A look at Box-Toppers season-by-season AL & NL pitching & batting leaders, 1995-2017

Here are season-by-season leaders in Box-Toppers points for each of the 23 seasons of Box-Toppers tracking. The chart at the top shows American League leaders—the top pitcher on the left and the top batter on the right. And the bottom chart shows the National League leaders—pitchers (left) and batters (right). The charts show the players’ primary position during the season, the team they played for and their Box-Toppers point total (BTP) for the season. (FOR EXPLANATION AND ANALYSIS, SEE THE STORY BELOW THE CHART):

American League

 
Year Pitcher Pos Team BTP ` Batter Pos Team BTP
1995 Randy Johnson* pi sp Mariners 23.7 Albert Belle lf Indians 15.4
1996 Chuck Finley pi sp Angels 15.7 Albert Belle lf dh Indians 20.4
1997 Roger Clemens* pi sp Blue Jays 27.4 Juan Gonzalez dh Rangers 16.3
1998 Roger Clemens* pi sp Blue Jays 25.8 Albert Belle lf White Sox 16.4
1999 Pedro Martinez* pi sp Red Sox 31.4 Manny Ramirez rf dh Indians 19.9
2000 Pedro Martinez* pi sp Red Sox 33.5 Frank Thomas dh 1b White Sox 17.9
2001 Tim Hudson pi sp Athletics 18.8 Bret Boone 2b Mariners 13.7
2002 Pedro Martinez pi sp Red Sox 28.8 Jason Giambi 1b dh Yankees 17.0
2003 Pedro Martinez pi sp Red Sox 23.4 Carlos Delgado 1b Blue Jays 17.7
2004 Johan Santana* pi sp Twins 26.8 Gary Sheffield rf Yankees 16.2
2005 Johan Santana pi sp Twins 24.1 David Ortiz dh Red Sox 14.7
2006 Johan Santana* pi sp Twins 25.7 David Ortiz dh Red Sox 16.7
2007 Johan Santana pi sp Twins 18.1 Alex Rodriguez* 3b Yankees 18.9
2008 Ervin Santana pi sp Angels 16.7 Aubrey Huff dh 3b 1b Orioles 12.5
2009 Zack Greinke* pi sp Royals 21.5 Miguel Cabrera 1b Tigers 16.5
2010 Jon Lester pi sp Red Sox 23.4 Jose Bautista rf 3b Blue Jays 15.2
2011 Justin Verlander* pi sp Tigers 24.4 Asdrubal Cabrera ss Indians 14.7
2012 Justin Verlander pi sp Tigers 24.8 Adrian Beltre 3b Rangers 13.0
2013 Max Scherzer* pi sp Tigers 18.1 Miguel Cabrera* 3b Tigers 16.9
2014 Corey Kluber* pi sp Indians 25.8 Jose Abreu 1b White Sox 15.5
2015 Dallas Keuchel* pi sp Astros 21.4 Adrian Beltre 3b Rangers 12.5
2016 Corey Kluber pi sp Indians 21.2 Manny Machado 3b ss Orioles 12.7
2017 Chris Sale pi sp Red Sox 25.1 Edwin Encarnacion dh 1b Indians 12.1

