A correction: Rays' Blake Snell leads by wider margin after fixing errors in 2018 Box-Toppers stats

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Striving to create a more perfect Box-Toppers, I discovered some errors in player tracking in 2018 and have been correcting them in recent weeks.

Box-Toppers corrections

Here are players whose 2018 Box-Toppers point totals changed as a result of re-examining hundreds of box scores from last season during the past month. Players are listed in order of their revised 2018 Box-Toppers point (BTP) total. Overall leader, Rays pitcher Blake Snell had the biggest change of all players, gaining 1.7 points, giving him 27.2 Box-Toppers points in 2018, increasing his lead over second-place player, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (25.1 points).

Player Pos Team Change BTP
Snell, Blake pi sp tb al +1.7 27.2
Nola, Aaron pi sp phi nl +1.0 21.1
Sale, Chris pi sp bos al -1.0 20.1
Carrasco, Carlos pi sp cle al -0.7 19.1
deGrom, Jacob pi sp nym nl -1.0 16.8
Marquez, German pi sp col nl -1.0 14.7
Rodriguez, Eduardo pi sp bos al +0.3 13.4
Hader, Josh pi cp mr mil nl +1.0 11.7
Gonzalez, Carlos rf col nl +1.0 5.5
Arenado, Nolan 3b col nl -1.0 5.0
Braun, Ryan lf mil nl -1.0 5.0
Rodon, Carlos pi sp chi al -0.7 4.0
Neris, Hector pi mr phi nl +1.0 2.0
Kingery, Scott ss phi nl -1.0 1.5
Hembree, Heath pi cp bos al +1.0 1.0
Miller, Andrew pi mr cle al +1.0 1.0
Adames, Willy ss tb al -1.0 1.0
BTP: Box-Toppers points
About Box-Toppers’ team abbreviations

There were 10 total errors I discovered that changed the Box-Toppers point totals for 17 different players. Those errors were discovered after re-examining about one-third of the 2,430 games played in the 2018 season. So in other words, after looking at about 830 games, I found 10 errors.

While it is a very low error rate and while it did not change the final point leaders overall or among American League or National League pitchers or batters (in fact, most of the 17 players affected either gained or lost 1.0 Box-Toppers point or fewer), they are mistakes that have involved some substantial revision. Like a butterfly’s flapping wings later causing a hurricane, these changes—small though they may be—have to be carried forward through the season. This resulted in revising more than 250 blog posts from early April 2018 through January 2019. Some of the post revisions were small, merely changing a single player’s point total to reflect the correction. Some post revisions were larger, involving recasting the entire post if a player’s revised point total changed their contemporary position as overall leader or a leader in a specific category, such as among AL pitchers.

The biggest change actually happened to overall leader, Rays pitcher Blake Snell, who gained 1.7 Box-Toppers points, giving him 27.2 points for the season, increasing his lead over second-place player, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (25.1). Snell’s lead had been a narrow 0.4-point margin (25.5-to-25.1), but ended up being 2.1 points.

Players checked in Box-Toppers 2018 correction review

After finding an error in Box-Toppers tracking involving Box-Toppers points leader for 2018, Blake Snell of the Rays, I decided to go back and check other players.

I began by checking the top 10 players in points for 2018, checking each team victory they appeared in. For example, Snell appeared in 22 of the Rays’ victories. Remarkably, he earned the win in 21 of the 22 team victories. Even more remarkably, he earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors in 21 of the 22 victories in which he appeared, earning the honor once when picking up a no-decision.

Snell led all players with 27.2 Box-Toppers points (BTP), as shown in the chart. The error I found gave Snell 1.7 more points in 2018, which is reflected in his upwardly revised 27.2 point total.

I proceeded to check the top 10 players and all their teams’ victories in which they appeared. After finding errors involving three more of the top 10 players, I continued to check the top 41-ranked players for 2018 and checked four others who are among the overall top 20 players in Box-Toppers career points—Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez.

The “Games checked” column shows the number of games reviewed in this process. I checked each team victory in which the designated player appeared. (For example, Snell appeared in 22 Rays’ victories, Max Scherzer appeared in 22 Nationals’ victories and J.D. Martinez appeared in 102 Red Sox’ victories.) While the total for all games checked for the 45 players listed totals 1,083, the actual number of games checked is less—around 830 separate games were reviewed. That’s because some games shown here are accounted for more than once. In some cases, more than one of the players listed here participated in a game that was checked. For example, I reviewed all 102 Red Sox’ victories in which J.D. Martinez appeared. But the other Red Sox players listed here—Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Mookie Betts—also participated in some of those victories.

