-06-11 0.15 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-06-19 0.48 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-06-27 2.04 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-07-07 3.32 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-07-20 3.74 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-07-30 4.09 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-08-07 4.85 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-08-14 5.65 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-08-22 5.90 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-08-26 6.28 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-09-03 7.16 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
2017-09-12 7.41 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH

The Indians are +35 now which is an incredible streak.  Cleveland was +4 as a team on 6/4/2017 at the start of this table and gained +31 wins.  Kluber accounts for 8.25 (current value not in above table) of those wins.   Jake Arrieta  had an similar run starting in June of the 2015 season which won him a Cy Young trophy.

Playoff horse race starts tomorrow and we may use today’s dataset to compile the tables.  Normally we would show WAR top ten and do compares but that’s not important  now.  We  will compile the current dataset of historical playoff data and look at some interesting reports that may portend what will happen during these playoffs.  Until then.,…

Top MLB Players as of 8/9/2017

We haven’t done top MLB players since our all star picks a month ago.  A month is enough time for the leader board to change.  Here is the current top ten MLB players, both batters and pitchers ranked together, as of all games up to and including yesterday.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos  WAR Rank
+001+ 7.67 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+002+ 7.54 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH  +020+
+003+ 6.83 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+004+ 6.43 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+005+ 6.24 Chris_Sale_BOS PITCH
+006+ 6.01 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B
+007+ 5.71 Gio_Gonzalez_WAS PITCH
+008+ 5.65 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF  +035+
+009+ 5.65 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+010+ 5.63 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH

Kershaw is hurt so he’ll linger in this list for the rest of the year or until he comes back.  Last year +7.54 would make him #4.  Kershaw usually ends up #1 or #2.   He’s simply the best pitcher in  baseball right now.  Let’s look at his career.

Year WAA Name_TeamID Pos Rank
2008 0.1 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH XXXXX
2009 5.8 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +027+
2010 5.6 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +029+
2011 9.3 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +002+
2012 7.8 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +005+
2013 11.3 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +001+
2014 9.0 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +001+
2015 10.0 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +003+
2016 8.6 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +003+
2017 7.5 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH +002+
Total 75.0

A +75 gets you into the HOF according to our historical samples.  Kershaw may have a few years left in him.  WAR has Kershaw ranked #20 this season.  That’s probably because he gave up 4 solo home runs in a single game awhile ago.  WAR keeps track of home runs.  We  keep track of runs.  A solo home run counts  the same as a double driving in a run yet WAR values those two events  differently.

Let’s look at the top ten according to WAR.

Rank WAR Name_TeamID Pos  WAA Rank
+001+ 6.3 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B  +041+
+002+ 6.2 Andrelton_Simmons_ANA SS  XXXXX
+003+ 5.8 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+004+ 5.5 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+005+ 5.3 Chris_Sale_BOS PITCH
+006+ 5.3 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+007+ 5.1 Mookie_Betts_BOS RF  +075+
+008+ 5.0 Gio_Gonzalez_WAS PITCH
+009+ 5.0 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
+010+ 5.0 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B

The names colored in tan in both tables are for players this data model and WAR pretty much agree.  Either ours are in their top 25 or theirs are in our top 25.  Nine of ten in our table agreed with WAR and Blackmon, the only outlier, was still #35 in WAR rankings so not that far off.

We covered Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts last June when we did this and the differences between the two systems are less now.  Since WAR folds defense into their calculation (which is a very subjective measure), that’s how those two outliers happened.

That leaves  Andrelton Simmons currently ranked #2 by WAR.   Being ranked #2 out of all MLB players is a huge deal because there are 750 players on MLB rosters right now.    Let’s look at Simmons’ full line according to this data model.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
XXXXX -0.23 0.306 0.361 460 49 59 Andrelton_Simmons_ANA SS
+104+ 2.21 0.264 0.388 490 71 66 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 1B

Simmons is unranked according to this model and slightly below average.  I placed Anthony Rizzo who is currently ranked #104 in this table for comparison.  Simmons has a higher BA but lower OBP.  What does that tell us?  Nothing.  The numbers in tan tell us their run production and Rizzo beats Simmons by a lot in each column.  Rizzo isn’t even considered in the top 100 yet.

