A 2015 opening day introduction to Box-Toppers player tracking metric

As the 2015 Major League Baseball season opens, Box-Toppers begins its 21st season tracking who most helps their teams win the most games, based on box score statistics. Here is an introduction to Box-Toppers:

What’s the most important thing in baseball?

Winning the game, right?

But what baseball statistic provides the fan an indication of the player who most contributed to the win? Logically, you might answer “the win” statistic, but it only applies to pitchers. Plus, in some circumstances, the win is not awarded to the pitcher most responsible for earning the win, but simply the pitcher who was in the game when the team took the lead.

What is needed is a metric that will select the player—from among pitchers and batters—who most contributed to his team’s win. And that’s where Box-Toppers comes in.

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. 

Further, 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. So, Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. As the season progresses, a player’s Box-Toppers point total can be compared with other players to determine the best player on a given team, at a given position—or even the best overall player in the game.

For example, in 2014, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw led all players with 31.5 Box-Toppers points. Here’s how he earned his points:

• He earned Player of the Game honors 20 times, giving him 20.0 Box-Toppers points.

• Five times, in addition to earning Player of the Game honors, he also won NL Player of the Day honors, earning 0.7 bonus points each time, for 3.5 more Box-Toppers points.

• Eight times he earned overall Player of the Day honors in addition to earning Player of the Game honors. He earned an extra 1.0 bonus Box-Toppers point for each Player of the Day honor, giving him 8.0 more Box-Toppers points.

So Kershaw received 20.0 Box-Toppers points for the times he earned Player of the Day, 3.5 for the times he earned NL Player of the Day and 8.0 for the times he earned overall Player of the Day, for a total of 31.5 Box-Toppers points. 

It is the fourth-highest single season total any player has earned since Box-Toppers record keeping began in 1995. Kershaw won both the National League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Awards. 

Indians pitcher Corey Kluber led all American League players with 25.8 Box-Toppers points—he also won the AL Cy Young Award.

However, Box-Toppers doesn’t always jibe with the major awards. In 2014, Mike Trout of the Angels won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. But Trout finished seventh among AL batters in Box-Toppers points with 8.5. Jose Abreu of the White Sox had 15.5 Box-Toppers points to lead AL batters. While Abreu finished fourth in the MVP vote, he did win 2014’s AL Rookie of the Year Award.

While the Box-Toppers metric has been used since the start of the 1995 season to track players, this is the third season for the Box-Toppers.com website.

On the website and the blog, Box-Toppers will track each day’s games, showing each game’s Player of the Game and the top overall Player of the Day (such as this post from opening night).

The website will also have regular posts weekly of overall Box-Toppers points leaders and team standings. These are usually posted on Fridays and will likely start a few weeks into the season as enough data is available to begin showing meaningful trends and results.

Box-Toppers will also have posts at other times as interesting Box-Toppers-related statistical nuggets are uncovered. Some recent examples:

On Twitter, we’ll include shorter posts about newsworthy players, their standing in Box-Toppers points and often, how they compare in the stat to other players.

During the 2014 season, Box-Toppers tracked the daily progress of several star players to show how they fared in the Box-Toppers metric. Why do some star players do relatively poorly in Box-Toppers points and why do some overlooked players do well? That was the question we set out to answer.

For example, we tracked both Mike Trout and Jose Abreu, making a daily case that Abreu was far more important to the White Sox’ wins than Trout was to the Angels’ wins. In the end, we picked the right player to track since Trout won the AL MVP, even though he finished seventh among AL batters in Box-Toppers points.

Stay up to date with Box-Toppers at the website, on Twitter, Facebook and through the RSS feed.