Here are the players that were double-checked, their positions, teams, their 2018 Box-Toppers point (BTP) total, their rank among all players in 2018, the number of team victories in which they appeared (which is also the number of games that were reviewed) and where applicable, the Box-Toppers point changes that resulted from this audit.

Player Pos Team BTP Rank Games
checked
Changes
Blake Snell pi sp tb al 27.2 1 22 +1.7
Max Scherzer pi sp dc nl 25.1 2 22
Justin Verlander pi sp hou al 24.1 3 21
Corey Kluber pi sp cle al 21.7 4 21
Aaron Nola pi sp phi nl 21.1 5 22 +1.0
Chris Sale pi sp bos al 20.1 6 18 -1.0
Carlos Carrasco pi sp cle al 19.1 7 19 -0.7
Gerrit Cole pi sp hou al 18.0 8 24
Jose Berrios pi sp min al 17.8 9 16
Luis Severino pi sp nyy al 17.7 10 24
James Paxton pi sp sea al 17.0 11 16
Jacob deGrom pi sp nym nl 16.8 12 14 -1.0
Patrick Corbin pi sp ari nl 16.0 13 17
J.A. Happ pi sp nyy al  15.7 14 21
Walker Buehler pi sp lad nl 15.1 15 14
Charlie Morton pi sp hou al 14.8 16 18
German Marquez pi sp col nl 14.7 17 19 -1.0
David Price pi sp bos al 14.4 18 22
Trevor Bauer pi sp cle al 14.1 19 17
Jhoulys Chacin pi sp mil nl 13.7 20 23
Mike Clevinger pi sp cle al 13.7 21 16
Mike Foltynewicz pi sp atl nl 13.7 22 15
Masahiro Tanaka pi sp nyy al 13.4 23 16
Eduardo Rodriguez pi sp bos al 13.4 24 21 +0.3
Jack Flaherty pi sp stl nl 13.1 25 11
Zack Greinke pi sp ari nl 13.0 26 18
Julio Teheran pi sp atl nl 12.7 27 18
J.D. Martinez lf dh rf bos al 12.5 28 102
Jameson Taillon pi sp pit nl 12.4 29 20
Kyle Freeland pi sp col nl 12.4 30 23
Nick Pivetta pi sp phi nl 11.7 31 15
Jon Gray pi sp col nl 11.7 32 18
Josh Hader pi sp mil nl 11.7 33 48 +1.0
Miles Mikolas pi sp stl nl 11.7 34 24
Christian Yelich rf lf mil nl 11.5 35 89
Rick Porcello pi sp bos al 11.4 36 22
Sean Newcomb pi sp atl nl 11.4 37 15
Cole Hamels pi sp chi nl 11.1 38 14
Mookie Betts rf bos al 10.9 39 94
Zack Godley pi sp ari nl 10.7 40 17
Jon Lester pi sp chi nl 10.7 41 24
Clayton Kershaw pi sp lad nl 8.0 73 16
CC Sabathia pi sp nyy al 7.7 86 16
Bartolo Colon pi sp tex al 2.7 357 10
Felix Hernandez pi sp sea al 2.7 359 11
BTP: Box-Toppers points
About Box-Toppers’ team abbreviations
† While reviewing Phillies victories in which Pivetta participated, I discovered a game in which Player of the Game honors was changed. While Pivetta was involved in that victory, he was not the player affected by the change.

The mistake on Snell was discovered while researching a post about how wins leaders from 2018 fared in Box-Toppers points. Snell led all players with 21 wins. Before finding the error, Box-Toppers statistics showed Snell earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors in 19 of his 21 wins. But going back to check the two wins in which Snell seemingly did not earn Player of the Game honors, I discovered that in one case, he actually should have been credited not only with Player of the Game honors (worth 1.0 Box-Toppers point), but with AL Player of the Day honors (worth 1.7 points).

