The 2013 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records
This article takes a look at the 2013 season as measured by Player won-lost records.
The Best of 2013
I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.
The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
I take a look at some of the most interesting players of 2013 at the end of this article.
The 2013 postseason began with the Pittsburgh Pirates making their first postseason appearance in 21 seasons and ended with a rematch of the 2004 World Series and the Boston Red Sox third World Series win in 10 seasons.
Top postseason players by round were as follows.
Best of 2013 by Factor and Position
Next, let's look at the top players in various aspects of the game.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 2013 in wins over positional average (WOPA) by factor were as follows.
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Fielding by Position
Best by Position
Next, we look at 2013 Major-League leaders by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position.
Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.
Noteworthy Players of 2013
Cabrera vs. Trout: Again
For the second year in a row, the top two finishers in the American League MVP voting were Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. In 2012, there was very little question about which of Trout or Cabrera was better by most sabermetric stats (including Player won-lost records). In 2013, on the other hand, the debate between Trout and Cabrera is somewhat more interesting. Specifically, it boils down to this: how much does context matter in determining player value?
The next table compares Miguel Cabrera's and Mike Trout's seasons, in and out of context.
Mike Trout's 2013 performance translated into 2.0 fewer actual wins than expected. Miguel Cabrera's 2013 performance translated into 1.1 more actual wins than expected.
Part of this was because Trout's teammates were not as good as Cabrera's teammates, and so Trout had fewer opportunities to contribute to wins. But much of the difference was based on how the two of them performed in the most win-important situations.
In tie games, Mike Trout batted .301/.389/.593 with 32 RBI in 244 PAs. In games where the score margin was more than four runs (in either team's favor), Trout batted .466/.547/.863 with 24 RBI in 86 PAs. Trout's OPS by leverage in low-medium-high leverage went 1.055-1.035-.713; Trout batted .257/.386/.327 in 132 high-leverage plate appareances with only one home run.
I'm not suggesting that these splits are predictive of other seasons or necessarily reflect a talent of either player. But, in 2013, they really happened, and they contributed to real wins by the Detroit Tigers who could have missed the playoffs had they won as little as two fewer games. Based on that, Miguel Cabrera would have probably placed higher than Mike Trout on my 2013 AL MVP ballot.
In tie games, Miguel Cabrera batted .364/.462/.695 with 43 RBI in 223 PAs. In games where the score margin was more than four runs, Cabrera batted .250/.304/.375. Cabrera's OPS by leverage in low-medium-high leverage went .968-1.161-1.188; Cabrera batted .323/.459/.729 in 122 high-leverage plate appearances with 11 home runs.
But Wait, There's One More AL MVP Candidate: Chris Davis
Miguel Cabrera was better than Mike Trout in pWins over both positional average and replacement level. But Miguel Cabrera was not the best player in the American League in 2013 in either of those measures. Based on Player won-lost records, the best player in pWOPA and pWORL not only in the American League but in all of major-league baseball was Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis.
I am (re)-writing this article in 2019 when Chris Davis's primary claims to fame are a multi-year contract worth over $100 million and a stretch in 2018-19 over which he went 0-for-54. Well, the 2013 season is mostly what earned Davis that $161 million contract. In 2013, Davis batted .286/.370/.634 and led the major leagues in home runs (53), RBI (138), and total bases (370).
The next table presents the career record of Chris Davis to date, as measured by Player won-lost records. The slow start and unfortunate end have unfortunately obscured what really was an excellent prime.
NL Central Center Fielders: Andrew McCutchen vs. Shin-Soo Choo
Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was voted the Most Valuable Player in the National League. Based on the tables shown above, McCutchen wasn't necessarily even the best center fielder in his own division. This is not a knock on Andrew McCutchen so much as this: Player won-lost records really, really, really liked Shin-Soo Choo's 2013 season for the Reds.
The next table compares Andrew McCutchen's and Shin-Soo Choo's 2013 seasons as measured by Player won-lost records.
Unlike Cabrera vs. Trout, this one doesn't really have anything to do with context. To see what it does have to do with, the next table breaks McCutchen's and Choo's (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) Player won-lost records by factor: batting, baserunning, and fielding.
I think that there are two things that this table reveals. First, Shin-Soo Choo really did have an excellent offensive season in 2013. He was second in the National League in on-base percentage (.423), times on base (300), and runs scored (107). McCutchen had a somewhat higher slugging percentage (.508 to .462), but even in terms of power, Choo matched McCutchen with 21 home runs. McCutchen gained a few runs on Choo for his baserunning, so, overall McCutchen was the better offensive player, but Shin-Soo Choo had an outstanding offensive season in 2013.
Second, and undoubtedly more controversial, the reason why Shin-Soo Choo beats Andrew McCutchen in Player won-lost records is because, according to Player won-lost records, Shin-Soo Choo was one of the best defensive centerfielders in the major leagues. I have to be honest here: Player won-lost records are my baby and I love them, but I have pretty serious doubts about this result. Shin-Soo Choo was a corner outfielder playing out of position. Baseball-Reference shows Choo as -18 defensive runs according to BIS, Fangraphs shows Choo with a -6.3 UZR.
Why am I showing Choo as so much better? The one statistic that Choo has in his favor is that the Reds led the major-leagues in defensive efficiency at .715. They also led the major leagues in Total Zone runs (reported by Baseball-Reference) and, in fact, Choo rated as +17 runs in Total Zone. Fangraphs shows the Reds fifth in MLB based on UZR, while BIS's defensive runs saves (Rdrs on Baseball-Reference) has the Reds a more pedestrian ninth in the major leagues. Player won-lost records, on the other hand, show the Reds as the best fielding team in the majors.
At the team level, I'm more inclined to believe that the team with the best defensive efficiency should have the best fielding statistics. So, certainly, I think that's a point in favor of Player won-lost records' view of the Reds as a team. But whether that translates into Shin-Soo Choo really being the best defensive CF in baseball? I'm skeptical of that one. On the other hand, Choo had 32 more putouts than McCutchen in 16 fewer innings and the Reds allowed 75 fewer hits on balls-in-play than the Pirates. So, you know, maybe Player won-lost records are right here.
If you adjust the above numbers to take away Shin-Soo Choo's fielding edge on Andrew McCutchen, McCutchen moves ahead of Choo in Player wins over either positional average or replacement level.
Finally, 2013 was the final season for two longtime teammates who won five World Series together: Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
The next table compares their career records, as measured by Player won-lost records. The numbers in this table include postseason games, since the postseason was such a large part of both of their careers.
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Article last updated: September 10, 2019
Wins over positional average and replacement level are calculated using data only for the 2019 season. Positional averages for starting pitching and relief pitching are calculated using single-year data for all starting pitchers and all relief pitchers.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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