The Determinator: Third 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.
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 Third Basemen in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Tomorrow, will be the #1-5 Third Basemen in the MLB, plus honorable mentions.
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: Third Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 176 different players who played any amount of time at third base during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for third basemen:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings at third base during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of third basemen down to 32.
However, without further ado, let’s get to numbers 6 through 10:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Eduardo Escobar, Arizona Diamondbacks
Top-5: Games, BsR, DRS
Top-10: HR, SB, wRC, WAR, Innings
Top-15: AVG, SLG, Off, Fld
Total Score: 34Embed from Getty Images
The switch-hitting Eduardo Escobar, can not only handle the MLB at both sides of the plate, but also on both sides of the ball. Escobar grades out as just about league average amongst 3B in Off (11.1, 14th overall), Def (2.9, 17th), and comfortably above in BsR (2.9, 4th). With a career season in 2019 that brought Escobar to a 3.7 fWAR around 0.269/0.320/.0.511 slash line with 34 HR’s, it can be said that his offensive game plays much better in Chase Field. He is a perfect example of how having an all-around solid game can make a ballplayer a valuable piece, even if the accolades haven’t come to him- yet. Given the very competitive crop of players at the top of his position, it isn’t much of a surprise that Escobar lacks any hardware, but his 2019 season should give hope that an All-Star Game appearance could be well within reach.
Number 9: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Top-5: OBP, wRC+, BsR, Off
Top-10: AVG, SLG, wRC, WAR
Top-15: Games, HR, SB, Innings
Total Score: 36Embed from Getty Images
Kris Bryant may be the most interesting 3B on this list. Not because of how he has comfortably been one of the better 3B in baseball once he broke into the MLB in 2015, nor the current battle between himself and the Chicago Cubs about service time manipulation, nor is it because of doing promotional videos with Red Bull, nor the trade rumors about him, but instead about how he is used in the field. Kris Bryant is the only Top-10 3B, according to The Determinator, to have spent time in the outfield, playing 166.2 innings in RF and another 107.0 innings in LF. That being said, Bryant is also a tremendous offensive 3B, ranking in the Top-10 in all offensive and base-running statistics, except for HR’s (31) and SB’s (4). This included a 0.282/0.382/0.521 triple slash, a wRC and wRC+ of 112 and 135 respectively, and an Off of 32.9 with a BsR of 3.8. While his defensive metrics didn’t come out favorable, with a -7 DRS and a Def of 0.2, this didn’t truly effect his fWAR at 4.8.
Number 8: Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
Top-5: Games, SLG, HR, wRC, Innings
Top-10: OBP, wRC, Off, WAR
Top-15: AVG, SB, DRS
Total Score: 40Embed from Getty Images
Eugenio Suarez in each season of his career has increased the number of Home Runs he has hit, with this past season going from 34 to 49, an increase of 15 and the biggest of his career. This increase in HR’s led him to a Top-5 SLG (0.572) and wRC (118). However, because of just above-average AVG (0.271) and OBP (0.358)- and probably because of the supposed ‘juiced ball’- his total offensive value came out to only a Top-10 finish with a rating of 22.6, close to Dodger’s 3B Justin Turner (22.3). Suarez also led all 3B in games played, tying a career best 159 games which he also achieved during the 2016 season.
Number 7: Josh Donaldson, Free Agent
Top-5: OBP, HR, Innings, DRS
Top-10: Games, SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-15: SB, Fld, UZR, Def
Total Score: 42Embed from Getty Images
Josh Donaldson, who is without a doubt the biggest name still on the Free Agent market, and who only played in 52 games in 2018, had major questions about the player he would be in 2019. The Atlanta Braves were the team who decided to take a shot on him and we rewarded highly. Donaldson had more of the most consistent overall seasons, ranking in all but two statistics- AVG and BsR- but instead ranking above-average in all of Def (4.6), Off (24.9), and fWAR (4.9). While he didn’t lead 3B in any statistics, he did rank highly with OBP (0.379), HR (37), Innings at 3B (1297.0), and DRS (15). I would personally expect Donaldson to sign soon, most likely coming back to the American League with the Minnesota Twins.
Number 6: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Top-5: Games, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-10: AVG, SB, DRS
Top-15: UZR, Def
Total Score: 51Embed from Getty Images
Alex Bregman, along with the rest of the Houston Astros players and organization, are again heavily under scrutiny now that Major League Baseball has determined a punishment from their 2017 World Series winning season. It would appear that his numbers also show that he may be a bit overrated when it comes to how highly people seem to rank Bregman in relation to his other 3B. His offensive value is immense, which is shown especially clear with his top position leading in all of OBP (0.423), wRC (146), wRC+ (168), Off (58.2), and fWAR (8.5). However, his defensive values do make a case for why he isn’t able to crack the Top-5 3B according to The Determinator, with a mere Def of 3.8, which came out to be 15th amongst the 3B who qualified. Obviously Alex Bregman is a top player in the MLB, but it does appear that his abilities maybe should be more in question about how good he truly is.
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 tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the #1-5 Third Basemen in the MLB.