Let’s look at Aaron Judge who WAR has being ranked 4 slots below Simmons.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
+009+ 5.65 0.297 0.424 467 78 85 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF

Judge is obviously superior to Simmons in hitting just scanning BA/OBP/RBI/R columns.  Our WAA calculations combines all of that into a weighting factor that can be ranked.  We know Simmons is an average run producer this season because we can precisely calculate it just like we use this same method to calculate and rank  every player since 1900.

I had to google Simmons to find out what could possibly distort WAR that much because as we have shown, we’re pretty much in agreement at the top end of the league.  Fangraphs had an answer.

From:  Andrelton Simmons Is Cool Again

Simmons is still maybe the best defensive shortstop in baseball. I can’t prove that, but an argument exists.

The article gets into a lot of nonsense stats after that but the above is the gist of why Simmons is now ranked so high.   That article also shows they use stats  like Magic the Gathering cards to be used to support an “argument.”  I play a strikeout ratio card, you play a BABIP card, we keep playing until one player wins.    Simmons is getting the Darwin Barney treatment to the extreme.  There is a divide by zero somewhere in the bowels of the WAR calculation that causes this.  The Anaheim Angels aren’t 56-58 because they have the second best player in baseball.

That is all for now.   AAA analysis tomorrow and Cubs start a new series with Arizona again.  Until then….

Top Ten MLB Players 6/23/2017

It has been 12 days since we last did this.   Both AL and NL, pitchers and batters, get ranked together.  This model assigns wins to all players equally according to the runs they produce (batters) or the runs the don’t let score (pitchers).  Both are equally important.   Here are the top ten MLB players according to this data model.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 5.80 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+002+ 5.75 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+003+ 5.19 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+004+ 4.58 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+005+ 4.54 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+006+ 4.45 Jason_Vargas_KCA PITCH
+007+ 4.45 Ryan_Zimmerman_WAS 1B
+008+ 4.28 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF
+009+ 4.01 Cody_Bellinger_LAN LF-1B
+010+ 3.97 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH

Here is the top ten according to WAR.

Rank WAR Name_TeamID Pos  WAA Rank
+001+ 4.2 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+002+ 4.1 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+003+ 3.9 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+004+ 3.6 Jason_Vargas_KCA PITCH
+005+ 3.4 Mookie_Betts_BOS RF  XXXXX
+006+ 3.4 Mike_Trout_ANA CF  41
+007+ 3.3 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B  16
+008+ 3.3 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+009+ 3.3 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B  XXXXX
+010+ 3.2 Carlos_Carrasco_CLE PITCH  20

The highlighted names in the above table are those where this model and WAR both have these players in the top ten somewhere.  We have Carrasco #20 and Trout #41.   The bad outliers are Betts and Altuve who we have unranked, out of top 200.  WAR folds defense into its weighting factor which is what caused Darwin Barney to have a WAR=4.8 and ranked #39 in 2012.  Darwin Barney’s WAR is the inspiration behind the creation of this data model back in 2013.  We’ll get into the flaw in how Sabermetrics measures defense later because it’s a big topic.  For now let’s look at the full lines of the two outlier players above.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
XXXXX 0.90 0.273 0.350 317 40 45 Mookie_Betts_BOS RF
XXXXX 0.90 0.322 0.394 313 34 47 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B

Mookie Betts had an incredible season last year.  We had him ranked #5 at the end of the 2016 season and WAR had him ranked #2.   His BA and OBP isn’t that spectacular.  We have him above average at 0.90 and coincidentally Altuve is at the same WAA value.  Altuve has a very high BA and OBP and the runs created formula favor that immensely which ends up in WAR’s final rating.  Altuve’s high WAR is understandable.  The only reason for Betts’ high WAR is either carry over from 2016 or a Darwin Barney like fluke defense addition.

Altuve has 34 RBIs and 47 Runs which is his run production.  He scampers around the bases more than he drives guys in but that’s just as important.  You can’t tell if the above is good or bad or what just by looking at those numbers.   You need to know team and league averages to come to the conclusion that Jose Altuve brought 0.9 wins above league average this season and that’s it.

Update 6/24/2017: The above now in italics is not entirely correct.  Basic Runs Created formula also relies heavily on total bases which is described in more detail here.  If a player hits a lot of home runs they accumulate fast in total bases — even if most of them are solo.  A player who hits a double to drive in guys on first and second scoring 2 runs will only add 2 to his Total Bases while a player who hits a solo home run adds 4.  Many players playing for their Draft Kings team want to hit home runs because it boosts  RC and WAR significantly.

