Leaders in WAR diverge from top-ranked players in Box-Toppers points

“WAR? What it is good for?”

Edwin Starr would have you believe “absolutely nothing!” But baseball sabremeticians would have you believe that WAR, wins above replacement, is the key statistic used to measure and compare baseball players against each other.

WAR leaders’ Box-Toppers points

Here is how 2015 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) leaders fared in Box-Toppers points. Players are ranked by WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference.com. Also shown are their 2015 Box-Toppers points (BTP) and their rank in Box-Toppers points among all players.

Player Team WAR BTP Rank
1 Bryce Harper Nationals 9.9 9.0 63
2 Zack Greinke Dodgers 9.9 20.7 7
3 Mike Trout Angels 9.4 12.0 29
4 Jake Arrieta Cubs 9.0 29.1 1
5 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 8.8 9.9 48
6 Paul Goldschmidt Dbacks 8.8 10.2 42
7 Joey Votto Reds 7.6 5.0 195
8 Max Scherzer Nationals 7.6 21.0 6
9 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 7.5 25.7 2
10 A.J. Pollock Dbacks 7.4 7.5 98
BTP: Box-Toppers points

Leaders for the season in Box-Toppers points diverge from leaders in WAR. Only four of Box-Toppers’ top 10 players appear among the top 10 in WAR. However, four batters in the WAR top 10 are among their league’s top 10 batters in Box-Toppers points. Only two players among the WAR top 10 are not among their league’s top 10 batters in Box-Toppers points and only one is ranked outside Box-Toppers’ overall top 100 players—Joey Votto of the Reds (seventh in WAR with 7.6, 195th in Box-Toppers points with 5.0).

We came up with Box-Toppers points in the mid-1990s before we heard of WAR, as a way of determining a top player in each game played, a top player of the day in each league and a top overall player for the day. Points are awarded to those top players and those points accumulate over the season to provide a data point to compare players.

While Box-Toppers points and WAR are both used to compare players, WAR is a very different statistic. BaseballReference.com, from which the WAR scores used here are derived, defines WAR as “a single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add.”

Box-Toppers is a much more basic statistic with a much simpler formula than the dozens or hundreds of steps needed to figure WAR. Box-Toppers, without apology, does not include any fielding statistics as part of its formula, as WAR does. Also Box-Toppers, in essence, measures the number of wins a player is most responsible for. WAR, as its name indicates, measures the wins that player would have above a replacement player.

So while WAR and Box-Toppers points differ in many ways, they are similar in one key way—they both attempt to directly compare the usually segregated pitchers and batters with one shared, integrated statistic.

Bryce Harper of the Nationals led players in WAR with 9.9. To put that in some context, Baseball Reference says a WAR of 8.0 or more is considered Most Valuable Player quality and a WAR of 5.0 or more is considered All-Star quality. Harper was voted National League MVP. He had a Box-Toppers point total of 9.0 for 2015, which ranked 63rd among all players and seventh among NL batters.

Harper earned his Box-Toppers points by being Player of the Game in six of the Nationals wins in 2015. In four of those wins, Harper earned NL Batter of the Day honors and received 0.5 bonus points (for a total of 2.0 more) and on May 6, Harper was Box-Toppers overall Player of the Day and earned 1.0 bonus Box-Toppers point.

In 2013, Harper had more Box-Toppers points (9.4) but a far lower WAR measurement (3.7). And while his WAR was below the 5.0 threshold usually reserved for All-Stars, Harper was indeed an All-Star in 2013.

Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke also had a WAR of 9.9, the same as Harper, but is listed as second in WAR. Greinke had 20.7 Box-Toppers points in 2015, ranked seventh among all players and fifth among NL pitchers.

Mike Trout of the Angels had the highest WAR of any American League batter, 9.4. Trout had 12.0 Box-Toppers points, 29th among all players and second among AL batters.

Overall Box-Toppers points leader Jake Arrieta had the fourth-highest WAR of 9.0. Arrieta had 29.1 Box-Toppers points and won the NL Cy Young Award.

AL MVP winner Josh Donaldson had the fifth-highest WAR, 8.8—second-best among AL batters. Donaldson had 9.9 Box-Toppers points, ranked 48th among all players and seventh among AL batters.

AL Box-Toppers points leader and Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel did not appear among the top 10 players in WAR with 7.2. Keuchel had 21.4 Box-Toppers points and ranked fourth among all players.

Both players who led their leagues in Box-Toppers points among batters also do not appear among the top 10 in WAR:

  • Adrian Beltre of the Rangers led AL batters in Box-Toppers points with 12.5. Beltre had a WAR of 5.8. (In 2014, he had a higher war of 7.0, but earned no Box-Toppers points. More on how Beltre earned no Box-Toppers points in 2014.)
  • Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies led NL batters in Box-Toppers points with 11.5. Gonzalez had a WAR of 3.1.

Other notable players in the WAR top 10:

  • Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks ranked sixth in WAR with 8.8. He had 10.2 Box-Toppers points in 2015, ranked 42nd among all players and fourth among NL batters.
  • Joey Votto of the Reds ranked seventh in WAR with 7.6. He had only 5.0 Box-Toppers points in 2015, ranked 195th among all players and 32nd among NL batters.
  • Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer ranked eighth in WAR with 7.6, third among NL pitchers. Scherzer ranked sixth overall in Box-Toppers points with 21.0, fourth among NL pitchers.
  • Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw ranked ninth in WAR with 7.5, fourth among NL pitchers. Kershaw ranked second overall in Box-Toppers points with 25.7.
  • A.J. Pollock of the Diamondbacks ranked 10th in WAR with 7.4. He had 7.5 Box-Toppers points in 2015, ranked 98th among all players and 13th among NL batters.

About Box-Toppers—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.

More on BaseballReference.com’s way of measuring WAR.