If Box-Toppers points measured Silver Sluggers, most winners would be different

Only four of this year’s 18 Silver Slugger-award winners announced this week would receive the honor if it were measured by Box-Toppers points.

The Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards are given to the top hitter at each position in both the American League and National League as voted by baseball coaches and managers.

Only four of their 18 selections were among leaders for their position in Box-Toppers points during the season (see chart below for complete comparisons):

• Jose Abreu of the White Sox led AL first basemen in Box-Toppers points with 15.5. He was ranked 14th overall and first among all AL batters.

• Mike Trout of the Angels ranked fourth among AL outfielders in Box-Toppers points with 8.5. (He made the Box-Toppers’ outfield starting three because outfielder Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays, who was ahead of him with 9.5 Box-Toppers points, also played designated hitter during the season and was placed in that spot in the end-of-season Box-Toppers’ AL all-star team, freeing up the third outfield spot for Trout.)

• Buster Posey of the Giants led NL catchers in Box-Toppers points with 8.5. He also ranked second among all NL batters in Box-Toppers points and ranked 76th among all players.

• Justin Upton of the Braves led NL outfielders in Box-Toppers points with 8.2. He ranked 80th among all players in Box-Toppers points.

Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

Because Box-Toppers measures purely offensive statistics for batters and doesn’t take into consideration defense or intangible leadership, it would seem that Box-Toppers points leaders would correlate closely with Silver Slugger winners, which also is all about batting. But in an overwhelming majority of cases this year, the Box-Toppers leader did not win a Silver Slugger award.

But Box-Toppers directly compares batters and pitchers. So a dominating pitcher could beat out a high-performing batter for Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors, giving the pitcher the Box-Toppers point and leaving the batter with none.

Also, some otherwise impressive batting statistics don’t necessarily translate into Box-Toppers points. For example, take this year’s AL batting average leader, Jose Altuve of the Astros, who won the AL Silver Slugger at second base. While Altuve’s batting average was high (.341), most of his league-leading 225 hits were singles (168) and he only drove in 59 runs. Plus, his opportunity to be Player of the Game in a team win was limited since the Astros only won 70 games. He had 3.5 Box-Toppers points on the season and was far behind the AL Box-Toppers points leader for second base, Robinson Cano of the Mariners, with 6.5 points. Altuve actually ranked 10th in Box-Toppers points among AL second basemen—not even close to serious contention.

It comes down to the question: Did you as a batter help your team win games?

Let’s take a look at the most glaring difference between a Box-Toppers point leader and a Silver Slugger winner at a position—AL third base:

The Box-Toppers points leader was Josh Donaldson of the Athletics with 10.5. The Silver Slugger winner was Adrian Beltre of the Rangers who had 0.0 Box-Toppers points.

Statistically, both players had similar years and evidence could suggest that Beltre’s year was better. He had more hits than Donaldson (178 vs. 155), more doubles (33 vs. 31), a higher batting average (.324 vs. .255) and a higher slugging percentage (.492 vs. .456). But Donaldson had more homers (29 vs. 19) and more runs batted in (98 vs. 77). The biggest difference may be team wins. Donaldson’s Athletics won more games than Beltre’s Rangers (88 vs. 67). Donaldson won Player of the Game eight times during the season, including earning bonus points for being AL Batter of the Day four times. 

That Beltre, given his statistics in 2014, did not earn Player of the Game honors even once is unusual. Beltre was a Box-Toppers points leader in both 2012 and 2013. In fact, in 2012, he led all AL batters in Box-Toppers points with 13.5. His statistics weren’t that different this year—but his team won far fewer games (they won 93 in 2012), giving him far fewer opportunities this year to earn Player of the Game honors.

With 24 AL third basemen finishing ahead of Beltre and only 15 AL teams, that means he was behind non-regular and part-time players. In fact, he was not even the highest-ranked third baseman on the Rangers—Guilder Rodriguez received 1.0 Box-Toppers point when he was Player of the Game on Sept. 22. Rodriguez was ranked 24th among AL third basemen.

Most other players named Silver Sluggers were at least somewhat close to their league’s Box-Toppers points leader for their position (see the chart below for comparisons). Among the exceptions: Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, who led NL batters in Box-Toppers points with 11.6, also led NL shortstops. The Silver Slugger winner at the position, Ian Desmond of the Nationals, had fewer than half as many Box-Toppers points—5.2, which was still good enough to finish third among NL shortstops.

But even though Tulowitzki put up great numbers and by far led NL batters in Box-Toppers points (second place was Posey’s 8.5), he won’t likely be considered for any postseason honors because of his limited playing time. Because of injuries and surgery, he played in only 91 of the team’s games—just over half the season.

