The Determinator: Second Basemen: #1-5 + Honorable Mentions
Before every season, baseball minds across the sport test their skills with crunching numbers, diving deep into analytics, and reviewing game footage in order to determine who the best players are in the game. Often times they give their analysis fun names; one of the most notable being The Shredder from MLB Network.
Sometimes the results astound people- like in 2015 Hanely Ramirez was rated the top Left Fielder in the MLB before ever playing there. Other times, the results are unsurprising- spoiler alert, but Mike Trout was probably the best CF in baseball, and most likely will be again.
Starting today, and every weekday at 4:00 PM throughout the next few weeks, I will be posting my own analysis on who the top players at each position truly are.
Welcome to The Determinator.
Today I will reveal the Top-5 Second Basemen in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Tomorrow, will be the #6-10 Third Basemen in the MLB.
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2020 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
The Determinator: Second Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 173 different players who played any amount of time at second base during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for first basemen:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings at second base during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of second basemen down to 31.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the Top-5:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Top-5: Games, AVG, SB, wRC, DRS
Top-10: OBP, SLG, wRC+, WAR
Top-15: BsR, Off, UZR
Total Score: 40Embed from Getty Images
When Whit Merrifield broke into the big leagues in 2016, and up until this past season he has been a criminally underrated ballplayer, taking until the 2019 season to make his first career All-Star appearance. While he lacks traditional HR power, hitting 16 HR’s in 2019, his ability to hit for extra-bases shows in his above-average BsR (1.5), SLG (0.463), and wRC+ (110). His defensive metrics are all favorable towards him, with a great DRS (7), but more limited UZR (0.8) and Def (2), however these numbers are effected because of his use also as a RF/CF (combined 631.1 innings in 2019) with the Royals. Merrifield’s most important factor of his game does come in his MLB-leading 162 games played and 681 At-Bats, of which has been a constant factor since his first full season in 2017, averaging 155 games per year since.
Number 4: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR
Top-15: Games, Fld
Total Score: 45Embed from Getty Images
Muncy first broke into the MLB in 2015 with the Oakland Athletics, but after parts of two unsuccessful seasons was released and signed by the Dodgers for the 2017 season. After that year in Triple-A, he broke into the MLB again in 2018, and in the past two seasons has been incredible with a cumulative bWAR and fWAR each at 10.0. He’s a perfect example of a favorite by the advanced metrics, with great numbers at wRC (101), wRC+ (134), BsR (4.3), fWAR (4.8), and a position-leading Off (31.3). But it doesn’t hurt that his traditional triple-slash is also comfortably above-average .251/.374/.515 with 35 HR’s in 2019. His defense doesn’t get rated highly, but he ends up in a similar situation to Whit Merrifield, as Muncy also played over 400 innings at 1B and another 200 innings at 3B.
Number 3: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: SB, BsR, WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, AVG, OBP, Off
Top-15: wRC, wRC+
Total Score: 54Embed from Getty Images
Kolten Wong’s 2019 was his first season since 2015 that he didn’t either spend time on IL, get sent down to the minors, or both. He has never been a stand-out candidate at the plate, but instead has gotten his value so high due to his top-of-the-line defense and base-running. Wong not only placed Top-5 in each defensive statistic, but also lead all second basemen at each. This includes Fld (5.2), DRS (14), UZR (5.2), and Def (7.2). With Top-5 base-running in both SB (24) and a BsR (7.1), combined with above average AVG (0.285) and OBP (0.361), Wong was also able to squeak out a solid Off (12.9). While not a bat-first player, Wong still has tremendous value when able to stay on the field, as shown by his 2019 NL Gold Glove at 2B.
Number 2: DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Fld, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, DRS
Total Score: 62Embed from Getty Images
I don’t think it should come as a surprise to any Yankees fan that DJ LeMahieu is ranked so highly as a second baseman. Much like Muncy and Merrifield (both above), LeMahieu found himself playing much more than just second base during the 2019 season, logging 400.0 innings at 3B and another 262.0 at 1B. During all of this, he worked himself to the AL 2B Silver Slugger, and a Top-4 AL MVP placement. LeMahieu was absolutely dominant, place Top-5 in all 7 offensive statistics, leading all 2B in AVG (0.327), OBP (0.375), and wRC (114), alongside 26 HR’s and a 0.518 SLG. He also led all 2B in fWAR (5.4), and had Top-5 placements in three of the four defensive categories Fld (3.4), UZR (4), Def (4.9), except for DRS (5) which ranked Top-10. LeMahieu was almost a perfect player in 2019, with his only shortcoming being base-running. His leading so many statistics can make a compelling case for his being #1, but he fell just two points short of a tie.
Number 1: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
Top-5: Games, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings, DRS
Top-10: AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC+, Fld, UZR, Def
Total Score: 64Embed from Getty Images
Ozzie Albies, #1 both on the field and in The Determinator’s rankings across all MLB second basemen, and how can you truly say otherwise based upon this system? So far, Albies has the second-highest score given by The Determinator, only behind Catcher J.T. Realmuto who scored a 74. Getting back to Albies however, he placed Top-5 and/or Top-10 across every single statistic and metric that defines The Determinator, and did so while only leading at innings played at 2B. This goes to show that he had consistent, top-of-the-game performance at his position. His Top-10 offensive statistics, with a 0.295/0.352/0.500 triple-slash with 24 HR’s and a wRC+ of 117 are all well above average which led him to the 2019 NL Silver Slugger at 2B. His Top-5 base-running with 15 SB and a BsR of 4.8 easily pushed Albies into a Top-5 Off (20.1) and fWAR (4.6). Albies’ defense was also very consistently rated highly with a Fld (2.2), UZR (2.2), and Def (4.6) all Top-10, along with a Top-5 DRS (8). Definitely underrated by many other projections, Ozzie Albies is worthy of the #1 uniform he wears, as shown by The Determinator.
As with both my previous rankings- albeit in order to provide a segway to mentioning Yankees who failed to make the list- I put together a quick list of other notable players at each position to be highlighted. As both Yankees who qualified for placement amongst 2B made the Top-10 (Gleyber Torres Tied for 9th, DJ LeMahieu at 2nd), instead we’ll just highlight other notable names across the MLB:
Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers – 2B Leader in SLG (0.570) and wRC+ (139), Scored 29 Points, Ranked #11
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians – Scored 20 Points, Ranked #17 (2-Way Tie with Cavan Biggio)
Starlin Castro, Miami Marlins – Scored 17 Points, Ranked #19
Brian Dozier, Washington Nationals – Scored 12 Points, Ranked #20 (2-Way Tie with Nicky Lopez)
Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners – Scored 10 Points, Ranked #24
Ian Kinsler, San Diego Padres – Scored 5 Points, Ranked #30
Robinson Cano, New York Mets – Scored 0 Points (Only 1B to do so), Ranked #31
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.
Click here to see the #1-5 Catchers (+ Honorable Mentions), and here for the #6-10 Catchers.
Click here to see the #1-5 First Basemen (+ Honorable Mentions), and here for the #6-10 First Basemen.
Click here to see the #6-10 Second Basemen.
Check back in tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the #6-10 Third Basemen in the MLB.