National League

 
Year Pitcher Pos Team BTP Batter Pos Team BTP
1995 Greg Maddux* pi sp Braves 23.4 Sammy Sosa rf Cubs 15.9
1996 John Smoltz* pi sp Braves 26.1 Ellis Burks lf cf Rockies 18.4
1997 Pedro Martinez* pi sp Expos 26.7 Larry Walker* rf Rockies 18.5
1998 Randy Johnson† pi sp Astros 26.4 Mark McGwire 1b ph Cardinals 14.9
1999 Randy Johnson* pi sp Dbacks 31.5 Barry Bonds lf Giants 15.2
2000 Randy Johnson* pi sp Dbacks 33.7 Todd Helton 1b Rockies 15.2
2001 Randy Johnson* pi sp Dbacks 29.4 Todd Helton 1b Rockies 17.0
2002 Randy Johnson* pi sp Dbacks 33.7 Barry Bonds* lf Giants 20.7
2003 Jason Schmidt pi sp Giants 24.7 Albert Pujols lf 1b Cardinals 16.5
2004 Eric Gagne pi cp Dodgers 19.7 Albert Pujols 1b Cardinals 15.9
2005 Chris Carpenter* pi sp Cardinals 21.0 Adam Dunn lf Reds 14.7
2006 John Smoltz pi sp Braves 19.1 Lance Berkman 1b Astros 20.8
2007 Jake Peavy* pi sp Padres 23.4 Matt Holliday lf Rockies 16.2
2008 CC Sabathia pi sp Brewers 26.7 Albert Pujols* 1b Cardinals 15.2
2009 Tim Lincecum* pi sp Giants 19.7 Albert Pujols* 1b Cardinals 16.7
2010 Roy Halladay* pi sp Phillies 23.4 Albert Pujols 1b Cardinals 15.4
2011 Clayton Kershaw* pi sp Dodgers 26.1 Prince Fielder 1b Brewers 15.7
2012 Clayton Kershaw pi sp Dodgers 20.8 Ryan Braun lf Brewers 12.5
2013 Clayton Kershaw* pi sp Dodgers 21.7 Paul Goldschmidt 1b Dbacks 13.7
2014 Clayton Kershaw* pi sp Dodgers 31.5 Troy Tulowitzki ss Rockies 11.6
2015 Jake Arrieta* pi sp Cubs 29.1 Carlos Gonzalez rf Rockies 11.5
2016 Max Scherzer* pi sp Nationals 25.7 Nolan Arenado 3b Rockies 10.7
2017 Max Scherzer* pi sp Nationals 25.0 Anthony Rizzo 1b Cubs 15.5
BTP: Box-Toppers points.
* Indicates pitcher won his league’s Cy Young Award or batter won his league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
† Randy Johnson started the 1998 season with the AL Mariners and finished with the NL Astros. Curt Schilling of the Phillies had the most Box-Toppers points of any pitcher who played the entire season in the NL—19.0.

Analyzing 23 years of Box-Toppers points leaders in pitching & batting in both leagues

How often do Box-Toppers leaders win postseason awards?

The chart below shows the number of times the Box-Toppers leader in pitching and batting in both the American and National League have won postseason awards and the percentage of times the category’s Box-Toppers points leader has won.
 

BTP
leader
wins
postseason
award
% BTP
leaders
win
postseason
award
NL pitchers 17 73.9%
AL pitchers 12 52.2%
NL batters 4 17.4%
AL batters 2 8.7%
  • Box-Toppers pitching leaders win postseason awards more often than Box-Toppers batting leaders.
  • Randy Johnson has led his league category in Box-Toppers points more than any other player—he led his league’s pitchers six times.
  • The Red Sox join the Rockies with the most representatives among Box-Toppers points category leaders. With Chris Sale leading all players (and American League pitchers) in Box-Toppers points in 2017, a Red Sox player has led a league pitching or batting category eight times.

Those are a few conclusions drawn from the Box-Toppers season-by-season leaders chart for each of the past 23 seasons. 

Pitchers with the most Box-Toppers points in their league win postseason awards far more often than batters who lead their league in points. To illustrate:

  • 17 times in 23 seasons the National League pitching leader has won the NL Cy Young Award (including 2017, when Box-Toppers points leader Max Scherzer won the award).
  • 12 times in 23 seasons the American League pitching leader has won the AL Cy Young Award.
  • Only four times in 23 seasons has the NL batting leader won the NL Most Valuable Player Award.
  • And only twice in 23 seasons has the AL batting leader won the AL Most Valuable Player Award (Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees in 2007 and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers in 2013).

In other words, Box-Toppers pitching leaders and Cy Young Award winners are consistent with each other 63.0 percent of the time. Box-Toppers batting leaders and Most Valuable Player award winners are consistent with each other only 13.0 percent of the time. (In the chart above, players who led their league category in Box-Toppers points and also won a postseason award are marked with an asterisk.)