And one more thing: Isn’t having a Silver Slugger Award for NL pitcher like having an award for tallest short person? Yes, NL starting pitchers do bat (but so do AL pitchers playing at NL parks in interleague games—and they don’t get an award) but usually their sample size for statistics is small. And they are being rewarded for a craft in which they are not expected to excel.

So, for what it’s worth, Madison Bumgarner of the Giants was awarded the Silver Slugger for NL pitcher. He had a .258 batting average in 66 at bats and hit four home runs.

In 2014, there were eight games in which a pitcher won Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors for batting. Six pitchers did it one time each. Bumgarner did it twice—on April 11 (when he was NL Batter of the Day) and on July 13. So, 2.5 of Bumgarner’s 22.6 Box-Toppers points came from batting, the most of any NL pitcher.

Bumgarner was ranked third in overall Box-Toppers points, second among NL pitchers.

Comparing Silver Sluggers to Box-Toppers leaders

Here are Box-Toppers points leaders by position in each league compared with the winners of the Silver Slugger awards. The Box-Toppers leaders are shown at left with their Box-Toppers points (BTP) for the season followed by their rank among all players. At right, the Silver Slugger award winners are shown, along with their Box-Toppers points (BTP), their overall rank and their rank by their position. The four players who were leaders in Box-Toppers points who also won Silver Slugger awards are highlighted in red.

Pos AL BTP leader Team BTP Rank AL Silver Slugger Team BTP Rank Rank
1B Jose Abreu White Sox 15.5 14 Jose Abreu White Sox 15.5 14 1
2B Robinson Cano Mariners 6.5 135 Jose Altuve Astros 3.5 291 10
SS Erick Aybar Angels 6.0 155 Alexei Ramirez White Sox 5.5 181 2
3B Josh Donaldson Athletics 10.5 40 Adrian Beltre Rangers 0.0 733 25
CA Brian McCann Yankees 6.5 136 Yan Gomes Indians 3.0 313 8
OF Adam Jones Orioles 11.5 40 Mike Trout Angels 8.5 78 4*
OF Nelson Cruz Orioles 8.5 77 Jose Bautista Blue Jays 6.5 139 8
OF Mike Trout Angels 8.5 78 Michael Brantley Indians 3.5 283 23
DH Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays 9.5 63 Victor Martinez Tigers 5.5 176 9
Pos NL BTP leader Team BTP Rank NL Silver Slugger Team BTP Rank Rank
1B Lucas Duda Mets 8.5 79 Adrian Gonzalez Dodgers 7.2 101 4
2B Jedd Gyorko Padres 7.2 103 Neil Walker Pirates 7.0 116 3
SS Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 11.6 39 Ian Desmond Nationals 5.2 183 3
3B Aramis Ramirez Brewers 5.0 194 Anthony Rendon Nationals 4.5 233 5
CA Buster Posey Giants 8.5 76 Buster Posey Giants 8.5 76 1
OF Justin Upton Braves 8.2 80 Andrew McCutchen Pirates 6.5 137 6
OF Marcell Ozuna Marlins 8.0 88 Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 6.7 130 5
OF Matt Holliday Cardinals 7.5 97 Justin Upton Braves 8.2 80 1
PI ** Madison Bumgarner Giants 22.6 3 2

* Mike Trout finished fourth among AL outfielders in Box-Toppers points but was still ranked among the top three in the AL outfield in Box-Toppers points because another outfielder who finished ahead of him (Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays) also played at designated hitter and was placed there on the end-of-season AL all-star team, freeing up the third outfield spot for Trout.

** Box-Toppers measures pitching performance mainly by how a pitcher pitches. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers led NL pitchers with 31.5 Box-Toppers points. However, Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, who won the Silver Slugger award, did lead NL pitchers in batting in Box-Toppers points, earning 2.5 of his 22.6 overall Box-Toppers points for earning Player of the Game for his batting performance.

Box-Toppers complete postseason awards coverage

Here are links to more details on each of baseball’s 2014 postseason awards, including Box-Toppers points leaders in each category and the full voting results and analysis:

Silver Slugger Awards

Box-Toppers points leaders win only four of the 18 awards in each position, voted on by baseball coaches and managers.

Rookie of the Year Awards

Box-Toppers points leaders win both the AL award (Jose Abreu of the White Sox) and NL award (Jacob deGrom of the Mets) as voted by baseball writers.

Cy Young Awards

Box-Toppers points leaders win both the AL award (Corey Kluber of the Indians) and NL award (Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers) as voted by baseball writers.

Most Valuable Player Awards

Box-Toppers overall points leader Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, a pitcher, wins the NL MVP, as voted by baseball writers. However, the leader in Box-Toppers points among AL batters, Jose Abreu of the White Sox, finishes behind the AL MVP as voted by baseball writers, Mike Trout of the Angels.