Wins leaders Arrieta, Keuchel also lead leagues in Box-Toppers player rankings

Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta led all pitchers in wins in 2015 and also led all players in Box-Toppers points.

Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel led all American League pitchers in wins in 2015 and also led all AL pitchers in Box-Toppers points.

Win leaders’ Box-Toppers points

Here is how 2015 win (W) leaders fared in Box-Toppers points. Players are listed by most wins. Also shown are their 2015 Box-Toppers points (BTP) and their rank in Box-Toppers points among all players.

Player Team W BTP Rank
1 Jake Arrieta Cubs 22 29.1 1
2 Dallas Keuchel Astros 20 21.4 4
3 Collin McHugh Astros 19 9.7 49
3 Zack Greinke Dodgers 19 20.7 7
3 Gerrit Cole Pirates 19 19.0 12
6 David Price Blue Jays 18 21.1 5
6 Madison Bumgarner Giants 18 17.0 13
6 Felix Hernandez Mariners 18 19.4 8
9 Michael Wacha Cardinals 17 9.7 53
9 Colby Lewis Rangers 17 7.7 93
BTP: Box-Toppers points

Arrieta had 22 wins and earned 29.1 Box-Toppers points. Keuchel had 20 wins and earned 21.4 Box-Toppers points.

In general, wins leaders did well in Box-Toppers points. The top 10 wins leaders are all among the top 100 players in Box-Toppers points for 2015. Seven of 10 of the top 10 were ranked among the top 10 pitchers in their league in Box-Toppers points.

Box-Toppers points are a measure of how much a player provides key contributions to his team’s wins. Specifically, 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.

Since Box-Toppers points are awarded to the top player in a game, it can be seen as almost equivalent to the win statistic for pitchers, with a few key differences. First, any player in the game—pitcher or batter—is eligible to earn Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors. Second, because a pitcher can earn bonus points for being top overall player for the day (1.0 bonus point) or their league’s top pitcher of the day (0.7 bonus points), they may wind up with more Box-Toppers points than wins. And third, pitchers can earn Box-Toppers points even when they earn no decision.

Still, Box-Toppers point totals should roughly coincide with a pitcher’s win total. For example, Gerrit Cole of the Pirates had 19.0 Box-Toppers points and won 19 games. It seems to line up perfectly. Except that Cole did not earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for each of his wins. Cole earned Box-Toppers points in only 14 of his 19 wins and he earned 1.0 Box-Toppers point once during the season when he received a no decision. So Cole earned Player of the Game honors 15 times, giving him 15.0 Box-Toppers points. He earned the other 4.0 points by earning bonus points for being Player of the Day four times (1.0 bonus point each time), giving him 19.0 Box-Toppers points for the season.

While Cole’s Box-Toppers points and wins happen to coincide, quite often those numbers are very different. Here are some examples:

  • Among the top 10 pitchers, Arrieta has the biggest positive differential between wins and Box-Toppers points—he has 7.1 more Box-Toppers points (29.1) than wins (22).
  • Collin McHugh of the Astros and Colby Lewis of the Rangers both have the biggest negative differential between wins and Box-Toppers points of −9.3. McHugh tied for third in wins with 19 and had only 9.7 Box-Toppers points. Lewis tied for ninth in wins with 17 and had only 7.7 Box-Toppers points.

What does this tell us? Here’s my take. A player with more Box-Toppers points than wins more likely contributed more to his team’s wins. A player with fewer Box-Toppers points than wins more likely was not the key reason his team won the games. In this case, it is more likely that other players’ contributions were more integral in earning the win and often, the pitcher just happened to exit the game with the lead, doing just enough to earn the win.

In other words, the higher the positive differential between Box-Toppers points and wins (such as Arrieta’s +7.1), the more sincere and deserved those wins are for the pitcher. 

Of the top five pitchers, McHugh is an anomaly, earning only 9.7 Box-Toppers points despite earning 19 wins. McHugh finished only one win behind teammate, Box-Toppers AL pitching leader and AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and yet finished more than 10 Box-Toppers points behind him, with fewer than half Keuchel’s Box-Toppers point total. Why? McHugh earned Player of the Game honors nine times (compared to 16 times for Keuchel) and earned bonus points only once (compared to six times for Keuchel). Both players started roughly the same number of games (Keuchel 33, McHugh 32), but Keuchel pitched more innings (232 vs. 203.2), allowed fewer hits (185 vs. 207), fewer runs (68 vs. 89) and struck out more batters (216 vs. 171). Keuchel was clearly not twice as good as McHugh, but his edge in key statistics propelled him to earn more than twice as many Box-Toppers points as McHugh.

Two pitchers among the overall top five in Box-Toppers points for the season also had impressive differentials between Box-Toppers points and wins:

  • Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw ranked 11th in wins with 16 and ranked second among all players in Box-Toppers points with 25.7. He had a differential of +9.7 in points over wins, the most of any player.
  • Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom ranked 21st in wins with 14 and ranked third among all players in Box-Toppers points with 22.4. He had a differential of +8.4 in points over wins, the second most of any player.