Why does Box-Toppers seem better at predicting who will be voted top pitcher than top batter? A variety of factors are at play. For one, it could be that baseball writers, who vote on postseason awards, are often just plain wrong when deciding the Most Valuable Player award, which usually goes to a batter. (This is said a bit facetiously, but some years looking at the MVP voting results, it does make a fan wonder.) Or it could be that Box-Toppers keeps track of only a batter’s offensive statistics and doesn’t take into account defense or squishy, unquantifiable factors like leadership or performance vs. expectations. Or it could be Box-Toppers actually lumps pitchers and batters together, comparing the incomparable in an apple-and-oranges fruit salad, always determining—in all-or-nothing fashion—that only a single pitcher or single batter is most responsible for a team’s win in a game.

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.

Box-Toppers has tracked every regular season Major League Baseball game since the start of the 1995 season—more than 55,000 total games. This website, Box-Toppers.com, began at the start of the 2013 season as a day-by-day demonstration of tabulating and evaluating this Box-Toppers metric.

Some other highlights looking at season-by-season Box-Toppers leaders:

Who led most often?

Randy Johnson led his league’s category (pitching) in Box-Toppers points more seasons than any other player—six. Albert Pujols led his league’s batters in Box-Toppers points more seasons than any other batter—five. Here are the 16 players who led their league category (pitching or batting) in Box-Toppers points more than once in the past 23 seasons:
 

Player Pos Yrs led
BTP
category
All-
time
BTP
All-
time
rank
1 Randy Johnson pi sp 6 278.8 1
2 Pedro Martinez pi sp 5 244.8 2
2 Albert Pujols 1b 5 187.8 6
4 Clayton Kershaw pi sp 4 206.8 3
4 Johan Santana pi sp 4 166.6 12
6 Max Scherzer pi sp 3 156.7 16
6 Albert Belle lf 3 87.5 106
8 Roger Clemens pi sp 2 164.8 13
8 John Smoltz pi sp 2 160.9 14
8 Justin Verlander pi sp 2 154.0 18
8 Barry Bonds lf 2 153.2 22
8 David Ortiz dh 2 145.9 28
8 Miguel Cabrera 1b 3b 2 146.9 26
8 Todd Helton 1b 2 116.4 45
8 Adrian Beltre 3b 2 115.9 47
8 Corey Kluber pi sp 2 87.4 108

Box-Toppers top ‘all-time’ players: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez

Randy Johnson, who has the most career Box-Toppers points of any player (278.8), led his league in his Box-Toppers category more than any other player.

Randy Johnson led his league’s pitchers in Box-Toppers points in six seasons.

The second-ranked player in “all-time” Box-Toppers player rankings, Pedro Martinez (244.8 career Box-Toppers points), has led his league’s pitchers in five different seasons, tied for the second-most of any player.

Albert Pujols has also been a leader in his Box-Toppers points category five times, making Pujols the batter with the most Box-Toppers point season crowns. This season, Pujols also became the leader in career Box-Toppers points since 1995 with 187.8 (ranked sixth overall), passing previous batting leader Alex Rodriguez (187.0 career Box-Toppers points). Rodriguez only led his league’s batters in Box-Toppers points once—in 2007, he led AL batters with 18.9 points.

Curt Schilling, ranked fourth overall among all players since 1995 (194.1 career Box-Toppers points) never led his league’s pitchers in Box-Toppers points. However, in 1998, he had 19.0 Box-Toppers points, the most of any pitcher who pitched the entire season in the National League (he was with the Phillies). But Randy Johnson is considered Box-Toppers NL leader because he finished the 1998 season with the Astros (who were then in the NL) after a midseason trade from the Mariners. Johnson had 26.4 Box-Toppers points in 1998—the most of any player that season—12.0 with the AL Mariners and 14.4 with the NL Astros.

Also, while Schilling does not appear among the league’s season leaders in Box-Toppers points he did have the ninth-most Box-Toppers points in a single season—28.4 with the Diamondbacks in 2002. However, that year, he finished behind overall leader (Johnson, then his Diamondback teammate, with 33.7) and AL leader (Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox, 28.8 Box-Toppers points).

