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The Best Players of 2011 Based on Total Runs

March 23, 2012

One of the byproducts of our work developing a system to measure runs for defensive play (Defensive Runs Saved) is that we can combine it with runs for offensive play and runs for pitching.  We do this in the book, The Fielding Bible – Volume III, and call it Total Runs.  The goal for Total Runs is to capture a player’s entire contribution to his team in the currency of the game – runs.  Here is the top 10 leaderboard from the book for the 2011 season.  This is a list of the best overall players in baseball in 2011 based on all aspects of the game, as best we can measure them with our Total Runs system.

2011 Total Runs Leaders
Player Runs
Created
Baserunning
Runs
Pitching
Runs
Created
Runs
Saved
Positional
Adjustment
Total
Runs
Jacoby Ellsbury 131 4 0 7 27 169
Dustin Pedroia 116 -2 0 18 31 163
Ian Kinsler 106 9 0 18 28 161
Matt Kemp 131 4 0 -5 28 158
Ben Zobrist 98 2 0 29 28 157
Jose Bautista 134 5 0 -2 18 155
Alex Gordon 112 6 0 19 17 154
Justin Verlander 0 0 143 5 3 151
Ryan Braun 127 2 0 3 16 148
Adrian Gonzalez 127 -5 0 12 12 146


Both the reigning American League and National League MVPs, Justin Verlander and Ryan Braun, had impressive seasons in 2011, but using Total Runs we find that there were more valuable players in each league.  In the National League, Matt Kemp produced 158 Total Runs despite costing his team five runs in the field.  Kemp was one home run shy of joining the 40/40 club and led the senior circuit in home runs, RBI, and runs scored in 2011.  Jacoby Ellsbury had a tremendous year with the bat en route to 131 Runs Created.  Ellsbury also had positive contributions on the basepaths and in the field.  He led all players with 169 Total Runs in 2011.      
 
Total Runs uses a few different measures of a player’s ability.  We measure offense using Bill James’ Runs Created system.  His system measures stolen base runs, but excludes activity on the basepaths other than that.  We add in Baserunnning Runs to complete the offensive part of the equation.  For pitching, we have an article in the book that describes how we developed our new Pitching Runs Created system so that we can measure a pitcher’s contribution compared with a hitter.  The last part is the Positional Adjustment.  This is a technique we developed three years ago in The Fielding Bible
Volume II to take into account, for example, that a shortstop has more defensive value than a first baseman.  Our Defensive Runs Saved system doesn't reflect the relative defensive importance of one defensive position compared to another, which makes the Positional Adjustment necessary.

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