Pujols: Most Productive Offensive Player

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols was the most productive offensive player in Major League Baseball in 2008.

Numerous methods have been devised to measure offensive performance.  The most common are batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average.  Since none of these averages provides a complete picture by itself, a more comprehensive measure of offensive performance is useful.  Such a measure would include the following elements:

 

1. The ability to get on base.

2. The ability to hit with power.

3. The ability to add value through baserunning.

 

The first two elements are measured by on-base percentage and slugging average.  A measure of offensive performance, which encompasses both as well as baserunning achievements, is Bases per Plate Appearance (BPA).  This measure accounts for the net bases accumulated by a player per plate appearance.  It is calculated as follows:

 

     BPA=(TB+BB+HB+SB-CS-GIDP)/(AB+BB+HB+SF)

 

     Where: BPA = Bases per Plate Appearance

            TB   = Total Bases

            BB   = Bases on Balls

            HB   = Hit by Pitch

            SB   = Stolen Bases

            CS   = Caught Stealing

            GIDP = Grounded into Double Plays

            AB   = At Bats

            SF   = Sacrifice Flies

 

The numerator accounts for all of the bases accumulated by a player, reduced by the number of times he is caught stealing or erases another runner by grounding into a double play.  The denominator accounts for the plate appearances when the player is trying to generate bases for himself.  Sacrifice hits are not included as plate appearances, since they represent the successful execution of the batter's attempts to advance another runner.

 

Major league BPA for the past fifteen years are shown below along with the number of players with BPA over .550 and .600:

 

Year BPA 0.550 0.600
1994 0.467 38 16
1995 0.463 37 15
1996 0.471 41 21
1997 0.463 34 15
1998 0.463 41 22
1999 0.479 50 29
2000 0.481 50 30
2001 0.468 46 26
2002 0.457 39 17
2003 0.461 42 15
2004 0.468 33 18
2005 0.456 34 13
2006 0.470 46 14
2007 0.463 34 15
2008 0.458 41 11

 

Offensive production peaked in 2000 before declining in the early years of this decade.  BPA in 2008 was down slightly from 2007.

 

In the 1990s, there were 14 individual .700 BPA seasons.  In the nine year period from 2000 to 2008, there have been 18.  The highest BPA in the 1990s was recorded by Mark McGwire in 1998 (.799). Barry Bonds shattered that with .907 in 2001, the highest figure ever recorded, topping Babe Ruth's best two years (1920 and 1921).  Bonds followed that with .869 in 2002, .818 in 2003 and .882 in 2004.  There were no hitters with a BPA of .700 in 2008 and the only player to make it in 2007 was Alex Rodriguez (.702).  Surprisingly, Albert Pujols has not had a .700 BPA in his eight seasons. However, he was the leader in 2008 by a large margin with a BPA of .685, the first time he has finished on top.

 

The .700 BPA seasons in 2000-2007 are listed below:

   

Player Team Year BPA
Barry Bonds San Francisco 2001 0.907
Barry Bonds San Francisco 2004 0.882
Barry Bonds San Francisco 2002 0.869
Barry Bonds San Francisco 2003 0.818
Sammy Sosa Cubs 2001 0.758
Barry Bonds San Francisco 2000 0.745
Jim Thome Cleveland 2002 0.728
Manny Ramirez Cleveland 2000 0.726
Todd Helton Colorado 2000 0.720
Luis Gonzalez Arizona 2001 0.713
Todd Helton Colorado 2001 0.709
Carlos Delgado Toronto 2000 0.707
Larry Walker Colorado 2001 0.707
Jason Giambi Oakland 2000 0.706
Travis Hafner Cleveland 2006 0.703
Alex Rodriguez Yankees 2007 0.702
Jason Giambi Oakland 2001 0.700
Ryan Howard Philadelphia 2006 0.700

 

The yearly leaders since 1992 are as follows:

 

1992 Bonds 0.734 1993 Bonds 0.740 1994 Bagwell 0.768
1995 Belle 0.692 1996 McGwire 0.765 1997 Walker 0.770
1998 McGwire 0.799 1999 McGwire 0.735 2000 Bonds 0.745
2001 Bonds 0.907 2002 Bonds 0.869 2003 Bonds 0.818
2004 Bonds 0.882 2005 D.Lee 0.699 2006 Hafner 0.703
2007 A.Rodriguez 0.702 2008 Pujols 0.685

 

The benchmark for an outstanding individual season is .600.  Following is a list of 11 players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and with a BPA of .600 in 2008.

