If you asked 10 people how to rank the 10 best offensive players in Major League Baseball, you would receive 10 different answers, maybe even more. Some people would put an emphasis on sabermetrics, or what I call "Moneyball stats," such as on base percentage, on base plus slugging percentage, wins above replacement, power/speed number (which I still do not understand) and so on. Some people would take an old school approach and look at the classic triple crown categories, home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
And then there are those who look at combinations of the aforementioned stats. I have narrowed down all the possible stats into a formula I think gives us the best look at who the best hitters are in the game. Since this is a ranking of players for 2011, the numbers will be taken from fangraphs and then be plugged into a simple formula (just add the numbers up) of six statistics I have deemed to be the most important, to create an "overall score." I will also describe why I picked each stat and at the end give you the part you all actually want to read: the ten best offensive players in baseball.
Total Bases + Batting Average + Adjusted On Base Plus Slugging (OPS+) + Home Runs + Steals + On Base Percentage = Overall Score
Total bases are important because,obviously, the more bases you can get as a hitter the better. It is one thing for someone to get 200 hits in a season, but if they are all singles, it is only 200 total bases. To put it simply, a large number of bases mean either A) the player accumulates a ton of hits and is always on base or B) when the player does get a hit, he crushes the ball.
Batting average has been somewhat replaced by on base percentage in recent years, but a high batting average generally means a large number of hits, which means possible runners on base are advancing and runs could be scoring
This takes into account the ballpark the player plays in to help close a disparity in numbers between a hitter in Coors Field and a hitter in Safeco Field. While some people may think a good hitter will hit anywhere, Adrian Beltre's 2010 season provides a wonderful example of how a ballpark can affect a player's numbers
An obvious stat to consider. Home runs guarantee at least one run scores, guarantee there will not be an out on the play, and, though it cannot be measured, provide momentum for the team batting and can hurt a pitcher mentally.
Many say steals are just the possibility of wasting outs. However, being able to steal a base does two things. A) It allows a base runner to move into scoring position (or in some rare cases score a run) without any assistance from the batter. B) It also creates a distraction to the pitcher and can allow for the batter to receive more fastballs and pitches to hit, since a ball in the dirt would make a steal more easily accomplished.
On Base Percentage
On base percentage is key because it determines a player's ability to not make an out. I debated on this one because, to me, a player who walks a lot (which leads to a high on base percentage) is not necessarily a great offensive player, it just means this player has good plate discipline. However, in today's game many of the best hitters are from the school of thought to wait for the right pitch. If it is not a pitch you can crush, let it pass and try to work a walk. So the statistic must be included since many lineups are built on this school of thought.
Stats like runs and runs batted in were left off because they were too dependent on the player's teammates. Yes, it seems a really good hitter will always have a large number of runs batted in and runs (see: Albert Pujols) but this formula is to determine how good offensively a player is with things only he can control.
The Top Ten
1. Albert Pujols: 1351 points
2. Miguel Cabrera: 1309 points
3. Joey Votto: 1266 points
4. Adrian Gonzalez: 1238 points
5. Ryan Braun:1212 points
6. Hanley Ramirez:1211 points
7. Matt Holliday: 1203 points
8. Carlos Gonzalez: 1199 points
9. Josh Hamilton: 1198 points
10. Kevin Youkilis: 1195 points
** The OPS+ numbers used when calculating the overall score were from the player's 2010 season, as the projections on the fangraphs website did not provide it. Any suggestions for how to alter this basic formula are welcome as baseball is filled with an endless number of stats and finding the six most important ones out of them is difficult. Again this is only to determine an all around offensive score.
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