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:
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:
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:
The yearly leaders since 1992 are as follows:
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
|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.|
|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.
|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.|
|9||Utley||0.614||0.593||1||Does everything well.|
|10||Ordonez||0.612||0.485||2||Big drop-off from strong 2007.|
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.
|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.
|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.
|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:
Five active players have these numbers for their careers, although Helton and Thomas fell far short in 2008:
Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).