The Determinator: Second Basemen: #6-10
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 #6-10 Second Basemen in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. On Monday, will be the #1-5 Second 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 first 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 first base during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of second basemen down to 31.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the Bottom-5 (of the Top-10):
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 9 (Tied): Yolmer Sanchez, Chicago White Sox
Top-5: Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, BsR
Total Score: 32Embed from Getty Images
Yolmer Sanchez is the epitome of why I believe The Determinator is a legitimate method of ranking the best overall players at each position. While Sanchez failed to be a league-average second baseman at any of the 7 offensive statistics that The Determinator evaluates, he did rank well in the 2 base-running metrics and excellent across all 5 defensive metrics. His slash-line in 2019 of .252/.318/.321 had a decent AVG and OBP, but his lack of power- he hit only 2 HR’s in 149 games- led him to a bottom-3 offensive value (Off of -16.3) amongst second basemen. However, his base-running with the 10th best BsR (2), and fantastic defensive values all came out as Top-5, notably his Fld (4.9), DRS (11), UZR (4.9), and Def (7) all of which ranked second to only one other player, Kolten Wong, of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Number 9 (Tied): Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
Top-5: SLG, HR, wRC+, Off
Top-10: AVG, wRC, WAR
Top-15: Games, OBP, SB
Total Score: 32Embed from Getty Images
If you haven’t seen the ZiPS projections for Gleyber Torres over the next 5 years (from 2020-2024), I highly recommend you pause, read this article from MLB.com, and then come back here. Then, if you look at his 2019 values- a SLG of 0.535, 38 HR’s- it isn’t a crazy thought to think with (most likely) stability at a position in Shortstop for 2020 those numbers would increase as Torres gets closer to his traditional peak years. However, there is no problem in Torres’ offensive numbers, all of which are comfortably above average, but instead his defense metrics, from which he failed to record any points. As he moves to shortstop, it’s a hope that his defense will improve because of more consistent play at his natural position.
Number 8: Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
Top-5: DRS, Def
Top-10: Games, AVG, wRC, Fld, Innings, UZR
Top-15: OBP, SB, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR
Total Score: 34Embed from Getty Images
Adam Frazier’s Top-10 ranking is very closely related to that of Yolmer Sanchez, in that his defense is what predominantly netted him this placement. The big difference is however, that Frazier proved to be almost an exactly league-average bat with an OPS+ of 99, so he was able to record some Top-10 and Top-15 placements from his offensive statistics. What stood out most about Frazier’s offensive in 2019 was his solid AVG (0.278) and wRC (77). While he wasn’t as much of a stand-out defender as Sanchez, only ranking Top-5 in DRS (6) and Def (4.9), Frazier’s all-around average game, and his previous showings of above-average offense (in 2018 he had an OPS+ of 118) make him a good candidate to stick around here for a while.
Number 7: Jonathan Villar, Baltimore Orioles
Top-5: Games, SB, BsR, WAR
Top-10: HR, Off
Top-15: AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+
Total Score: 35Embed from Getty Images
While Jonathan Villar was Top-5 via fWAR (4.0) amongst second basemen in 2019, even while spending the entire season with the Baltimore Orioles, I think he is an obvious candidate to regress going into 2020 while with the Miami Marlins. Not only is he moving into a much harder offensive stadium to play in with a poor supporting cast, but his defense hasn’t been his saving grace in his career. As with Gleyber Torres, Villar failed to rank Top-15 in any defensive metric. However, his 2019 season was great across offensive metric, and one part of his game stands out far above the rest in base running. He led all second basemen in 2019 with 40 stolen bases and a BsR of 10.5, both comfortably above the next closest, Kolten Wong, who had 24 SB and a BsR of 7.1.
Number 6: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Top-5: AVG, SLG, HR, wRC+, Off
Top-10: OBP, wRC, WAR, Innings
Total Score: 38Embed from Getty Images
Jose Altuve is a great hitter. Even with the Astros cheating scandal putting an obvious blemish on his more recent numbers, he still is a fantastic hitter. Instead of complaining about that nonsense however, in a season where no rumors about cheating have been announced, let’s take his statistics at face value. Again, Altuve is a great hitter. His AVG (0.298), SLG (0.550), HR’s (31), wRC+ (138), and Off (21.8) were all tops amongst second basemen, but his base running and defense were lacking this season. Altuve used average about 37 SB from 2012-2017, which fell drastically these past two years at an average of 12. And his defense in 2019 was not good (Def of -4.6). It does irk me a little bit that he won the 2017 AL MVP because “of his defense” over Aaron Judge, but metrics consistently show he isn’t a great defender. (And, we now know he cheated during that season too.)
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.
Check back in on Monday at 4:00 PM to see the #1-5 Second Basemen (+ Honorable Mentions) in the MLB.