Hit stats are game stats, stats Joe Maddon needs to know managing a game.  This data model computes a value stat.   WAR is a value stat which is why we compare the two.  We don’t keep track of home runs or hits of any type.  We have them if needed for proofs or disproofs but that’s all we use them for.  As mentioned above looking at Altuve’s run production provides no information without context.  That is a big problem blindly throwing around baseball stats.  Let’s look at Nolan Arenado’s numbers who we have at #16 and WAR has him slightly above.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
+016+ 3.30 0.301 0.352 321 59 47 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B

Arenado has 25 more RBIs than Altuve with the same number of runs.  That’s why we more or less agree with WAR over him.  Those extra 25 RBIs turned into real wins for the Rockies this yearEnd of Update 6/24/2017

To make this even more clear as to why we have Altuve at 0.9 let’s take a look at HOU which is one of the hottest teams in MLB this season.  They could be  World Series contenders  this year.

BAT PITCH Rs Ra W L UR LR TeamID
63.7 40.1 408 288 50 24 12.1 4.1 HOU

At 50-24 they have a real WAA=26 or some people say they’re 26 games above 0.500 (or average). In this data model, that 26 wins must be divvied up amongst all contributers on HOU. Let’s take a look at them.  Their UR is excellent which means HOU has very good fielding as a team (i.e. they don’t make a lot of costly errors).

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+005+ 4.54 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+022+ 3.04 George_Springer_HOU CF-RF
+025+ 2.96 Lance_McCullers_HOU PITCH
+031+ 2.71 Carlos_Correa_HOU SS
+047+ 2.44 Marwin_Gonzalez_HOU LF-1B-3B
+070+ 2.10 Jake_Marisnick_HOU CF
+099+ 1.70 Chris_Devenski_HOU PITCH
+103+ 1.68 Brian_McCann_HOU CR
+120+ 1.49 Will_Harris_HOU PITCH
+123+ 1.47 Brad_Peacock_HOU PITCH
+183+ 1.09 Evan_Gattis_HOU CR-DH
XXXXX 0.90 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B

This model counts real runs, assigns them, which gets estimated into wins.  Those above rankings truly reflect the wins each of those players contributed to make HOU 24 games above 0.500.  We could place a WAR value next to each of these players, add them up, and it won’t come anywhere close to reality.  There is a mathematical proof to this model and it is consistent from player to player, league to league, year to year.  Our ranking is correct here just like our ranking was correct for Darwin Barney in 2012.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
-126- -1.87 0.254 0.299 588 44 73 Darwin_Barney_CHN 2B 2012

That -126- means #126 in the bottom 200, a list no one wants to be #1.

Top Ten MLB Players 6/11/2017

We haven’t done MLB leaders in about two weeks now.  Here are the top ten MLB players according to this data model as of all games up to and including 6/10 (snapshot taken 6/11).

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 4.77 Ervin_Santana_MIN PITCH
+002+ 4.33 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+003+ 4.20 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+004+ 4.14 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+005+ 4.12 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF
+006+ 4.07 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+007+ 3.91 Ryan_Zimmerman_WAS 1B
+008+ 3.84 Jake_Lamb_ARI 3B
+009+ 3.82 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+010+ 3.76 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH

Ervin Santana still on top and Minnesota is doing well because of it.  Washington has three guys in the top ten this week again which is why they’re 15 games up right now.  The top WAA two weeks was 4.47 so it only rose 0.3.  This is the point of a season where the leader board churns for awhile which is why it always ends the year around 10 even though if you extrapolate based on games played Santana would be around 14 or 15 by season end.  Much of the above players were the same two weeks ago.

Let’s look at top ten at this date last year.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos 6/11/2016
+001+ 5.80 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+002+ 4.72 Jake_Arrieta_CHN PITCH
+003+ 4.18 Madison_Bumgarner_SFN PITCH
+004+ 4.18 Mookie_Betts_BOS OF
+005+ 4.05 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B
+006+ 4.03 Johnny_Cueto_SFN PITCH
+007+ 3.95 Steven_Wright_BOS PITCH
+008+ 3.91 Jon_Lester_CHN PITCH
+009+ 3.88 Noah_Syndergaard_NYN PITCH

The Cubs were one of the premier MLB teams and they had two guys in the top ten on this date last season even though they played 0.500 in June to the All Star break.   Comparison of WAA is completely valid from year to year so Jake Arrieta would be considered equivalent to Santana today.  Clayton Kershaw was pitching like a robot last year but he gets hurt sometime after this.

