The 2005 QUAD Leaders
With the Most Valuable Players scheduled to be announced this week, I thought it would be timely to unveil "The Quad" honorees in each league. I introduced the concept of the Quad in a three-part series in July 2003 (Part I, II, III) and subsequently listed the year-end leaders in October 2003 (AL, NL) and November 2004.
The Quad, which is short for quadruple, is comprised of the most important offensive statistics -- on-base percentage, slugging average, times on base, and total bases. By combining the best rate and counting stats, the Quad delivers both qualitative and quantitative measurements of performance analysis. In a nutshell, it evaluates the two most important components of run production -- the ability to get on base and the ability to drive baserunners home. Players who rank among the league leaders in both areas on a per at-bat or plate appearance basis and an absolute basis are, without a doubt, the most productive hitters in the game.
The Quad is superior to the more widely quoted Triple Crown categories (AVG, HR, and RBI) for two reasons. Number one, batting average is not as highly correlated with runs scored as OBP and SLG. Number two, RBI is team and lineup dependent. The beauty of the Quad is not only in filtering out the noise inherent in many traditional stats but its ease of understanding and use. Granted, the Quad may not be as sophisticated as some of the more advanced summary stats, but the numbers employed are actual counting and rate stats rather than derivatives of such. Call me a simpleton, but I like quoting numbers and percentages that can be tracked with each and every plate appearance by everyone from the most casual fan to the more sophisticated stathead.
In the 1979 Baseball Abstract, Bill James wrote the following:
A hitter should be measured by his success in that which he is trying to do, and that which he is trying to do is create runs. It is startling, when you think about it, how much confusion there is about this. I find it remarkable that, in listing offenses, the league offices will list first--meaning best--not the team which has scored the most runs, but the team with the highest team batting average. It should be obvious that the purpose of an offense is not to compile a high batting average.
If you're a proponent of Runs Created, a stat James developed more than 25 years ago, then the Quad is right up your alley. Think about it. The Quad is nothing more than the factors that determine Runs Created. To wit, OBP x TB = Runs Created in its original and most basic definition. Similarly, Advancement Percentage (which is akin to SLG but uses plate appearances as the denominator rather than at-bats) x TOB = the same RC number as above.
The only fly in the Quad ointment is that the stats used are not adjusted for ballpark effects. Adding Adjusted OPS or what is known as OPS+ (which is OBP plus SLG, normalized for the player's park and league) as a fifth category provides what I call Quad+, and it serves as a good tool to verify the efficacy of the Quad results.
With the whys and wherefores out of the way, let's take a look at the National and American League players who did the best job of getting on base and accumulating bases (both in terms of the number of times as well as the percentage of times).
TIMES ON BASE (N.L.)
1 Albert Pujols 301 2 Bobby Abreu 291 3 Derrek Lee 289 4 Brian Giles 285 5 Jason Bay 284 6 Todd Helton 278 7 Miguel Cabrera 264 T8 Pat Burrell 260 T8 Adam Dunn 260 10 David Eckstein 256
Albert Pujols led the NL in times on base and was the only player who reached first 300 times. He has now ranked in the top 10 every year since he broke into the league in 2001. His teammate, David Eckstein, shows the value he brought atop the Cardinals' lineup. The X Factor was the only non-corner OF or 1B in the top 10.
ON BASE PERCENTAGE (N.L.)
1 Todd Helton .445 2 Albert Pujols .430 3 Brian Giles .423 4 Derrek Lee .418 5 Lance Berkman .411 6 Nick Johnson .408 7 Bobby Abreu .405 8 Jason Bay .402 9 Carlos Delgado .399 10 Luis Castillo .391
With Barry Bonds on the disabled list most of the year, Todd Helton seized the opportunity to lead the NL in OBP. The Colorado first baseman also led the league in 2000 and has finished no worse than fourth every year since, a period in which his OBP has never dipped below .429. Pujols placed first in TOB and second in OBP. Luis Castillo, like Eckstein above, was the only non-corner OF or 1B to rank in the top 10. Pujols, Helton, Bobby Abreu, Jason Bay, Brian Giles, and Derrek Lee were the only players to make the top 10 in both of the on-base categories. It should also be noted that David Wright, given his position (3B) and age (22), was 11th in TOB and 12th in OBP.