On Aug. 10, the Rays beat the Blue Jays, 7-0. Previously, Player of the Game honors went to Willy Adames, who had a Box-Toppers game score of +3.0 (2-2B 3-3 3R 0BI). Somehow, I missed the fact that Snell that day had a higher Box-Toppers game score of +11.0 (5IP 0H 0R 0BB 6K W) and should have been declared Player of the Game over Adames. Not only that, but the +11.0 game score was now the highest of the day among AL players, giving him Box-Toppers AL Player of the Day honors, worth a 0.7-point bonus. Previously, AL Player of the Day was White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon with a Box-Toppers game score of +7.0.

So, Snell received an extra 1.7 Box-Toppers points, Adames had 1.0 point taken away and Rodon, since he was no longer AL Player of the Day, had 0.7 points subtracted.

Snell still won Box-Toppers Player of the Year honors by having the most Box-Toppers points of any player in 2018, but with the extra 1.7 points earned Aug. 10, he won more easily and less dramatically. Previously, Snell did not take the overall Box-Toppers points lead until Sept. 23 with 24.5 points, passing then-leader Max Scherzer’s 23.1 points. Snell then only held the lead for two days before Scherzer came back on Sept. 25 to retake the lead with 25.1 points. Snell then came back in his last start of the season on Sept. 29, passing Scherzer with 25.5 points, to take the lead for the final two days of the season. With the error, Snell still won Box-Toppers season points title, but only led for a total of four days.

But with the revised correction, Snell took the lead from Scherzer earlier—on Sept. 18 with 24.2 points—and did not relinquish the lead the rest of the season. Snell still took the lead late in the season, just not in as dramatic fashion as before, leading for 13 days of the season, compared to four as before.

Snell’s upwardly revised total of 27.2 points also means he had the 12th-highest single-season Box-Toppers point total of any player in Box-Toppers player tracking history (begun in 1995). Previously, his 25.5 points was the 24th-highest point total in Box-Toppers’ 24-year tracking history.

I’ve gone back and corrected the blog posts on the days I discovered mistakes. In addition, since point totals going forward changed overall player standings, I revised subsequent posts, as necessary, to reflect the corrections and revisions. So, as much as possible, the pre-correction narrative of Snell narrowly edging out Scherzer for the points lead on the next-to-last day of the season is now gone. Would anyone be diligent enough to peruse those revised posts and find vestiges of uncorrected statistics, I’d be happy to hear about it, so I could fix it.

My mistakes happened in several different ways. As with Snell, there were four other times when I simply declared the incorrect Player of the Game based on a misreading of the box score. There were three times I made errors adding a player’s single-season Box-Toppers point total. On April 10, I credited Nolan Arenado of the Rockies with a Box-Toppers point that was actually supposed to go to Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola—the similarity of the names caused a mistaken data entry. And there was one other error that I attribute to an incorrect or later-revised box score.

Interestingly, the corrections caused very little change in Box-Toppers team rankings, so little that I made few or no changes to posts dealing with team rankings, most of which came out each Friday through the season. Six teams ended the season with different point totals based on the corrections, but only two changed spots. The Phillies had been ranked 14th overall with 105.6 and the Rockies had been ranked 13th with 106.0. Specifically because of my confusion between Aaron Nola and Nolan Arenado (practically anagrams for each other), the Phillies actually had 1.0 point more and the Rockies 1.0 point fewer. That means the Phillies actually ranked 13th with 106.6 points and the Rockies ranked 14th with 105.0.

The other changes:

  • Red Sox, which led all teams, actually led by 0.3 points more, 143.9 compared to 143.6.

  • Indians, ranked fifth, had 0.3 points more—128.3 vs. 128.6.

  • Rays, which ranked 19th, had 0.7 points more—86.0 vs. 86.7.

  • White Sox, which ranked 26th, had 0.7 points fewer—64.0 vs. 63.3.

In addition to Snell, several other leading players saw differences in their season Box-Toppers point totals after corrections were made, including Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco, Rockies pitcher German Marquez, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Brewers pitcher Josh Hader, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom and Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

Here is a look at some of the mistakes and their ramifications:

Chris Sale

On April 3, I had credited Sale as Player of the Game in the Red Sox’ 4-2, 13-inning win over the Marlins with a Box-Toppers game score of +4.0 (5IP 5H R ER 0BB 6K ND). Actually, Player of the Game was closer Heath Hembree (2IP H 0R 0ER 0BB 3K W), who also had a Box-Toppers game score of +4.0, but held the tiebreaker advantage because he earned the win while Sale had a no decision.