Felix Hernandez of the Mariners is the next-highest ranked player in overall Box-Toppers player rankings who never led a Box-Toppers category in points in a single season. Hernandez is ranked ninth in Box-Toppers points since 1995 with 171.4.

Chipper Jones is the highest-ranked batter who never led his league's batters in Box-Toppers points in a single season. Jones, third baseman for the Braves, had 149.0 Box-Toppers points, fifth among all batters since 1995. In his best season—2001—he had 16.7 Box-Toppers points, finishing behind NL batting leader Todd Helton of the Rockies, who had 17.0.

In 2017, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer became one of only seven players since 1995 to lead a league category in Box-Toppers points at least three times. Scherzer led NL pitchers with 25.0 points. Previously, he led NL pitchers (and all players) in 2016 with 25.7 points and in 2013, he led AL pitchers with 18.1 points, when he was with the Tigers. Scherzer's three seasons leading a Box-Toppers category is tied for the sixth-most with Albert Belle, who led AL batters in 1995, 1996 and 1998. 

Only three players have led in Box-Toppers points in both leagues

Max Scherzer, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are the only three players in Box-Toppers tracking history to lead a category in both leagues.

  • Scherzer led NL pitchers in 2016 and 2017 and led AL pitchers in 2013. 
  • Johnson led AL pitchers in 1995 and NL pitchers from 1998 through 2002.
  • Martinez led NL pitchers in 1997 and AL pitchers in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

Team-by-team results

Players from the Colorado Rockies have led a Box-Toppers season category eight times in the past 23 years, more than any other team. Here are the number of times each team has had a player lead their league in Box-Toppers points in their category (pitching or batting):
 




Team
BTP
season
category
leaders
1 Rockies 8
1 Red Sox 8
3 Cardinals 7
3 Indians 7
5 Tigers 5
5 Diamondbacks 5
5 Dodgers 5
8 Blue Jays 4
8 Twins 4
8 Giants 4
11 Yankees 3
11 White Sox 3
11 Braves 3
11 Brewers 3
11 Rangers 3
11 Astros 3
11 Expos/Nationals 3
11 Cubs 3
19 Mariners 2
19 Angels 2
19 Orioles 2
22 Royals 1
22 Athletics 1
22 Phillies 1
22 Reds 1
22 Padres 1
27 Rays 0
27 Mets 0
27 Marlins 0
27 Pirates 0

Red Sox join Rockies with players winning most Box-Toppers points season titles

The Boston Red Sox this year join the Colorado Rockies with the most representatives to lead a Box-Toppers points season category.

In 2017, Chris Sale led AL pitchers (and all players) with 25.1 Box-Toppers points, the eighth time a Red Sox player has led a category. It is the first time a Red Sox player has led a category since 2010, when Jon Lester led AL pitchers with 23.4 points.

The other times Red Sox players have led a category:

  • Pedro Martinez led AL pitchers four times as a Red Sox player—1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.
  • David Ortiz led AL batters twice—2005 and 2006.

The Cleveland Indians move into a tie for third place on the list with their seventh representative in 2017 as Edwin Encarnacion led AL batters. The Indians are tied with the Cardinals, who also have seven representatives, the last being Albert Pujols leading NL batters in 2010.

Three other teams have had five representatives—Tigers, Diamondbacks and Dodgers.

The Nationals and the Cubs both rise into a tie for 11th place this season with each team gaining their third representative: Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer led NL pitchers and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs led NL batters.

Only once has the top batter and pitcher in the league come from the same team—in 2013 in the American League, when the top pitcher Max Scherzer and top batter, Miguel Cabrera, both came from the Tigers.

Four teams have not been represented among Box-Toppers category points leaders in the past 23 seasons—Rays, Mets, Marlins and Pirates.

High and low season leaders

It usually takes 20 or 25 Box-Toppers points for a pitcher to lead his league in Box-Toppers points. It usually takes a batter 13 to 15 points to lead his league.