TOTAL BASES (N.L.)
1 Derrek Lee 393 2 Albert Pujols 360 3 Miguel Cabrera 344 4 Andruw Jones 337 5 Jason Bay 335 6 Carlos Delgado 303 T7 Carlos Lee 301 T7 David Wright 301 T9 Adam Dunn 293 T9 Morgan Ensberg 293 T9 Chase Utley 293
Derrek Lee led the NL in total bases with 393 or nearly 10% more than the runner-up Pujols. It was the first time that Lee placed among the top 10 in the league. Andruw Jones and Chase Utley were the only up-the-middle defensive players in the top 10. Wright and Morgan Ensberg also receive mention as non-corner OF or 1B.
SLUGGING AVERAGE (N.L.)
1 Derrek Lee .662 2 Albert Pujols .609 3 Carlos Delgado .582 4 Ken Griffey Jr. .576 5 Andruw Jones .575 6 Aramis Ramirez .568 7 Miguel Cabrera .561 8 Jason Bay .559 9 Morgan Ensberg .557 10 Chad Tracy .553
Lee beat out his arch-nemesis Pujols in SLG as well. It was the first time he placed in the top 10. Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. are the only up-the-middle defenders on the list, while Ensberg and Aramis Ramirez get special attention as non-corner OF/1B. Lee, Pujols, Bay, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado, Ensberg, and Jones all finished in the top 10 in both slugging departments.
TIMES ON BASE (A.L.)
1 Alex Rodriguez 301 2 Derek Jeter 290 3 David Ortiz 283 4 Michael Young 282 5 Mark Teixeira 277 T6 Ichiro Suzuki 258 T6 Hideki Matsui 258 8 Gary Sheffield 256 T9 Manny Ramirez 252 T9 Johnny Damon 252
Alex Rodriguez led the AL in times on base with 301, 11 more than his teammate Derek Jeter. It was the first time that A-Rod led the league in this category. However, he has placed in the top 10 for six consecutive seasons and seven overall. Jeter, Michael Young, and Johnny Damon were the only up-the-middle defensive players on the list. Rodriguez joins them as the other non-corner OF/1B.
ON BASE PERCENTAGE (A.L.)
1 Jason Giambi .440 2 Alex Rodriguez .421 3 Travis Hafner .408 4 David Ortiz .397 5 Vladimir Guerrero .394 6 Derek Jeter .389 7 Manny Ramirez .388 8 Brian Roberts .387 9 Michael Young .385 10 Mark Teixeira .379
Jason Giambi bounced back from a dismal 2004 to lead the AL in OBP. The Yankees first baseman added nearly 100 basis points to his OBP from last year, the only time he dropped below the vaunted .400 level since 1998. It was the third time that Giambi has led the league and the fifth time he has placed among the top three since 2000. A-Rod ranked first in TOB and second in OBP. Jeter, Young, and Brian Roberts receive special mention as the up-the-middle players, and A-Rod joins them as the only other non-corner OF/1B. Rodriguez, Jeter, Young, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mark Teixeira were the only players to make the top 10 in both of the on-base categories.
TOTAL BASES (A.L.)
1 Mark Teixeira 370 2 Alex Rodriguez 369 3 David Ortiz 363 4 Michael Young 343 5 Miguel Tejada 337 6 Manny Ramirez 329 7 Alfonso Soriano 326 8 Hideki Matsui 312 9 Grady Sizemore 310 10 Paul Konerko 307
Mark Teixeira edged out Rodriguez in total bases, the first time he has ranked among the top ten in his career. Young, Miguel Tejada, Alfonso Soriano, and Grady Sizemore were the only up-the-middle fielders and were joined by A-Rod as the non-corner OF/1B.
