The All-Moneyball Team
As embarrassing as this is to admit, I am just now reading Michael Lewis’s gem, Moneyball, for the first time. Yeah, I know, I should no longer be able to call myself a stats nerd if I am 22 years old and have never read one of the greatest pioneering books in the field. But, give me a second chance and indulge me for the next few minutes. In the book, Lewis recounts the research of Oakland A’s front office member Paul DePodesta. DePodesta decided to be a boss and find the statistics most closely correlated to winning during the 20th century. Like. Oh God. This man is my new hero. DePodesta’s research showed that on-base percentage and slugging percentage were by far the two most important statistics in all of baseball. The research also showed that on-base percentage was about three times as valuable as slugging percentage.
This got me thinking (which, believe me, is an extremely rare event). Which hitters in the game best fit DePodesta’s winning model? So, I multiplied each player’s on-base percentage times three and added in their slugging percentage to make a rudimentary list. The list below is based on players who qualify for the batting title at their respective positions.
C – Joe Mauer 1B – Chris Davis 2B – Robinson Cano SS – Jhonny Peralta 3B – Miguel Cabrera OF – Mike Trout OF – Michael Cuddyer OF – Carlos Gonzalez DH – David Ortiz
Interestingly, six of these players were starters for the American League All-Star team this year, and CarGo started for the National League. Maybe the fans do get it right? So, the list is largely uninteresting, but the runners-up at some positions do create some intrigue.
1 – Joe Mauer (1.688 rating) | 2 – Yadier Molina (1.626) | 3 – Buster Posey (1.615) | 4 – Carlos Santana (1.541)
It’s pretty clear who the top three offensive threats in the league at this position are. I have a pretty serious man crush on Mauer, and this just helps legitimize my otherwise pathetic beckoning. Mauer also qualified as the second highest designated hitter among eligible players.
1 – Chris Davis (1.835) | 2 – Joey Votto (1.808) | 3 – Paul Goldschmidt (1.723) | 4 – Edwin Encarnacion (1.642)
Votto’s disgustingly gorgeous .435 on-base wasn’t enough to overcome Crush’s .686 slugging percentage. Goldschmidt has lived up to his pre-season expectations and has put himself firmly behind Votto as the second best first baseman in the NL.
1 – Robinson Cano (1.652) | 2 – Matt Carpenter (1.623) | 3 – Jason Kipnis (1.593) | 4 – Dustin Pedroia (1.506)
By his standards (which are absurdly high), Cano is having a down year… and he is still the best offensive second baseman in the game. Carpenter has had a nice little breakout season for the Cardinals where his strikeout percentage has dropped to 12.8 percent from 18.5. Carpenter leads the lead in runs scored (92), followed by Cabrera, Davis and Trout. Not bad company. Kipnis, on the other hand has struck out more this year, but has also seen his OPS spike to .849 from .714 in 2012.
1 – Jhonny Peralta (1.544) | 2 – Jean Segura (1.485) | 3 – Everth Cabrera (1.446) | 4 – Jed Lowrie (1.445)
Apparently the products of that Biogenesis clinic are doing something right (except on Danny Valencia, who should probably ask for a refund). It should be noted that both Hanley Ramirez (1.817) and Troy Tulowitzki (1.732) would rank on this list if they had enough at-bats to qualify. In fact Ramirez’s numbers would be enough to put him fourth in the entire league. Yasiel who? (For the record, Puig’s number is 1.792, so still pretty darn good).
1 – Miguel Cabrera (2.045) | 2 – David Wright (1.685) | 3 – Adrian Beltre (1.661) | 4 – Josh Donaldson (1.606)
Cabrera had the largest number in the league at almost ten percent greater than Trout’s 1.864. This is just borderline unfair at this point. Donaldson seems to have figured something out after hitting .261/.344/.439 at AAA in 2011. The following year, those numbers improved to .335/.402/.598, earning Donaldson a starting role. Donaldson has capitalized, posting a 5.0 WAR, the fifth highest of all third basemen (ahead of Beltre but behind Evan Longoria and Manny Machado).
1 – Mike Trout (1.864) | 2 – Michael Cuddyer (1.699) | 3 – Carlos Gonzalez (1.692) | 4 – Shin-Soo Choo (1.690) | 5 – Andrew McCutchen (1.690) | 6 – Daniel Nava (1.581)
Writing “Shin-Soo Choo is better than Andrew McCutchen,” is a great way to lose all of my already non-existent credibility. Choo should not be too big of a surprise granted his career .387 on-base and .445 slugging. Nava barely beat out the likes of Carlos Gomez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista. Nobody provided competition for Trout, who had the second highest rating behind Cabrera.
1 – David Ortiz (1.793) | 2 – Billy Butler (1.574) | 3 – Adam Lind (1.529) | 4 – Adam Dunn (1.505)
The pickings were slim at DH after Mauer and Encarnacion, who would have finished second and third respectively, were removed from the equation. This allowed Dunn to sneak in despite a .239 average and a 0.7 WAR. Big Papi can still make it rain on them pups at the crisp age of 37.
The Red Sox were the only team to get more than two players on the top of the charts with Pedroia, Nava and Ortiz, although Pedroia was fourth and Nava sixth at their respective positions. The only other teams with multiple players were the Cardinals, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, Tigers and, of FREAKING course, the Oakland A’s. It’s like Billy Beane planned this little experiment.
The Braves and Dodgers are the only current playoff teams that did not have a player on the list, although Freddie Freeman was fifth at first base and, as mentioned before, Ramirez and Puig have put up good numbers without qualifying for the experiment. While this formula clearly doesn’t provide a definitive way to analyze players’ performance, it does make Joe Mauer look good, so you won’t see me complaining any time soon.