These are the highest Box-Toppers points totals to lead a league category:

  • AL pitching: 33.5 in 2000, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox.
  • NL pitching: 33.7 in 2000 and 2002, both by Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks.
  • AL batter: 20.4 in 1996, Albert Belle of the Indians.
  • NL batter: 20.8 in 2006, Lance Berkman of the Astros.

Lowest points to lead category

Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians set the record for lowest Box-Toppers point total to lead American League batters in 2017 with 12.1 points. That ranks as the fourth-lowest point total to lead a category in the 23 seasons of Box-Toppers tracking, beaten only by the NL batting leaders for the three previous seasons (2014-16). Here are the lowest-point totals to win a league category since Box-Toppers tracking began in 1995:
 
Player Team BTP Category
1 Nolan Arenado col nl 10.7 2016 NL bat
2 Carlos Gonzalez col nl 11.5 2015 NL bat
3 Troy Tulowitzki col nl 11.6 2014 NL bat
4 Edwin Encarnacion cle al 12.1 2017 AL bat
5 Adrian Beltre tex al 12.5 2015 AL bat
5 Aubrey Huff bal al 12.5 2008 AL bat
5 Ryan Braun mil nl 12.5 2012 NL bat
8 Manny Machado bal al 12.7 2016 AL bat
9 Adrian Beltre tex al 13.0 2012 AL bat
10 Paul Goldschmidt ari nl 13.7 2013 NL bat
10 Bret Boone sea al 13.7 2001 AL bat

These are the lowest Box-Toppers points totals to lead a league category:

Encarnacion set the record for lowest Box-Toppers point total to lead AL batters in 2017 with 12.1 points. That ranks as the fourth-lowest point total to lead a category in the 23 seasons of Box-Toppers tracking.

The only category leaders to have lower totals are the NL batting leaders for 2014 through 2016. Nolan Arenado in 2016 had the lowest total to lead a category in Box-Toppers' 23-season history—10.7. The previous record was set in 2015 when Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies led NL batters with 11.5 points. Interestingly, prior to that, the record was 2014 when Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies led NL batters with 11.6. So not only was the low-point record broken three years in a row, it was broken each time by a batter from the Colorado Rockies.

Starters vs. closers

Only once in 46 opportunities has the honor for top league pitcher gone to anyone other than a starting pitcher. In 2004, closing pitcher Eric Gagne of the Dodgers led National League pitchers in Box-Toppers points with 19.7.

Batters beating pitchers

Leading pitchers generally score higher than leading batters. However, in three instances in 23 seasons, a batter beat the pitcher for Box-Toppers points leader for his league:

  • 1996: Albert Belle of the Indians had more Box-Toppers points than pitcher Chuck Finley of the Angels (20.4 vs. 15.7).
  • 2006: Lance Berkman of the Astros had more Box-Toppers points than pitcher John Smoltz of the Braves (20.8 vs. 19.1).
  • 2007: Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees had more Box-Toppers points than pitcher Johan Santana of the Twins (18.9 vs. 18.1).

Box-Toppers Players of the Year

Here are Box-Toppers Player of the Year winners in each season of Box-Toppers tracking since 1995. Player of the Year is the player with the season’s highest Box-Toppers point total:  
 
Year Player Pos Team BTP
1995 Randy Johnson pi sp Mariners 23.7
1996 John Smoltz pi sp Braves 26.1
1997 Roger Clemens pi sp Blue Jays 27.4
1998 Randy Johnson pi sp Astros† 26.4
1999 Randy Johnson pi sp Dbacks 31.5
2000 Randy Johnson pi sp Dbacks 33.7
2001 Randy Johnson pi sp Dbacks 29.4
2002 Randy Johnson pi sp Dbacks 33.7
2003 Jason Schmidt pi sp Giants 24.7
2004 Johan Santana pi sp Twins 26.8
2005 Johan Santana pi sp Twins 24.1
2006 Johan Santana pi sp Twins 25.7
2007 Jake Peavy pi sp Padres 23.4
2008 CC Sabathia pi sp Brewers 26.7
2009 Zack Greinke pi sp Royals 21.5
2010 Jon Lester pi sp Red Sox 23.4
2011 Clayton Kershaw pi sp Dodgers 26.1
2012 Justin Verlander pi sp Tigers 24.8
2013 Clayton Kershaw pi sp Dodgers 21.7
2014 Clayton Kershaw pi sp Dodgers 31.5
2015 Jake Arrieta pi sp Cubs 29.1
2016 Max Scherzer pi sp Nationals 25.7
2017 Chris Sale pi sp Red Sox 25.1
† Played for Mariners before trade to Astros.

