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2014 MLB Capsule: The FUBAR All-Offensive Team

Felipe Melecio uses advanced stats to identify the top 2014 MLB hitters at every position to determine if the Silver Slugger voters got it right.

Michael Brantley

The 2014 Silver Slugger Awards were announced last week, rewarding Major League Baseball’s best hitters of this past season. Unlike the Gold Glove Awards, very little in advanced statistics were used to determine the winners. Per the Louisville Slugger website:

The Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball managers and coaches who selected the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National Leagues in 2014. Selections were based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as the managers’ and coaches’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.

So the Silver Slugger is mostly based on traditional stats and subjectivity from managers and coaches. That is why we will be utilizing our number-centric formula, Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short), to come up with the best hitters of 2014, regardless of league affiliation. It will give us a chance to see if the managers and coaches got it right with their selections.

The point of using FUBAR on individual players is to make evaluations on players based on the following criteria:

  • Hitting Prowess
  • Plate Discipline
  • Base Running

We last listed the best hitters of 2014 back in August. Here are quick summaries on each criteria and metric used to come up with our All-Offensive Team.

HITTING PROWESS

The advanced stat used for this criteria is Weighted On Base Average (or wOBA for short). In short, wOBA is a stat that takes into account the fact that not all hits are created equal (be sure to read our more detailed look of wOBA). Leading MLB in wOBA was reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Tying for second were Victor Martinez and Jose Abreu.

PLATE DISCIPLINE

We use a simple stat to evaluate discipline in Walks:Strikeout Ratio (BB:K). It can be argued that taking pitches, working the count, and drawing walks is a vital skill in today’s game with batting strikeouts seemingly going to new heights. Leading the league in BB:K was Victor Martinez with Jose Bautista and Coco Crisp being the only other qualifying hitters that finished with more walks than strikeouts in 2014.

BASE RUNNING

Per fangraphs.com, Base Running (BsR) is measured by adding the Ultimate Base Running stat (UBR–a stat used to determine value of good and bad base running plays) with Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB–used to determine the number of runs contributed by a player stealing bases). We wrote a series of articles on stolen bases and speed, beginning with this piece about players scoring from first base on a double. Here are your base running leaders of 2014:

Without further delay, here are the FUBAR equivalent of the Silver Slugger Award, the 2014 All-Offensive Team.

CATCHER

Silver Slugger Winners: Yan Gomes and Buster Posey

FUBAR says: Jonathan Lucroy

An argument can be made that Lucroy pretty much carried the Milwaukee Brewers this past season, on offense and defense, and was not rewarded with hardware for his efforts. But FUBAR recognized Lucroy’s game as the best, all-around catcher of 2014. While it is true that Posey had a much higher wOBA, Lucroy held his own in that category and smoked the Giants’ backstop in our base running and plate discipline metrics. Posey and Gomes would finish tied for a distant second at this position.

FIRST BASE

Silver Slugger Winners: Jose Abreu and Adrian Gonzalez

FUBAR says: Edwin Encarnacion

Encarnacion battled injuries all season long, playing in 17 less games than Abreu. No doubt that if Encarnacion had played more games, he would have had higher counting stats (home runs and RBI) than the eventual AL Rookie of the Year. And though Abreu had the higher slash line, Encarnacion produced with a Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) that was 100 points lower than Abreu’s mark this season. Plus Enarnacion was the better base runner and his maturity at the plate is miles away from Abreu’s. Abreu would finish fifth in our rankings behind former catchers Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana.

Gonzalez would finish as only the 15th best offensive first baseman in the game. If there was to be a National League winner, it should have gone to Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo finished 13 points behind Encarnacion in FUBAR as his combination of offensive skill and defense is setting him up to quickly becoming the best at the position for years to come.

SECOND BASE

Silver Slugger Winners: Jose Altuve and Neil Walker

FUBAR says: Jose Altuve

Back in June, we were clamoring for Altuve to get more hype and All-Star consideration. He was better than Robinson Cano then and he’s better than Cano to finish out the season. The diminutive Altuve proves once again that baseball takes all comers regardless of size and the advanced stats back up the voters’ results on this one.

Neil Walker probably won by default as he had a good season with 20+ home runs and 75+ RBI. But with all the buzz about bringing back speed to the game, especially with the current success of the Kansas City Royals, one would think that base running would be taken into consideration for these awards, not just solely power. But the managers and coaches went with Walker in the NL. FUBAR gave the nod to Dee Gordon, whose speed alone was enough to make him the best second baseman in the National League.

SHORTSTOP

Silver Slugger Winners: Alexei Ramirez and Ian Desmond

FUBAR says: Hanley Ramirez

The managers got this completely wrong. Hanley Ramirez had the hitting prowess and the plate discipline to take over this spot beating out Jose Reyes. To Desmond’s credit, he finished a sold third in FUBAR. However, Ramirez did not even finish as the best shortstop in his own division. That honor went to Alcides Escobar who, as we saw throughout these playoffs, can run for days. Ramirez would finish 10th in offensive FUBAR.

THIRD BASE

Silver Slugger Winners: Adrian Beltre and Anthony Rendon

FUBAR says: Adrian Beltre

Beltre beats out Rendon by a single point in these rankings as Rendon had a breakout year in 2014, living up to the hype that followed him as a highly-touted prospect in Washington’s farm system. But Beltre had another solid year at the hot corner as he’s once again at the top of the position, but Rendon is a rising star in the making and looks to be a good bet to take over the position in 2015.

LEFT FIELD

Silver Slugger Winners: Michael Brantley and Justin Upton

FUBAR says: Michael Brantley

Brantley qualified as the best hitter at center field too, but absolutely crushed the competition in left field, receiving a perfect score on all the offensive categories used to evaluate these players. The next closest player was Alex Gordon, finishing in second, trailing Brantley by a whopping 140 points in our rankings.

Matt Holliday would represent the National League by default, finishing in third in these rankings. Justin Upton finished in 11th behind speedster, Brett Gardner.

CENTER FIELD

Silver Slugger Winners: Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen

FUBAR says: Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen will take the center field position in place of Brantley who will be manning left. Why McCutchen over Trout? McCutchen had the much better wOBA and his approach at the plate was light years ahead of Trout. The only advantage Trout had over McCutchen was base running. It’s going to take more than that to top McCutchen.

RIGHT FIELD

Silver Slugger Winners: Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton

FUBAR says: Jose Bautista

Along with the impressive counting stats (35 home runs, 100+ RBI and Walks), Bautista was rewarded right field for his superb plate discipline. Combination of power and discipline, nobody came close to threaten Bautista’s number one spot in the American League.

The National League was a different story. Rounding out the top five in right field were all NL players, including Jayson Werth, World Series hero Hunter Pence, and finishing in fourth, power masher Giancarlo Stanton.

There you have it, the best of the best of 2014. What would the ultimate, 2014 batting order look like?

  1. Jose Altuve
  2. Michael Brantley
  3. Andrew McCutchen
  4. Edwin Encarnacion
  5. Jose Bautista
  6. Adrian Beltre
  7. Hanley Ramirez
  8. Jonathan Lucroy

Safe to say that this lineup would definitely put up runs in bunches. For the most part, the managers and coaches got it right with their selections, especially in the outfield, but notable snubs were made at catcher, first base, and shortstop. Regardless, when one looks back at 2014, these players will personify power, speed, and discipline in baseball.

All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com.

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