Introducing "The Quad" Award
The Qualitative and Quantitative Statistical Achievement
Combines the Best of Rate Stats and Counting Stats
Everyone knows about the Triple Crown: the league leader in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Eleven different players have achieved this feat in modern baseball history with Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams having accomplished it two times each. However, most sabermetricians have a problem with the choice of categories. Two of the three legs are flawed in the sense that batting average is not as well correlated with runs scored as on base percentage and slugging average, and runs batted in is a team-dependent statistic.
Well, now there is a better, more comprehensive version of the Triple Crown. It's called "The Quad," short for quadruple. The Quad is comprised of on base percentage, slugging average, times on base, and total bases. It is both a qualitative and quantitative statistical achievement. In short, The Quad combines the best of rate stats and counting stats. Rate stats are qualitative, gauging performance on a per at bat or plate appearance basis. Counting stats, on the other hand, are quantitative, evaluating performance on an absolute basis.
The Quad measures the two most important components of run production--the ability to get on base and the ability to drive baserunners home. The former is covered via on base percentage (OBP) and times on base (TOB). The latter is covered via slugging average (SLG) and total bases (TB). None of these stats are team dependent. Therefore, The Quad is a pure statistical measure of an individual's offensive performance.
There have been 17 different players in modern history over the course of 31 seasons who have earned The Quad Award by leading their respective league in all four of The Quad categories.
The honorees are as follows:
PLAYER TEAM YEAR OBP TOB SLG TB Wagner PIT 1908 .415 260 .542 308 Magee PHI 1910 .445 278 .507 263 Cravath PHI 1915 .393 241 .510 266 Hornsby STL 1920 .431 281 .559 329 Hornsby STL 1921 .458 302 .639 378 Hornsby STL 1922 .459 316 .722 450 Hornsby STL 1924 .507 318 .696 373 Klein PHI 1933 .422 280 .602 365 Musial STL 1943 .425 294 .562 347 Musial STL 1948 .450 312 .702 429 Schmidt PHI 1981 .435 189 .644 228 Helton COL 2000 .463 323 .698 405
PLAYER TEAM YEAR OBP TOB SLG TB Lajoie PHA 1901 .463 269 .643 350 Stone SLB 1906 .417 267 .501 291 Cobb DET 1909 .431 270 .517 296 Cobb DET 1917 .444 290 .570 335 Ruth BOS 1919 .456 246 .657 284 Ruth NY 1921 .512 353 .846 457 Ruth NY 1923 .545 379 .764 399 Ruth NY 1924 .513 346 .739 391 Ruth NY 1926 .516 331 .737 365 Gehrig NY 1934 .465 321 .706 409 Foxx BOS 1938 .462 316 .704 398 WilliamsBOS 1942 .499 335 .648 338 WilliamsBOS 1946 .497 334 .667 343 WilliamsBOS 1947 .499 345 .634 335 WilliamsBOS 1949 .490 358 .650 368 WilliamsBOS 1951 .464 313 .556 295 RobinsonBAL 1966 .410 279 .637 367 Yaz BOS 1967 .418 284 .622 360 Yaz BOS 1970 .452 315 .592 335
Interestingly, eight of the 17 players above have also earned The Quad Award for the entire major league by leading in all four Quad categories in both leagues. The creme de la creme are as follows:
PLAYER TEAM YEAR OBP TOB SLG TB Wagner PIT 1908 .415 260 .542 308 Cobb DET 1909 .431 270 .517 296 Cobb DET 1917 .444 290 .570 335 Ruth BOS 1919 .456 246 .657 284 Ruth NY 1921 .512 353 .846 457 Ruth NY 1923 .545 379 .764 399 Ruth NY 1924 .513 346 .739 391 Ruth NY 1926 .516 331 .737 365 Gehrig NY 1934 .465 321 .706 409 Foxx BOS 1938 .462 316 .704 398 WilliamsBOS 1942 .499 335 .648 338 Musial STL 1943 .425 294 .562 347 Yaz BOS 1967 .418 284 .622 360
PLAYER TEAM YEAR OPS OPS+ Wagner PIT 1908 .957 205 Cobb DET 1909 .947 194 Cobb DET 1917 1.014 209 Ruth BOS 1919 1.114 219 Ruth NY 1921 1.359 239 Ruth NY 1923 1.309 239 Ruth NY 1924 1.252 220 Ruth NY 1926 1.253 227 Gehrig NY 1934 1.172 208 Foxx BOS 1938 1.166 182 WilliamsBOS 1942 1.147 217 Musial STL 1943 .988 180 Yaz BOS 1967 1.040 195
By definition, all of the National and American League Quad honorees also led their respective leagues in On Base Plus Slugging or OPS in the year they captured all four jewels of The Quad. Furthermore, with the exception of Todd Helton, all of The Quad honorees had the highest Adjusted OPS or OPS+ in their respective league that year, underscoring the fact that not only were their stats the best in terms of raw numbers but also the best adjusted for park factors. Although Helton had a higher OPS (1.162) than Barry Bonds (1.127), he had a vastly inferior OPS+ (158) than Bonds (191). Coors Field had a park factor of 131 (meaning it helped batters by 31% over a neutral park), whereas Pac Bell Park had a factor of 91 (meaning it hurt batters by 9%). For the record, Bonds has actually had four years with an even greater OPS+ (205 in 1992, 206 in 1993, 262 in 2001, and 275 in 2002 with the latter two ranking first and second all time).
