Mets pitcher Matt Harvey and Prince Fielder of the Rangers were selected this week as Major League Baseball’s Comeback Players of the Year.
Most improved playersHere are the 25 players who had the biggest gains in Box-Toppers points (BTP) from 2014 to 2015, ranked by their rise in points this season. Mets pitcher Matt Harvey had the biggest gain of 15.4 points, earning no points in 2014. The list includes players who made big jumps (such as Jake Arrieta of the Cubs), players who were rookies (such as Chris Heston and Kris Bryant) as well as players who were sidelined with injury or suspension in 2014 (such as Harvey and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees).
|1||Harvey, Matt 3075||pi sp||nym nl||15.4||15.4|
|2||Arrieta, Jake 2738||pi sp||chi nl||29.1||14.4|
|3||Walker, Taijuan 3453||pi sp||sea al||13.7||13.7|
|4||Cole, Gerrit 3232||pi sp||pit nl||19.0||13.3|
|5||Martinez, Carlos 3371||pi sp||stl nl||13.7||12.7|
|6||Beltre, Adrian 1141||3b||tex al||12.5||12.5|
|7||Heston, Chris 3437||pi sp||sf nl||11.4||11.4|
|8||Fielder, Prince 2029||dh||tex al||11.5||10.5|
|9||Salazar, Danny 3223||pi sp||cle al||13.4||10.4|
|10||Syndergaard, Noah 3472||pi sp||nym nl||10.4||10.4|
|11||Gonzalez, Carlos 2460||rf||col nl||11.5||10.0|
|12||Bradley, Jackie Jr. 3293||cf lf rf||bos al||9.5||9.5|
|13||Grichuk, Randal 3474||rf lf cf||stl nl||9.5||9.5|
|14||deGrom, Jacob 3343||pi sp||nym nl||22.4||9.4|
|15||Keuchel, Dallas 3050||pi sp||hou al||21.4||9.0|
|16||Harper, Bryce 3011||lf rf||dc nl||9.0||9.0|
|17||Bryant, Kris 3465||3b||chi nl||8.5||8.5|
|18||Happ, J.A. 2536||pi sp||pit nl||13.1||8.4|
|19||Rodon, Carlos 3494||pi sp||chi al||8.1||8.1|
|20||Drew, Stephen 2210||2b||nyy al||8.0||8.0|
|21||Familia, Jeurys 3446||pi cp||nym nl||8.0||8.0|
|22||Jungmann, Taylor 3493||pi sp||mil nl||8.0||8.0|
|23||Gray, Sonny 3259||pi sp||oak al||17.8||7.8|
|24||Rodriguez, Alex||dh||nyy al||7.7||7.7|
|25||DeSclafani, Anthony 3441||pi sp||cin nl||7.7||7.7|
What are those numbers after players' names?
Based on improvements in Box-Toppers point totals from 2014 to 2015, Harvey, indeed, saw an improvement of 15.4 points, the most of any player, earning Box-Toppers Most Improved Player from 2014 to 2015. Harvey was out recovering from Tommy John surgery all of 2014 and so had 0.0 Box-Toppers points. He bounced back in 2015 with 15.4.
But in the American League, Fielder actually had the third-highest rise in points over 2014 to 2015, increasing 10.5 points from 2014 with 11.5 points in 2015. That jump ranks eighth among all players.
However, given that baseball’s award is the “comeback” player, Fielder may actually be the highest ranked of players who were once solid, suffered a setback (he played only 42 games before season-ending neck surgery in 2014) and returned to form. There are two AL players who rank ahead of Fielder on Box-Toppers Most Improved list—Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers.
Walker improved 13.7 points from 2014 with 13.7 in 2015, the third-best increase from last season. Walker had 0.0 points in 2014, his rookie season, making his Box-Toppers debut April 27, 2015, with his first career Player of the Game honor. While he may be the AL’s most improved player, he did not suffer any setback to comeback from, so would technically not qualify as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Also, because he exceeded his rookie limits in 2014, he would not qualify as a Rookie of the Year candidate. But Box-Toppers crowns him Most Improved AL Player for 2015.
Beltre, Fielder’s Rangers teammate, improved 12.5 points from 2014 with 12.5 in 2015, the sixth-best increase from last season. Beltre also led all AL batters in Box-Toppers points in 2015. Here’s the deal on Beltre: Somehow in 2014, despite playing in 148 games and putting up decent numbers (.324, 19 HR, 77 RBI), he earned 0.0 Box-Toppers points. Granted, the Rangers had a lousy 2014, winning only 67 games and thereby limiting Beltre’s chances of earning Player of the Game honors.
Beltre played in only 57 games the Rangers won in 2014. In only 21 of those games did Beltre have a Box-Toppers game score of 0 or greater. His best chances of earning Player of the Game honors were six games in which he had a Box-Toppers game score of +2, the highest score he earned in any of the Rangers’ 2014 wins. But each time, another Rangers player had a higher Box-Toppers game score and won Player of the Game honors. Beltre had higher Box-Toppers game scores in 2014 (+5 on June 4 and +3 on Sept. 9) but they both came in Rangers’ losses, so he did not qualify to earn Player of the Game.
Oddly, though Fielder only played 42 games in 2014 and Beltre played in 148, Fielder had more 2014 Box-Toppers points than Beltre—1.0 vs. 0.0.
The list also includes players who did well in 2014 and did even better in 2015, led by Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, who had the second-best improvement among all players, rising 14.4 Box-Toppers points from 2014 to earn 29.1 in 2015. Arrieta ranked eighth among National League pitchers in 2014 but rose to lead all players in 2015, with the eighth-highest single-season Box-Toppers point total in 21 years of record keeping.
The list also includes seven players who had rookie status in 2015, all of whom had 0.0 Box-Toppers points in 2014. Here are those players and their ranking among Box-Toppers Most Improved Players:
- 7—Chris Heston, Giants, 11.4 Box-Toppers points.
- 10—Noah Syndergaard, Mets, 10.4.
- 13—Randal Grichuk, Cardinals, 9.5.
- 17—Kris Bryant, Cubs, 8.5.
- 19—Carlos Rodon, Indians, 8.1.
- 22—Taylor Jungmann, Brewers, 8.0.
- 25—Anthony DeSclafani, Reds, 7.7.
Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees also had a prominent comeback year. He spent 2014 suspended the entire season under baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy and so earned 0.0 Box-Toppers points. In 2015, he had 7.7 Box-Toppers points, the 24th-best increase from 2014. It was also his highest single-season Box-Toppers point total since 2010 when he had 13.7. Rodriguez leads all batters in career Box-Toppers points with 187.0 (record keeping began in 1995).