Top Ten WAR

We get WAR info from baseball-reference.com.  There are many variations to how WAR is calculated and very few people even know how that sausage is made.  As flawed as a value measure WAR is, over the years, baseball-reference.com had the most accurate when it comes to rankings.  Sites like Fangraphs tend to inflate WAR numbers so as not to upset fans of certain players which is why they gave a pitcher like Edwin Jackson a WAR=0.5 in 2014 when we, and even baseball-reference WAR had him ranked worst MLB player.  Here’s the top ten according to WAR.

Rank WAR Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 3.5 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+002+ 3.4 Mike_Trout_ANA CF
+003+ 3.3 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+004+ 3.3 Zack_Cozart_CIN SS
+005+ 3.2 Jason_Vargas_KCA PITCH
+006+ 3.2 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+007+ 3.1 Ervin_Santana_MIN PITCH
+008+ 3.0 Joey_Votto_CIN 1B
+009+ 2.9 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+010+ 2.9 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B

The ultimate judge of a value system is how it ranks players.  We have the 10 players in the above table somewhere in the top 25 and all of our top ten is in WAR’s top 25 right now.   Great players put up such good numbers in all categories they rise to the top of either of these value systems.  The error in WAR becomes more apparent in the muddy middle of the league and with part time players.  Since WAR depends so much on ratios and some very dubious stadium adjustments and even more dubious defense/fielding theories the rankings of those players can be warped significantly.  We already showed one example with Adam Eaton earlier.  Many of Washington’s top players are in WAR’s dog house this season for some reason.  We’ll get into more of this as the season progresses.  Until then….

Top Ten MLB Players 5/27/2017

We haven’t done this in 12 days.  Here are the top ten MLB players as of all games up to and including yesterday.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 4.47 Ervin_Santana_MIN PITCH
+002+ 4.14 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+003+ 3.44 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+004+ 3.44 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF
+005+ 3.36 Mike_Leake_SLN PITCH
+006+ 3.36 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+007+ 3.23 Chris_Sale_BOS PITCH
+008+ 3.23 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+009+ 3.17 Jake_Lamb_ARI 3B
+010+ 3.02 Mark_Reynolds_COL 1B

Washington only has 1 player in the top ten now.  Clayton Kershaw has taken his usual place in the top 3 somewhere.  Ervin Santana is back on top and will have a historic year if he keeps up this pace but there is 3/4 of a season left.  Players usually jump out of the gate in Spring and rack up some big numbers.  Doing that for an entire season is very very difficult which is why players like Cy Young and Babe Ruth still hold the top two best seasons.

Let’s provide some context to the above WAA numbers by showing the top players in the last two years:

2016

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos 5/27/2016
+001+ 4.43 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+002+ 3.82 Jake_Arrieta_CHN PITCH
+003+ 3.11 Noah_Syndergaard_NYN PITCH
+004+ 3.04 David_Ortiz_BOS DH
+005+ 2.92 Robinson_Cano_SEA 2B

2015

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos 5/27/2015
+001+ 4.30 Bryce_Harper_WAS OF
+002+ 4.01 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+003+ 3.93 Zack_Greinke_LAN PITCH
+004+ 3.53 Shelby_Miller_ATL PITCH
+005+ 3.40 A.J._Burnett_PIT PITCH

The top number this day the last two years is very similar to the current top ranking WAA  number yet none of these players had historic years at the end of the season.  Let’s look at the top player at the end of season last three years.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 9.55 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B 2016
+001+ 11.97 Zack_Greinke_LAN PITCH 2015
+001+ 8.97 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH 2014

In recent years the top WAA for a season has hovered around 10.   WAA can go down just as fast as it goes up.  If a player gets into a slump or has a bad streak it’s easy to play below average for awhile.  These flat lines and fluctuations are normal which is why we do not use WinPct as a ranking measure because that represents rate and rates never stay the same.  It’s the accumulated value that ranks a player.

Here is a post made in 2013 listing the top 25 greatest seasons for an individual player.  This data is still valid and provides context as to the top range of WAA for a season.  Pedro Martinez in 2000 pitching for BOS was the last player to break into the top 25 with a WAA=+15.9.