Surprisingly, Bonds has not won The Quad Award to date. However, he has captured three legs of The Quad on four separate occasions (1992, 1993, 2001, and 2002). Holding Bonds back has been the fact that the all-time great has only led the league in total bases one time, primarily due to an unusually high number of bases on balls (which limits his opportunities to accumulate TB); a relatively low batting average for most of his career compared to other similar players who had high walk totals, such as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams (both of whom led the A.L. in TB six times); and playing in an era with as many as 16 teams in a league vs. only eight in the days of Ruth and Williams (and the like), dictating the need to beat out twice the number of competitors as his counterparts from the pre-expansion days.
A Few Good Men
Moreover, except for Ruth in 1924, all of The Major League Quad honorees also had the highest OPS+ in the major leagues that year. Ruth came very close to leading the majors in OPS+ in 1924, but he fell just shy of Rogers Hornsby (220 for Ruth vs. 222 Hornsby). Although Ruth had a higher OPS (1.252) than Hornsby (1.203), the latter's park factor was .98 (meaning it slightly favored pitchers) as opposed to Ruth's park factor of 100. Hornsby not only captured Quad honors in the N.L. in 1924, he led the majors in batting average (.424) and hits (227). The "Rajah" also led his league in doubles (43), base on balls (89), and extra base hits (82), stringing together one of the best seasons ever by a middle infielder. Interestingly, Ruth and Hornsby are the only pair who have won The Quad in their respective leagues during the same year, and they did it twice (1924, as mentioned above, and 1921). If not for Ruth, Hornsby would have attained major league Quad honors in both of those years. Instead, Hornsby will have to be satisfied with having led his league four times, the third most in baseball history (behind only Ruth and Williams with five each) and the most in National League history. The only other repeat winners are Ty Cobb (1909 and 1917), Stan Musial (1943 and 1948), and Carl Yastrzemski (1967 and 1970).
Cobb and Ruth are in a class by themselves as the only multiple winners of The Major League Quad. Honus Wagner is unique being the only non-1B/OF to garner The Major League Quad. Wagner, Hornsby and Mike Schmidt are the only non-1B/OF to earn Quad honors in the National League, and Nap Lajoie is the only non-1B/OF to net Quad status in the American League.
One might say that those players who led their leagues in OBP, TOB, SLG, TB, and OPS+ achieved "The Quintuple"--a truly dominating individual performance qualititatively, quantitatively, and adjusted for park factors. These players were indisputably the greatest offensive performers in their league in the year that they achieved The Quad and finished on top in the additional stat of OPS+. For that, I award these truly special players with The Quad Plus or The QUAD+ Award.
The Quad seasons are not meant to be exhaustive in the search for the best offensive seasons ever. [As detailed above, Bonds' 2001 and 2002 campaigns are undoubtedly two of the best years ever. Ruth's 1920 (three legs plus a second place finish in the fourth) and 1927 (two legs) seasons fell short of Quad honors but probably rank among the most outstanding as well. Gehrig (1927) and Williams (1941) had seasons other than the years they won their Quads that would rank among the very best. Mickey Mantle had back-to-back seasons (1956 and 1957, in which he finished first or second in all four of the Quad components both years) that deserve mention as two of the finest offensive seasons of all time.] Instead, The Quad is designed to identify the players who led their respective leagues or the majors in the two most important stats leading to run production, both on the basis of per at bat (SLG) or plate appearance (OBP) as well as in absolute totals (TOB and TB). A hitter who may have led by a wide margin in three of the four categores and narrowly missed leading in the fourth may have had a better year than another batter who finished atop all four by razor-thin margins. Nonetheless, The Quad and QUAD+ achievements are worthy in their own right, shining light on some of the most significant and, in a few cases, underappreciated (i.e., George Stone, Sherry Magee, and Gavvy Cravath) seasons in baseball history.
The Quad and The QUAD+ also complement the OBP-SLG-OPS stats by adding TOB and TB to the mix. As a result, The Quad and The QUAD+ could be used to evaluate more comprehensively player performance, allowing General Managers as well as All-Star and Hall of Fame voters to differentiate between hitters with similar rate stats by also focusing on the corresponding counting stats because superior play is a result of both qualitative and quantitative measures.
I will continue to discuss The Quad and The QUAD+ in future articles. In the meantime, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments.
Photo credits: Baseball Library.com/Matthew Fulling.