We’re saying our final farewells to the 2015 Major League Baseball season. We already named our All-Plutonium Defensive Team so now we will highlight the very best offensive players of last season.
Once again, we will utilize Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short) to rank these players. Seven offensive stats were used to measure the following criteria:
- Hitting Prowess and Power (wOBA plus ISO)
- Plate Discipline (BB%, K%, plus BB:K divided by three)
- Base Running (wSB plus UBR divided by two)
We take no more than the top 20 players in each category at each position and award points to the players based on their ranking in each category. For example, a player would get awarded 955 points for ranking first in a stat, 860 points for finishing second, etc.
FUBAR uses two stats to measure hitting and power:
- Weighted On-Base Average–(wOBA–basically, some hits are better than others)
- Isolated Power–(ISO–simply a stat that only measures the rate a player gets an extra base-hit)
Here are the best hitters at each position, per FUBAR:
- Russell Martin—Catcher: 23 home runs, 77 runs batted in
- Chris Davis–First Base: 47 HR, 117 RBI
- Ben Zobrist–Second Base: triple slash line of .276/.359/.450
- Jung-ho Kang–Shortstop: .287/.355/.461
- Josh Donaldson–Third Base: 41 HR, 123 RBI, AL MVP
- Yoenis Cespedes and David Peralta–Left Field
- Mike Trout–Center Field: second highest offensive WAR in baseball
- Bryce Harper–Right Field: National League MVP
Pretty surprising to see Davis overtake Paul Goldschmidt in this category. But FUBAR really likes Davis’ power. Logan Forsythe finished in second in this category at second base. Jason Kipnis would finish in third as the highest, “true” second baseman. Brandon Crawford finished in second and as the top “true” shortstop. Despite lacking the counting stats that Cespedes accumulated last season, Peralta’s on-base skills really flourished in these results (.371 on-base percentage vs Cespedes’ .328) and offset Cespedes’ power.
FUBAR uses three stats to measure plate discipline:
- Walk Percentage (BB%)–Walks divided by plate appearances.
- Strikeout Percentage (K%)–Strikeouts divided by plate appearances
- Walk to Strikeout Ratio (BB:K)–Walks divided by Strikeouts.
Not to be confused with Plate Discipline used to describe stats such as Contact Rate and Swing Percentage.
Basically, we’re trying to reward players who best display the skills of limiting strikeouts and drawing walks:
- Buster Posey–Catcher: Finished third in BB:K among all qualifying hitters
- Miguel Cabrera–First Base: No further explanation needed
- Ben Zobrist–Second Base: No surprise here either
- Andrelton Simmons–Shortstop: One of the toughest hitters to strike out
- Daniel Murphy–Third Base: Proceeded to have a postseason to remember
- Michael Brantley–Left Field: Best BB:K in baseball last season.
- Andrew McCutchen–Center Field: Cutch has been one of the most skilled players in baseball for a long while now
- Jose Bautista–Right Field: Same applies to Joey Bats.
Shocked to see Cabrera beat out Joey Votto in this category, but there’s a reason why Cabrera will probably be known as this generation’s greatest hitter. Daniel Murphy finished in second behind Zobrist at second base. In third, “true” second baseman Johnny Giavotella showed a good approach at the plate in 2015. Yunel Escobar finished in second among third basemen. Along with Simmons and Albert Pujols, the Anaheim Angels look to have one of the best, disciplined group of infielders in baseball.
Finally, Zobrist finished in first among all left fielders as well, but since he was awarded second base, we awarded Brantley for the outfield spot.
FUBAR uses two stats to measure base running:
- Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB)–basically measures a player’s contribution when he successfully steals a base.
- Ultimate Base Running (UBR)–for those players who do not steal bases, but are smart on the base paths, this stat highlights that particular skill.
As many “old-skool” baseball fans will explain, you do not have to be fast to be a good base runner.
- J.T. Realmuto and Derek Norris–Catcher
- Paul Goldschmidt–First Base: The obvious choice per both eye and stats’ test
- DJ LeMahieu–Second Base: 23 stolen bases, only caught thrice.
- Xander Bogaerts–Shortstop: only 10 stolen bases, but scoring 84 runs was no accident
- Matt Duffy–Third Base: stole 12 bases, never got caught.
- Ben Revere–Left Field: 31 steals and 84 runs on a career high OBP of .342.
- A.J. Pollock–Center Field: 39 stolen bases plus 111 runs scored
- Jason Heyward–Right Field: one of many reasons the Chicago Cubs signed him long-term.
Billy Hamilton, arguably the fastest base runner in baseball finished in second place among center fielders despite stealing 57 bases. One of the closest races was at short, where Alcides Escobar finished a closed second behind Bogaerts. Realmuto stole eight bases as a catcher, but was caught stealing four times. Norris stole four, was caught once. And that is how we got two catchers on this list.
ALL URANIUM TEAM
In the “real” world, players are awarded Silver Sluggers for their offensive efforts. For a better explanation of what the Silver Slugger is all about, read about our 2014 offensive team.
For this exercise, we’ll focus on FUBAR and see who the best, offensive players from 2015 were based on hitting, power, plate discipline, and base running. Why settle for a metal when you can be radioactive?
- Buster Posey–Catcher: Posey had another solid 2015 campaign. Amazingly, Posey led all catchers in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage (.318/.379/.470).
- Paul Goldschmidt–First Base: In a stacked position full of great sluggers and productive hitters, Goldie reigned supreme with both the bat at the plate and his legs on the base paths.
- Ben Zobrist–Second Base: Holds his own as a good, productive hitter, but what separates him from his peers is his batting eye. No one comes close to being as skilled as Zobrist at this position.
- Jung-ho Kang–Shortstop: A lot of buzz surrounded Kang at the beginning of the season. The “rookie” pretty much met expectations as a contributing big leaguer. A horrific injury near the end of the year finished his season short.
- Josh Donaldson–Third Base: Donaldson put up the counting stats needed to garner MVP votes. His advanced stats also helped his voters justify them voting for Donaldson for American League MVP in 2015.
- Michael Brantley–Left Field: After breaking out in 2014, Brantley showed in 2015 that he is no fluke. Brantley is one of the most well-balanced hitters in the game today.
- A.J. Pollock–Center Field: This is a shocker, but Pollock was the only center fielder to rank in all seven of the offensive statistical categories used to compile these rankings. A jack-of-all trades, Pollock proved he can be a very productive hitter, hold his own in the discipline category, and a superb base runner.
- Bryce Harper–Right Field: The National League MVP had a year for the ages. At only 22 years-old, Harper proved to have the batting eye of a ten-year veteran, and showcased the potent power many scouts had projected of him since he was a blue-chip amateur prospect. It’s very scary to think how good Harper can get from here on out.
- Mike Trout–Designated Hitter: A list of the best offensive players without Mike Trout is not a very complete list. People talk about five-tool players and Trout has been regarded as such a player. Unfortunately, due to his team’s needs, he has sacrificed a bit of his all-around game to be more of a power-hitting, run producer. A career high in home runs, ISO, and slugging percentage showed his willingness to sacrifice his game for the good of the team.
Now the fun part begins as we compiled the best hitting lineup imaginable:
- A.J. Pollock
- Mike Trout
- Bryce Harper
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Josh Donaldson
- Michael Brantley
- Buster Posey
- Ben Zobrist
- Jung-ho Kang
There really is no wrong way to set this lineup when you have the best hitters at your disposal.
All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com.