That brought Sale’s Box-Toppers point total from 21.1 previously, to 20.1. That meant that overall, Sale finished the season in sixth place overall rather than fifth place. It also meant he never took the season Box-Toppers points lead at any point in the season. Previously, Sale took the lead from Scherzer with 20.1 points from Aug. 12 to 16, before Scherzer regained the lead on Aug. 17. But with the correction, Sale had 19.1 points during that period and trailed Scherzer.

With Sale having 1.0 point fewer and Snell having 1.7 points more, it also meant that Snell passed Sale for the lead among AL players earlier than previously determined. Prior to the correction, Snell did not pass Sale until Sept. 12, when Snell was incorrectly credited with 20.8 points and Sale was incorrectly credited with 20.1. But with the correction, Snell actually passed Sale on Sept. 2, when Snell had 19.8 and Sale had 19.1. 

Carlos Carrasco

There were two errors related to Carrasco that caused his Box-Toppers point total to decrease by a net of 0.7 points.

On April 6, Carrasco was deemed Player of the Game in error in the Indians’ 3-2 win over the Royals with a Box-Toppers game score of 0.0 (6IP 5H 2R 2ER BB 4K W). Closer Cody Allen actually had a higher qualifying Box-Toppers game score of +1.0 (1IP 0H 0R 0ER BB K Sv). And since middle reliever Andrew Miller pitched as many innings as Allen and had a higher Box-Toppers game score (+2.0—1IP H 0R 0ER BB 3K ND), Miller was actually Player of the Game.

In addition, I made simple math errors adding Carrasco’s Box-Toppers point total during the season. His actual total was 19.1, which was 0.7 less than previously and incorrectly listed. This did not change his overall seventh place finish in Box-Toppers season player rankings nor his fifth place finish among AL pitchers.

German Marquez/Carlos Gonzalez

On May 27, the Rockies pitcher Marquez had a Box-Toppers game score of +4.0 in the 9-6 win over the Reds and was previously awarded Player of the Game honors. But Carlos Gonzalez also had a Box-Toppers game score of +4.0 (HR 4-4 2R 2BI) and should have been awarded Player of the Game on a tiebreaker—in cases of game score ties, batters beat pitchers. This reduces Marquez’s Box-Toppers point total from 15.7 to 14.7—he finished sixth among NL pitchers. It also increases Gonzalez’s Box-Toppers point total from 4.5 to 5.5.

Josh Hader/Ryan Braun

On Sept. 7, Ryan Braun was deemed Player of the Game in the Brewers’ 4-2 win over the Giants with a Box-Toppers game score of +3.0 (1-1 R 2BI). But Player of the Game is and should have been recorded as middle reliever Josh Hader, with a game score of +6.0 (2IP 0H 0R 0ER BB 5K W). That takes a point away from Braun, moving him from 6.0 to 5.0 points. It increases Hader from 10.7 to 11.7. Hader was already the leader in Box-Toppers points among NL closers and middle relievers; this increases his lead.

Jacob deGrom

Back in November, when deGrom won the NL Cy Young Award, I discovered I made a simple math error when calculating deGrom’s Box-Toppers point total for the season. deGrom had been credited with 17.8 Box-Toppers points for 2018. He actually earned 1.0 point fewer or 16.8. This did not change his third-place spot among NL pitchers, though it did move him from 10th to 12th place overall.

Eduardo Rodriguez

I misadded the Red Sox pitcher’s total. On Sept. 1, he was Box-Toppers AL Player of the Day, worth 1.7 points. I only credited him with 1.4. I’ve corrected that. His 13.4 Box-Toppers points for the season is revised from the 13.1 he was previously credited with. His rank of 16th among AL pitchers is unchanged.

Kingery/Neris

One other correction I discovered: On April 17, in the Phillies’ 5-1, 10-inning win over the Braves, Scott Kingery had been listed as Player of the Game with a game score of +3.0 (1-1 R 2BI). The updated box score—cross-checked with other sources—has him 0-1 R 0BI, Box-Toppers game score of 0.0. Player of the Game is actually middle reliever Hector Neris with a Box-Toppers game score of +2.0 (1IP 0H 0R 0ER BB 2K W).

That reduces Kingery from 2.5 to 1.5 Box-Toppers points and delays his Box-Toppers debut until July 6. That increases Hector Neris from 1.0 to 2.0 Box-Toppers points.

