An opening day introduction to Box-Toppers, starting 24th season tracking players

Box-Toppers opening day.jpg

As the 2018 Major League Baseball season opens, Box-Toppers begins its 24th 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?

Box-Toppers highlights

Here are recent post highlights:

Picks 2018

Box-Toppers projects the standings and win totals of all 30 teams.

Team rankings 2018

A look at how the 30 teams rank and compare going into 2018. (Note: Rankings sometimes change as teams sign and release players through spring training and updated team rankings are posted on the homepage.)

Top players by team 2017

A look at the pitcher and batter with the most 2017 Box-Toppers points on each team.

Top 100 players since 1995

A look at the 100 top players in Box-Toppers points since 1995, when Box-Toppers tracking began.

Top 100 players 2017

A look at the 100 top players in Box-Toppers points last season.

Top player rankings 2017

The top 10 overall players, plus the top 10 NL and AL pitchers and batters.

For more highlights, check this post or visit the home page.

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 Majors.

For example, in 2017, Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale led all players with 25.1 Box-Toppers points. Here’s how he earned his points.

• He earned Player of the Game honors 15 times, giving him 15.0 Box-Toppers points.

• Three of those times, in addition to earning Player of the Game honors, he also won American League Player of the Day honors, worth 0.7 bonus points each, giving him 2.1 additional total points.

Click on the graphic to see the step-by-step method of how Box-Toppers Player of the Game and Player of the Day honorees are determined.

Click on the graphic to see the step-by-step method of how Box-Toppers Player of the Game and Player of the Day honorees are determined.

• 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 Sale received 15.0 Box-Toppers points for the times he earned Player of the Day, 2.1 points for the times he earned AL Player of the Day and 8.0 more for the times he earned overall Player of the Day, for a total of 25.1 Box-Toppers points.

Sale’s 25.1 Box-Toppers points is the 24th highest single-season total since Box-Toppers tracking began in 1995. It ranks just ahead of the 25.0 points Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer earned in 2017. Scherzer’s second-place finish to Sale in 2017, just 0.1 point behind, is tied for the second-closest finish for Box-Toppers Player of the Year (see chart below).

Box-Toppers points leaders took home three of the six major postseason awards in 2017 as voted by baseball writers:

But the other three major awards, including both league’s awards for Most Valuable Player, went to players who did not lead their category in Box-Toppers points. 

In two of those three cases, the player baseball writers chose for the award was close to the top in Box-Toppers rankings for their category:

  • AL Cy Young AwardWinner Corey Kluber of the Indians ranked second in Box-Toppers points among AL pitchers with 22.0 (fifth overall) behind overall Box-Toppers points leader Chris Sale of the Red Sox with 25.1 Box-Toppers points.
  • NL Most Valuable PlayerWinner Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins ranked second in Box-Toppers points among NL batters with 14.2 (17th overall) behind Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, who led NL batters with 15.5 points (14th overall).

But in one of the six cases, the winner chosen by baseball writers for a postseason award was nowhere close to the leader in Box-Toppers rankings for their category:

  • AL Most Valuable PlayerWinner Jose Altuve of the Astros had only 2.5 Box-Toppers points and ranked 90th among AL batters, 387th among all players. Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians led AL batters with 12.1 Box-Toppers points, 22nd among all players.

The post linked here goes into some detail about why Box-Toppers deems Altuve unworthy of the MVP honor in 2017. But it comes down to this: Altuve simply wasn’t the key contributor to many Astros wins. Other Astros players often beat him out for Player of the Game in the team’s 101 wins. Despite a great statistical season (leading in hits, batting average and wins above replacement), Altuve only won Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors twice in the regular season. The post examines each of the Astros’ 101 wins in 2017 and shows which Astros player earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors in each.

While the Box-Toppers metric has been used since the start of the 1995 season to track players, this is the sixth season for the website. Box-Toppers’ first blog post was five years ago on March 25, 2013.

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.

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.

For highlights from 2017 and a preview of the coming season, see this post which slices and dices Box-Toppers statistics in various ways to see (among other things):

  • Top overall players and top pitchers and batters in each league.
  • Top 100 players over various time periods, including just the 2017 season, the past two seasons (2016-17), the past six seasons (2012-17) and “all-time” (1995-2017).
  • Top pitchers and batters by team in 2017.
  • Top several players by position in each league over the past season, past two seasons, past six seasons and “all-time” (1995-2017).
  • How statistical leaders (batting average, earned run average, home runs, strikeouts, runs batted in, wins, wins above replacement) fared in Box-Toppers points in 2017.
  • Rankings and picks for 2018 based on each team’s players’ Box-Toppers points for 2017 and recent seasons.

On Twitter and Facebook, 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.

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

Box-Toppers strives for accuracy. See a mistake in a post? A wrong name, wrong team, grammar error, spelling goof, etc.? Thanks for pointing it out! Contact Box-Toppers here. Let's fix it and make it right.

Closest Player of the Year finishes

Here are the closest finishes for Box-Toppers Player of the Year honors. In 2010, Jon Lester and Roy Halladay both had 23.4 Box-Toppers points for the season, most among all players. Lester won Player of the Year on a tiebreaker (he had more Box-Toppers points the previous season). In 2017, Chris Sale won Player of the Year over Max Scherzer by 0.1 Box-Toppers point, a tie for the second-closest finish since Box-Toppers tracking began in 1995.

Year Lead 1st place player Team BTP 2nd place player Team BTP
1 2010 0.0 Jon Lester Red Sox 23.4 Roy Halladay Phillies 23.4
2 1999 0.1 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 31.5 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 31.4
2 2017 0.1 Chris Sale Red Sox 25.1 Max Scherzer Nationals 25.0
4 2000 0.2 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 33.7 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 33.5
5 1995 0.3 Randy Johnson Mariners 23.7 Greg Maddux Braves 23.4
6 1998 0.6 Randy Johnson Astros 26.4 Roger Clemens Blue Jays 25.8
7 1997 0.7 Roger Clemens Blue Jays 27.4 Pedro Martinez Expos 26.7
7 2011 0.7 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 26.1 Cliff Lee Phillies 25.4
9 2003 1.3 Max Scherzer Nationals 25.7 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 24.4
9 2016 1.3 Jason Schmidt Giants 24.7 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 23.4
11 2013 1.5 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 21.7 Adam Wainwright Cardinals 20.2
12 2009 1.7 Zack Greinke Royals 21.5 Jon Lester Red Sox 19.8
13 2005 3.1 Johan Santana Twins 24.1 Chris Carpenter Cardinals 21.0
14 2015 3.4 Jake Arrieta Cubs 29.1 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 25.7
15 2012 4.0 Justin Verlander Tigers 24.8 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 20.8
16 2007 4.5 Jake Peavy Padres 23.4 Alex Rodriguez Yankees 18.9
17 2006 4.9 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 33.7 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 28.8
17 2002 4.9 Johan Santana Twins 25.7 Lance Berkman Astros 20.8
19 2014 5.7 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 31.5 Corey Kluber Indians 25.8
19 1996 5.7 John Smoltz Braves 26.1 Albert Belle Indians 20.4
21 2004 5.8 Johan Santana Twins 26.8 Curt Schilling Red Sox 21.0
22 2001 6.0 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 29.4 Javier Vazquez Expos 23.4
23 2008 9.0 CC Sabathia Brewers 26.7 Tim Lincecum Giants 17.7