Who Were the Most Productive Offensive Players in 2015?
Numerous methods have been devised to measure offensive performance. The most common are batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average. Since none of these averages provides a complete picture by itself, a more comprehensive measure of offensive performance is useful. Such a measure would include the following elements:
- The ability to get on base.
- The ability to hit with power.
- The ability to add value through base-running.
The first two elements are measured by on-base percentage and slugging average. A measure of offensive performance, which encompasses both as well as baserunning achievements, is Bases per Plate Appearance (BPA). This measure accounts for the net bases accumulated by a player per plate appearance. It is calculated as follows:
BPA = (TB + BB + HB + SB – CS – GIDP) / (AB + BB + HB + SF)
- BPA = Bases per Plate Appearance
- TB = Total Bases
- BB = Bases on Balls
- HB = Hit by Pitch
- SB = Stolen Bases
- CS = Caught Stealing
- GIDP = Grounded into Double Plays
- AB = At Bats
- SF = Sacrifice Flies
The numerator accounts for all of the bases accumulated by a player, reduced by the number of times he is caught stealing or erases another runner by grounding into a double play. The denominator accounts for the plate appearances when the player is trying to generate bases for himself. Sacrifice hits are not included as plate appearances, since they represent the successful execution of the batter’s attempts to advance another runner.
Major league BPA for the past fifteen years is shown below along with the number of players with BPA over .550 and .600:
Offensive production peaked in 2000 before declining in the early years of this century. BPA declined significantly through 2014 before an uptick in 2015.
In the 1990s, there were 14 individual .700 BPA seasons. In the eight year period from 2000 to 2007, there were 18. The highest BPA in the 1990s was recorded by Mark McGwire in 1998 (.799). Barry Bonds shattered that with .907 in 2001, the highest figure ever recorded, topping Babe Ruth’s best two years (1920 and 1921). Bonds followed that with .869 in 2002, .818 in 2003 and .882 in 2004. There have not been any hitters with a BPA of .700 since 2007. The last player to make it was Alex Rodriguez (.702) in 2007. Surprisingly, Albert Pujols has not had a .700 BPA in his fifteen seasons. His highest was .696 in 2009.
Between 2001 and 2007 there were numerous players, including Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, whose BPA exceeded .700 BPA. Bonds exceeded the mark five times with his highest mark being .907 in 2001. However, there have been no players approach this threshold since Ryan Howard had a .700 BPA in 2006 and Alex Rodriguez had a .702 BPA in 2007. The yearly leaders in BPA since 1992 are as follows:
The benchmark for an outstanding individual season is .600. Following is a list of the only six players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and with a BPA of .600 in 2015. The list is topped by Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals with a BPA of .694, the highest since Albert Pujols recorded a .696 in 2009. Players with a Bases Per Plate Appearance (BPA) exceeding .600 in 2015 are as follows:
|Player||2014 BPA||2015 BPA||League||No. of .600+ Seasons||Comments|
|Bryce Harper||.464||.494||NL||1||Breakout season|
|Paul Goldschmidt||.594||.638||NL||1||Does everything well|
|Mike Trout||.623||.636||AL||4||Over .600 in each of his first four seasons|
|Joey Votto||.496||.633||NL||3||On-base percentage of .459 in 2015|
|Chris Davis||.477||.607||AL||2||Led Majors with 47 home runs in 2015|
|Nelson Cruz||.537||.600||AL||1||Strong hitting year in a pitchers park|
If you are looking for AL MVP Josh Donaldson, he finished 7th with .594.
Three other players had a BPA over .600 in 2014 but failed to qualify in 2015.
|Player||2014 BPA||2015 BPA||League||No. Seasons .600+||Comments|
|Giancarlo Stanton||.614||.635||NL||1||Failed to qualify because of injury|
|Andrew McCutcheon||.613||.539||NL||1||Bad start led to lower season numbers|
|Jose Abreu||.600||.518||AL||1||Did not measure up to rookie season|
Three active players have a BPA over .600 for their careers:
|Player||Age||2015 BPA||Career BPA||Comments|
|Mike Trout||23||.636||.634||Quick rise to the top|
|Alex Rodriguez||39||.534||,605||Recovery in 2015|
|Albert Pujols||35||.502||.603||Power OK but averages declining|
Another list of interest is of players with a BPA of over .600 in 2015 who did not have enough plate appearances (PA) to qualify for the batting title.
|Mikie Mahtook||25||.658||115||Strong finish after Tampa Bay call up|
|Giancarlo Stanton||29||.643||375||Season cut short by injury|
|Franklin Gutierrez||32||.624||189||Productive when healthy|
|Carey Seager||21||.619||113||Top Dodger prospect|
|Curt Casali||26||.607||113||Good power from Rays backup catcher|
Looking at the other end of the spectrum, sixteen players who earned enough playing time to qualify for the batting title had a BPA less than .400 in 2015. Last year, twenty five players were on this list.
|Avisail Garcia||.388||White Sox|
|Pablo Sandoval||.377||Red Sox|
|Alexi Ramirez||.374||White Sox|
Three players compiled a batting average over .300, an on-base average over .400, a slugging percentage over .500 and bases per plate appearance over .600 in 2015.
Another means of measuring offensive performance is Bases per Out, also called Total Average. The top 10 players on both lists for 2015 are shown below.
|Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||.594|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||.590|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||.588|
Bases Per Out:
|Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||.967|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||.963|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||.957|
The lists are quite similar with nine players appearing on both lists. Harper is on top of both lists by a sizable margin and the same four players are on the top of both lists but in a different order. Votto and Cabrera rank higher on the Total Average list because they have high batting averages and draw a lot of walks while Davis and Cruz get much of their production from extra base hits but they make more outs.