Neither Kingery nor Neris were among the Box-Toppers points leaders whose records I was reviewing to find mistakes. This error was discovered when reviewing the wins in which Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta was involved. Pivetta was one of the 45 players whose seasons I reviewed. Pivetta ranked 31st in 2018 with 11.7 Box-Toppers points. I reviewed the 15 Phillies wins in which Pivetta appeared (among his 31 total appearances), finding the one error, none of which affected Pivetta.

This was one instance when the error came from an incorrect or later revised box score.

There were several other instances in which box scores viewed at the time were either incorrect or later revised. These changes did not change the Player of the Game winner, but gave those players a slightly different Box-Toppers game score. 

There were nine instances of this, most of which happened in April at a time I was relying on box scores from USAToday.com. I moved away from this source when I discovered oddities in the box scores that a USA Today editor could not explain. I noted that USA Today’s boxscores listed pinch hitters who batted more than once without denoting what field position the player represented on their subsequent at bats. In USA Today’s box scores, there is only space, it seems, for the first position a player represents. I would have to check another box score to see if a player changed position during a game or to see what position they played after pinch hitting. When I asked an editor about this, I was told simply they receive their box scores from the Associated Press. Since I found myself constantly double-checking these box scores, I found other, more reliable sources after April. And after auditing much of the season, I discover that most errors related to incorrect box scores happened in April when I relied on USA Today.

While I discovered the error about deGrom’s Box-Toppers point total in November, I began this round of more exhaustive auditing in January as I was researching a post about the Box-Toppers point totals of the top 10 wins leaders.

I found that wins leader Snell earned Player of the Game honors in all but two of his 21 wins, which is actually very impressive. It’s odd for a starting pitcher to be Player of the Game in nearly all the games he wins—usually another pitcher or batter will earn Player of the Game honors in several of those wins. So I went to see what players had beaten Snell for Player of the Game in those two wins.

On June 9, Snell earned the win but did not earn Player of the Game. He had a Box-Toppers game score of -5.0. Player of the Game was batter Mallex Smith with a Box-Toppers game score of +2.0. But on Aug. 10, I found that Snell should have been credited with Player of the Game honors in a game he won. Not only that, but he should have been credited with AL Player of the Day honors, giving him a total of 1.7 more Box-Toppers points.

So actually, Snell won Player of the Game honors in 20 of the 21 games he won, which is even more impressive.

I revised Snell’s total and changed the posts from Aug. 10 onward to reflect Snell’s higher point total, his higher place in the standings and his rise—earlier now with the corrected upward revision—to lead AL players and then all players in Box-Toppers points.

But after that, I wondered, where else have I made mistakes? This was the second fairly large mistake I had made in tabulating Box-Toppers statistics during the season. I don’t remember finding errors like that in my 24 years of record keeping—but that could be because I haven’t looked closely enough.

So I decided to take a fairly exhaustive look at the leaders to see if their results would change. I started with the top 10-ranked players in Box-Toppers points in 2018. I re-examined each team win in which they appeared to see who won Player of the Game honors and to double-check results. In that audit of the top 10 players I was discouraged to find errors resulting in different point totals for three other players—Sale, Nola and Carrasco. So I went further, eventually checking 45 players, looking at the box scores for each team victory they were involved in. In this process, I estimate that I re-examined box scores from about one-third of all the 2,430 games played in 2018. 

Out of those, I found five games where I selected the wrong Player of the Game and one in which the box score I used was incorrect.

And again, while point totals changed for 17 players, there were few substantial changes that resulted in any change of rankings. The biggest change is that Blake Snell won Box-Toppers Player of the Year honors by 2.1 points rather than 0.4 points. And also that Aaron Nola (rising from 20.1 points to 21.1) and Chris Sale (falling from 21.1 to 20.1) switched fifth- and sixth-place spots in overall Box-Toppers season player rankings.

For what it’s worth, this has been the most exhaustively researched post I’ve ever done for Box-Toppers, now nearly four weeks in the making. And unfortunately, I’m doing it to correct mistakes.

It stinks to make mistakes. But it stinks even more not to correct them. If you find other errors, please let me know. And thank you!

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.

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.


Related

Box-Toppers top 10 players for 2018 and top 10 players by category—AL and NL pitching and batting (originally posted at the end of the season, this post has been revised with the corrections spelled out in this post).

Box-Toppers top 100 players for 2018 (revised with corrections).