Most Productive Offensive Players of 2006

With Monday's National League Most Valuable Player announcement looming, Bases per Plate Appearance was used to establish a view of the best hitters of 2006. There are some surprising conclusions.

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. Sacrifice hits are not included as plate appearances, since they represent the successful execution of the batter's attempts to advance another runner rather than himself.

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

 Year BPA 0.55 0.6 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

Offensive production peaked in 2000 before declining in the early years of this decade. BPA in 2006 was at the highest level since 2000.

In the 1990s, there were 14 individual .700 BPA seasons. In the seven year period from 2000 to 2006, there have been 17. 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. In 2005, for the first time since 1995, there were no hitters with a BPA of .700. Two players made it in 2006, Travis Hafner (.703) and Ryan Howard (.700).

Surprisingly, Albert Pujols has not had a .700 BPA in his six seasons. His .694 BPA in 2006 is the highest of his career.

The .700 BPA seasons in 2000-2006 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 Chicago 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 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 0.74 1994 Bagwell 0.768 1995 Belle 0.692 1996 McGwire 0.765 1997 Walker 0.77 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

The benchmark for an outstanding individual season is .600. Following is a list of 14 players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and with a BPA of .600 in 2006.

Bases per Plate Appearance (BPA) of .600+ in 2006:

 No. of 2005 2006 .600+ Player BPA BPA LG Years Comments 1 Hafner, T. 0.637 0.703 A 3 Best hitter in AL. 2 Howard, R. 0.586 0.700 N 1 No sophomore slump. 3 Pujols, A. 0.659 0.694 N 5 Consistently great. 4 Ortiz, D. 0.637 0.681 A 4 BPA up 7 straight yrs. 5 Beltran, C. 0.446 0.667 N 3 Back to 2004 form. 6 Thome, J. 0.455 0.659 A 10 Strong comeback. 7 Berkman, L. 0.575 0.658 N 4 Carried Astros. 8 Ramirez, M. 0.615 0.654 A 10 9 straight yrs over .600. 9 Dye, J. 0.537 0.637 A 1 Career year at age 32. 10 Giambi, J. 0.629 0.634 A 7 A repeat of 2005. 11 Soriano, A. 0.569 0.632 N 1 Took game to new level. 12 Sizemore, G. 0.519 0.605 A 1 Emerging star. 13 Johnson, N. 0.528 0.604 N 1 Second D.C. player. 14 Cabrera, M. 0.571 0.604 N 1 Great career ahead.

Eight other players had a BPA over .600 in 2005 but fell short in 2006 in either BPA or the necessary plate appearances to qualify.

 No. of 2005 2006 .600+ Player BPA BPA LG Years Comments 1 Lee, D. 0.699 0.495* N 1 Played only 50 games. 2 Rodriguez, A. 0.676 0.573 A 8 Disappointing year. 3 Bay, J. 0.628 0.591 N 1 Pirates big gun. 4 Dunn, A. 0.618 0.575 N 3 Strikes out too much. 5 Delgado, C. 0.610 0.581 N 7 Provided power for Mets. 6 Guerrero, V. 0.604 0.576 A 7 Below .606 career norm. 7 Helton, T. 0.602 0.536 N 7 In early decline. 8 Teixeira, M. 0.601 0.552 A 2 Bad first half.

* Not enough plate appearances to qualify.

Six players who had a BPA over .600 and qualified for the batting title in 2006 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.

 2006 Career Player Age BPA BPA Comments Ryan Howard 26 0.700 0.658 NL version of David Ortiz. Albert Pujols 26 0.694 0.650 One of the best ever. Manny Ramirez 34 0.615 0.628 A hitting machine. Travis Hafner 29 0.703 0.625 Another hitting machine. Jim Thome 35 0.659 0.625 Can still do it. Lance Berkman 30 0.658 0.621 Building HOF credentials. Barry Bonds 41 0.647 0.703 Still one of the best.

Barry Bonds had a BPA over .600 in 2006 and also for his career but did not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title in 2006.

Another list of interest is one containing the names of players with a BPA of over .600 in 2006 who, for one reason or another, did not have enough plate appearances (PA) to qualify for the batting title. There are 6 players on this list in 2006 with 100 or more plate appearances.

 Player BPA PA Comments Luke Scott 0.667 249 Streaky. Can he do a full season? Barry Bonds 0.647 493 Almost had enough PA to qualify. Chipper Jones 0.629 477 On this list in 2005 with .616 BPA. Ryan Theriot 0.621 159 Highest '06 BPA for a mid infielder. Chris Duncan 0.615 314 Better with bat than glove. David Ross 0.613 296 Provides power from catcher position.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, eleven players who earned enough playing time to qualify for the batting title had a BPA less than .400 in 2006. All are middle infielders and catchers. The lowest qualifying outfielder was Mark Kotsay at .406.

 Player BPA Comments Mark Loretta 0.395 An off year. Adam Everett 0.390 Glove much better than bat. Jason Kendall 0.387 Second straight time on this list. David Eckstein 0.386 World Series MVP after off year. Jose Castillo 0.383 Disappointment for Pirates. Jack Wilson 0.383 Third straight time on this list. Royce Clayton 0.378 Fourth straight time on this list. Clint Barmes 0.368 Has to improve to keep job. Ronny Cedeno 0.343 Cubs expected more. Brad Ausmus 0.318 Not much left in his bat. Angel Berroa 0.316 03 Rookie of Year digressed each year.

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 2006:

 Player (2006) BAVG OBA SLG BPA Travis Hafner 0.308 0.439 0.659 0.703 Ryan Howard 0.313 0.425 0.659 0.700 Albert Pujols 0.331 0.431 0.671 0.694 Lance Berkman 0.315 0.420 0.621 0.658 Manny Ramirez 0.321 0.439 0.619 0.654 Miguel Cabrera 0.339 0.430 0.568 0.604 Five active players have these numbers for their careers. Player (Career) BAVG OBA SLG BPA Albert Pujols 0.332 0.419 0.629 0.650 Todd Helton 0.333 0.430 0.593 0.631 Manny Ramirez 0.314 0.411 0.600 0.628 Lance Berkman 0.304 0.416 0.567 0.621 Frank Thomas 0.305 0.424 0.566 0.615

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