However, in all three cases, the batter was not the overall leader in Box-Toppers points—that honor went to the pitcher in the opposite league:

  • 1996: John Smoltz, Braves, 26.1 Box-Toppers points.
  • 2006: Johan Santana, Twins, 25.7.
  • 2007: Jake Peavy, Padres, 23.4.

Pitchers dominating batters

Six times in the past 23 seasons, including each of the past four seasons, a league-leading pitcher has earned more than twice as many Box-Toppers points as the league-leading batter:

  • 1999: Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks had 31.5 Box-Toppers points to lead the NL, more than double the NL leading batter, Barry Bonds of the Giants, 15.2. (2.07 times as many points.)
  • 2000: Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks had 33.7 Box-Toppers points to lead the NL, more than double the NL leading batter, Todd Helton of the Rockies, 15.2. (2.22 times as many points.)
  • 2014: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers had 31.5 Box-Toppers points to lead the NL, more than double (and nearly triple) the points of NL leading batter Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, 11.6. (2.72 times as many points.)
  • 2015: Jake Arrieta of the Cubs had 29.1 Box-Toppers points to lead the NL, more than double the points of NL leading batter Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, 11.5. (2.53 times as many points.)
  • 2016: Max Scherzer of the Nationals had 25.7 Box-Toppers points to lead the NL, more than double the points of NL leading batter Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, 10.7. (2.40 times as many points.)
  • 2017: Chris Sale of the Red Sox had 25.1 Box-Toppers points to lead the AL, more than double the points of AL leading batter Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians, 12.1. (2.07 times as many points.)

Box-Toppers leaders coinciding with postseason awards

Has there ever been a year in which the leaders of the four Box-Toppers point categories (each league’s batters and pitchers) won all four major postseason awards (each league’s MVP and Cy Young Awards)?

No.

However, three times in the past 23 seasons three of the four Box-Toppers points leaders won postseason awards:

  • 1997: Roger Clemens of the Blue Jays won AL Cy Young, Pedro Martinez of the Expos won NL Cy Young and Larry Walker of the Rockies won NL MVP. (AL batting Box-Toppers points leader Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers—16.3 Box-Toppers points—finished ninth in AL MVP voting. Ken Griffey Jr. of the Mariners—second among AL batters with 15.3 Box-Toppers points—was AL MVP.)
  • 2009: Zack Greinke of the Royals won AL Cy Young, Tim Lincecum of the Giants won NL Cy Young and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals won NL MVP. (AL batting Box-Toppers points leader Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers—16.5 Box-Toppers points—finished fourth in AL MVP voting. Joe Mauer of the Twins—12th among AL batters with 9.2 Box-Toppers points—was AL MVP.)
  • 2013: Max Scherzer of the Tigers won AL Cy Young, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers won NL Cy Young and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers won AL MVP. (NL batting Box-Toppers points leader Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks—13.7 Box-Toppers points—finished second in NL MVP voting. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates—finished 22nd among NL batters with 6.0 Box-Toppers points—was NL MVP.)

Eight times in the past 23 seasons, two of the leaders in Box-Toppers points categories also won postseason awards. 

Ten times—including 2017—only one of the Box-Toppers category leaders won a postseason award.

And only twice have all four Box-Toppers category leaders failed to win any of the major postseason awards—in both 2003 and 2012, none of the category leaders won Cy Young or MVP awards.