SLUGGING AVERAGE (A.L.)
1 Alex Rodriguez .610 2 David Ortiz .604 3 Travis Hafner .595 4 Manny Ramirez .594 5 Mark Teixeira .575 6 Vladimir Guerrero .565 7 Richie Sexson .541 8 Jason Giambi .535 9 Paul Konerko .534 10 Jhonny Peralta .520
Rodriguez led the AL in SLG. It was the second time that he finished atop the league in this category and the seventh being in the top six. Like Lee and Pujols in the NL, A-Rod and Ortiz were the only players who reached the magical .600 mark in 2005. Jhonny Peralta gets special merit as the only up-the-middle defensive player and A-Rod joins him as a non-corner OF/1B. Rodriguez, Ortiz, Teixeira, Ramirez, and Paul Konerko all finished in the top 10 in both slugging departments.
The following matrix provides a way to quantify the results of the Quad in a manner similar to the MVP voting (14 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, etc.).
TOB OBP TB SLG TOT Derrek Lee 8 7 14 14 43 Albert Pujols 14 9 9 9 41 Todd Helton 5 14 19 Jason Bay 6 3 6 3 18 Miguel Cabrera 4 8 4 16 Brian Giles 7 8 15 Carlos Delgado 2 5 8 15 Bobby Abreu 9 4 13 Andruw Jones 7 6 13 Ken Griffey 7 7 Lance Berkman 6 6 Aramis Ramirez 5 5 Nick Johnson 5 5 Adam Dunn 2.5 1 3.5 Carlos Lee 3.5 3.5 David Wright 3.5 3.5 Morgan Ensberg 1 2 3 Pat Burrell 2.5 2.5 David Eckstein 1 1 Chad Tracy 1 1 Chase Utley 1 1 Luis Castillo 1 1
Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols are head-and-shoulders above the rest. Lee is the only player in the NL to lead in two of the four Quad categories. He also ranked first in OPS+.
TOB OBP TB SLG TOT Alex Rodriguez 14 9 9 14 46 David Ortiz 8 7 8 9 32 Mark Teixeira 6 1 14 6 27 Manny Ramirez 1.5 4 5 7 17.5 Jason Giambi 14 3 17 Michael Young 7 2 7 16 Travis Hafner 8 8 16 Derek Jeter 9 5 14 Vlad Guerrero 6 5 11 Hideki Matsui 4.5 3 7.5 Miguel Tejada 6 6 Ichiro Suzuki 4.5 4.5 Alfonso Soriano 4 4 Richie Sexson 4 4 Gary Sheffield 3 3 Brian Roberts 3 3 Paul Konerko 1 2 3 Grady Sizemore 2 2 Johnny Damon 1.5 1.5 Jhonny Peralta 1 1
Alex Rodriguez is a runaway leader in the AL Quad. He led the league in two departments and finished second in the other two, as well as OPS+ (behind Travis Hafner). No other player led the AL more than once.
In determining worthy MVP candidates, I favor players who ranked first in these categories and/or in the top ten multiple times. I give bonus points to catchers, middle infielders, center fielders, and even third basemen, especially when they are "plus" defensive types. I also discount designated hitters, poor-fielding left fielders and first basemen, and those candidates who had the good fortune of playing home games in extreme hitter-friendly ballparks, such as Colorado and Texas.
With the above in mind, I believe Derrek Lee and Alex Rodriguez deserve to win the MVP awards. Lee's margin of victory in the NL voting should be about as tight as it was in the Quad totals. A-Rod is an absolute no-brainer in the AL. He not only beat out Ortiz in the four most important offensive categories but played third base well while Ortiz served as a DH. Make no mistake about it, Big Papi had a terrific season. However, he wasn't as valuable as A-Rod this year.
Like the Quad itself, it just isn't all that complicated.
Sources: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia and Baseball-Reference.com.