Most WAR leaders rank high in Box-Toppers points, but dominant NL pitchers are absent from WAR leaders list

Eight of the 11 leaders in baseball’s Wins Above Replacement statistic for 2016 are among their league’s top 10 pitchers or batters in Box-Toppers points.

WAR leaders’ Box-Toppers points

Here is how 2016 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) leaders fared in Box-Toppers points. Players are ranked by WAR. Also shown are their 2016 Box-Toppers points (BTP) and their rank in Box-Toppers points among all players.

Player Team WAR BTP Rank
1 Mike Trout Angels 10.6 12.5 25
2 Mookie Betts Red Sox 9.6 6.2 151
3 Kris Bryant Cubs 7.7 10.5 46
4 Jose Altuve Astros 7.7 12.5 26
5 Josh Donaldson Blue Jays 7.4 9.7 57
6 Robinson Cano Mariners 7.3 8.0 86
7 Kyle Seager Mariners 6.9 9.5 61
8 Manny Machado Orioles 6.7 12.7 21
9 Justin Verlander Tigers 6.6 14.7 12
10 Brian Dozier Twins 6.5 2.0 411
10 Corey Kluber Indians 6.5 21.2 5
BTP: Box-Toppers points

Oddly, the list of 11 players with the highest WAR includes no National League pitchers, who dominated in Box-Toppers points in 2016, occupying eight of the 10 top spots in season Box-Toppers rankings.

Mike Trout of the Angels led all players in WAR with 10.6. Trout had 12.5 Box-Toppers points in 2016, ranked second among American League batters and 25th among all players. Trout was also voted AL Most Valuable Player.

For many baseball experts, WAR is the key statistic used to measure and compare players against each other and is the rare statistic used to directly compare pitchers and batters.

Box-Toppers was devised in the mid-1990s (before I 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., 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.

In 2016, many of the leaders in Box-Toppers points are also among the leaders in WAR, with nine of the 11 WAR leaders among the overall top 100 in Box-Toppers points. Eight of the 11, as previously mentioned, were also among their top 10 league batters or pitchers in Box-Toppers points.

But while batters dominate the top 11 in WAR (with nine of 11 players on the list), all top 10 players leading Box-Toppers rankings are pitchers. (Box-Toppers’ top batter in 2016, Manny Machado of the Orioles ranks 21st among all players in Box-Toppers points with 12.7.) Further, eight of the top 10 players in Box-Toppers top 10 for 2016 are NL pitchers; the only two pitchers among the top 11 in WAR are from the AL.

Only one player among the top 11 in WAR is from the NL—Kris Bryant of the Cubs, ranked third with a WAR of 7.7. Bryant had 10.5 Box-Toppers points, ranked second among NL batters and 46th among all players. Bryant was also voted NL Most Valuable Player.

Box-Toppers’ highest-ranked player to make the list of top 10 in WAR is Indians pitcher Corey Kluber, who tied for 10th in WAR with 6.5. Kluber had 21.2 Box-Toppers points in 2016, fifth among all players and first among AL pitchers.

The only other pitcher among the top 11 in WAR is Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who ranked ninth in WAR with 6.6. Verlander had 14.7 Box-Toppers points, fourth among AL pitchers and 12th among all players.

Here is a look at the other players among the top 11 in WAR and how they fared in Box-Toppers points in 2016:

  • 2. Mookie Betts of the Red Sox had a WAR of 9.6, but only had 6.2 Box-Toppers points, 151st among all players and 37th among AL batters. Betts is only one of two players among the top 11 in WAR who ranked outside Box-Toppers’ overall top 100 players. How did Betts rank so highly in WAR and so comparatively low in Box-Toppers points? While Betts had impressive batting statistics (31 home runs, 113 runs batted in, 359 total bases), he earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors only four times in 2016 (though each time he was either AL Player of the Day or AL Batter of the Day, earning bonus points). Betts simply was surrounded by Red Sox teammates who frequently beat him out for Player of the Game honors in Red Sox wins. In fact, Betts ranks ninth among Red Sox players in Box-Toppers points for 2016, fourth among Red Sox batters, behind David Ortiz (8.0), Travis Shaw (7.0) and Hanley Ramirez (7.0).
  • 4. Jose Altuve of the Astros had a WAR of 7.7. He had 12.5 Box-Toppers points, third among AL batters and 26th among all players.
  • 5. Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays had a WAR of 7.4. He had 9.7 Box-Toppers points, seventh among AL batters and 57th among all players.
  • 6. Robinson Cano of the Mariners had a WAR of 7.3. He had 8.0 Box-Toppers points, 17th among AL batters and 86th among all players.
  • 7. Kyle Seager of the Mariners had a WAR of 6.9. He had 9.5 Box-Toppers points, ninth among AL batters and 61st among all players.
  • 8. Manny Machado of the Orioles had a WAR of 6.7. He had 12.7 Box-Toppers points, first among AL batters and 21st among all players.
  • 10. Brian Dozier of the Twins had a WAR of 6.5. He had only 2.0 Box-Toppers points, 96th among AL batters and 411th among all players, the lowest-ranked of the 11 WAR leaders.

Dozier and Indians pitcher Corey Kluber are actually tied for 10th place in WAR with 6.5, yet they are worlds apart when it comes to Box-Toppers points, with Kluber ranking fifth overall with 21.2 and Dozier ranking 411th with 2.0.

Kluber’s high Box-Toppers ranking can be understood. He pitched well on a World Series team. He truly was key to the Indians postseason push. He was called upon to pitch in three World Series games—and won two of them (though Box-Toppers statistics don’t account for postseason performance). Dozier, on the other hand, played on a Twins team that only won 59 games. Though he had an impressive year statistically (42 home runs, 99 runs batted in, 104 runs), there were simply fewer opportunities for him to earn Player of the Game honors since those are only awarded when his team wins. Dozier only earned Player of the Game honors twice in 2016.

But Dozier’s low Box-Toppers point total can’t be blamed entirely on the Twins’ low win total. Though Dozier had an impressive statistical year, his contributions simply were not key in many Twins wins. In fact, there are 11 Twins who had more Box-Toppers points in 2016 than Dozier, players whose contributions led to more Twins wins than his did. Dozier’s 2.0 Box-Toppers points ranks eighth among Twins batters in 2016. (Max Kepler led Twins batters with 6.5 Box-Toppers points.)

Here’s how Box-Toppers category leaders fared in WAR:

  • NL pitchers—Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer led all players in Box-Toppers points in 2016 with 25.7, but had a WAR of 6.2, third among all pitchers and first among NL pitchers.
  • AL pitchers—Kluber, as previously mentioned, led AL pitchers with 21.2 Box-Toppers points and tied for 10th in WAR with 6.5.
  • AL batters—Machado, as previously mentioned, led AL batters with 12.7 Box-Toppers points and ranked eighth in WAR with 6.7.
  • NL batters—Nolan Arenado of the Rockies led NL batters with 10.7 Box-Toppers and had a WAR of 6.5, ranked 10th among all batters and second among NL players, behind Bryant’s 7.7.

About 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. 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.

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WAR leaders for 2015

More on’s way of measuring WAR.