 

Bases per Plate Appearance (BPA) of .600+ in 2008

  

2007 2008 # .600+
Player BPA BPA Seasons Comments
1 Pujols 0.583 0.685 6 Clearly the top offensive player.
2 Ramirez,M 0.518 0.636 11 New life on the West Coast.
3 Berkman 0.570 0.633 5 Back on list after an off-year.
4 Ramirez,H 0.634 0.629 2 Emerging superstar
5 Jones,C 0.629 0.625 4 Still one of the best.
6 Holliday 0.621 0.624 2 Solid production, esp. at Coors.
7 Rodriguez,A 0.702 0.623 10 Not up to his usual standard.
8 Bradley 0.493 0.617 1 Misses a lot of games.
9 Ludwick 0.530 0.615 1 Can he do it again?
10 Quentin 0.397 0.612 1 Carried the White Sox for months.
11 Sizemore 0.572 0.611 2 Can do it all.

 

The only repeaters from last year's list are Hanley Ramirez, Jones, Holliday and Rodriguez.  Eleven other players had a BPA over .600 in 2007 but fell short in 2008.  Most of these players had strong seasons in 2008 but not up to their exceptional performance in 2007.

 

2007 2008 # .600+
Player BPA BPA Seasons Comments
1 Pena 0.678 0.567 1 Didn't repeat 2007 career year.
2 Ortiz 0.663 0.555 5 Held back by injured wrist.
3 Fielder 0.659 0.552 1 Slow start held him back.
4 Howard 0.631 0.577 2 Came on strong in September.
5 Wright 0.626 0.581 1 Didn't quite match big 2007.
6 Granderson 0.621 0.554 1 Good but not great.
7 Thome 0.621 0.550 12 In gradual decline.
8 Dunn 0.617 0.596 3 Consistent year-to-year.
9 Utley 0.614 0.593 1 Does everything well.
10 Ordonez 0.612 0.485 2 Big drop-off from strong 2007.
11 Teixeira 0.609 0.593 3 Consistently productive.

 

Five players who had a BPA over .600 and qualified for the batting title in 2008 also have a career BPA over .600.  These are the top offensive players in the major leagues who are currently performing at a peak level.

 

2008 Career
Player Age BPA BPA Comments.
Albert Pujols 28 0.685 0.646 One of the best RH hitters ever.
Alex Rodriguez 32 0.623 0.628 One of the best RH hitters ever.
Manny Ramirez 36 0.636 0.622 One of the best RH hitters ever.
Lance Berkman 32 0.633 0.616 Among the best switch hitters.
Hanley Ramirez 24 0.629 0.609 Building solid credentials.

 

Another list of interest is one containing the names of players with a BPA of over .600 in 2008 who, for one reason or another, did not have enough plate appearances (PA) to qualify for the batting title.  There are five players on this list in 2008 with 100 or more plate appearances.

                                  

Player Age BPA PA Comments
Chris Dickerson 26 0.686 122 Late season call-up by Cincinnati
Nelson Cruz 27 0.669 133 Also had big minor league season.
Rafael Furcal 30 0.640 164 Missed most of season with bad back.
Russell Branyan 32 0.638 152 Played very well before getting hurt.
Mike Napoli 26 0.637 274 Exceptional power for a catcher.

 

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, nine players who earned enough playing time to qualify for the batting title had a BPA less than .400 in 2008.  As usual most are middle infielders and catchers.   

 

Player BPA Comments
Jason Kendall 0.396 Only repeater on this list.
Kurt Suzuki 0.392 Second catcher on the list.
Miguel Tejada 0.391 Set NL record for GIDP in 2008.
Edgar Renteria 0.391 Can't seem to hit in American League
Jeff Francoeur 0.376 Only outfielder on this list.
Bobby Crosby 0.375 Last 3 seasons at same level.
Freddy Sanchez 0.370 Very disappointing season
Yuniesky Betancourt 0.368 Doesn't get on base enough.
Jeff Keppinger 0.361 Didn't produce as a full-time player.

 

The following six players compiled a batting average over .300, an on-base average over .400, a slugging percentage over .500 and bases per plate appearance over .600 in 2008:

 

Player in 2008 BAVG OBA SLG BPA
Albert Pujols 0.357 0.462 0.653 0.685
Manny Ramirez 0.332 0.430 0.601 0.636
Lance Berkman 0.312 0.420 0.567 0.633
Hanley Ramirez 0.301 0.400 0.540 0.629
Chipper Jones 0.364 0.470 0.574 0.625
Matt Holliday 0.321 0.409 0.538 0.624
Milton Bradley 0.321 0.436 0.563 0.617

 

Five active players have these numbers for their careers, although Helton and Thomas fell far short in 2008:

 

Player (Career) BAVG OBA SLG BPA
Albert Pujols 0.334 0.425 0.624 0.646
Manny Ramirez 0.314 0.411 0.593 0.622
Lance Berkman 0.302 0.413 0.560 0.616
Todd Helton 0.328 0.428 0.574 0.615
Frank Thomas 0.301 0.419 0.555 0.604

                   

Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

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