Welcome to Box-Toppers for the 2014 Major League Baseball season

Welcome to a new season of baseball tracked by Box-Toppers.

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. Players earn Box-Toppers points 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.

Think of it this way: A Box-Toppers point is similar to a win for a pitcher, except that all players—pitchers and batters—are eligible. The “win” has always seemed like a weird stat, anyway. Why is only the pitcher responsible for the win? Why can’t a batter who did more to earn the win also be eligible to earn it? And it also seems weird that sometimes the pitcher who did the worst could actually “earn” the win, simply because he left the game with his team leading.

That said, pitchers generally score higher than batters in Box-Toppers points. In 2013, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw led all players with 21.7 Box-Toppers points. Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer led American League players with 18.1. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers led all batters with 16.9 and Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks led all National League batters with 13.7.

Taking a closer look at Kershaw’s 21.7 Box-Toppers point total: 

• He earned Player of the Game honors in 16 of the Dodgers’ victories (giving him 16.0 Box-Toppers points).

• He was overall Player of the Day five times (giving him 5.0 Box-Toppers bonus points).

• He was NL Player of the Day once (giving him 0.7 Box-Toppers bonus points).

Kershaw earned a win in 15 of the games in which he was Player of the Game (he had 16 total wins in 2013). On June 15, he was the game’s top player though he earned a no decision.

Box-Toppers and baseball writers agreed on three of the four players chosen for major postseason awards in 2013: Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award, Scherzer won the AL Cy Young Award and Cabrera won AL Most Valuable Player Award. But baseball writers picked Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates over Goldschmidt for NL MVP (Goldschmidt finished second in MVP voting).

McCutchen did not fare as well in Box-Toppers points. He had 6.0 Box-Toppers points for the season, 22nd among NL batters. Teammate Pedro Alvarez had more Box-Toppers points than McCutchen with 7.7.

To be fair, McCutchen had better Box-Toppers seasons in both 2011 and 2012 (he was among the top 10 NL batters in 2011). In addition, Box-Toppers scope is limited. It does not look at a player’s defense. It also does not look at clubhouse leadership or the immeasurable intangibles which are extensively definitively quantified and calculated. 

This is the second season of Box-Toppers.com as a website, sharing this method of following baseball’s top players with an ostensibly larger audience. But I’ve been following baseball with this system since 1995, which means two things:

• 2014 is Box-Toppers’ 20th season.

• I have been keeping track of games longer than Derek Jeter has been in the Major Leagues.

Jason Giambi is the only player who has received Box-Toppers points in each of the previous 19 seasons. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, he has a chance to be the first to earn points in each of 20 seasons in April (he is currently on the 15-day disabled list). Giambi, 43, has 133.4 Box-Toppers points (since 1995), seventh among all batters since Box-Toppers record keeping began.

What to expect from Box-Toppers in 2014:

• Each day, Box-Toppers will have a report on the day’s games (usually posted the morning after games), showing each game’s Player of the Game and top overall Players of the Day. (Here is an example of a post from the games of Sept. 11, 2013.)

• Weekly posts showing rankings of Box-Toppers points leaders and team standings (usually posted on Fridays). (Example posts from 2013 shown in links.)

• Links to Box-Toppers posts and other comments can be found through Twitter, Facebook or RSS. Occasionally, there will be a notable Box-Toppers statistic posted on Twitter and Facebook as #statofday. One thing I will also try this year is to follow one player and post his Box-Toppers status to Twitter and Facebook through the season. I’m going to choose Derek Jeter of the Yankees in his final season (#jeterwatch).

Some recent Box-Toppers posts have included:

Predictions for the 2014 season, based on past Box-Toppers statistics. (Spoiler alert: Box-Toppers picks the Dodgers over the Tigers in the World Series).

• The Box-Toppers 2014 pre-season All-Star team.

• The Stick-A-Fork-In-Them series, featuring players whose careers are done (or may be done), including the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. 

• A look at who has led in Box-Toppers points over the previous two seasons (2012 and 2013) and over the previous six seasons (2008 to 2013). (Spoiler alert: It was Clayton Kershaw in both cases, who also led all players in 2013.)

• A closer look at how Box-Toppers leaders fared in MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year voting in 2013.

And as we start another season, I rededicate this effort in the memory of my brother, Andy, who was the true baseball fan in the family. Andy died at 40 in 2010. He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2005. (More on Andy in last year’s inaugural Welcome-to-Box-Toppers post.)

Play ball.