Power Rankings and Secondary Averages

MLB Power Rankings

A couple of things to cover here today. First, we have the second MLB Power Rankings.

These teams are already asking themselves if it’s September yet.
30. Baltimore Orioles (8-26, -72 Run Differential, Last Week’s Ranking: 29)
29. Cincinnati Reds (8-26, -52, LW: 28)
28. Chicago White Sox (9-23, -51, LW: 26)
27. Texas Rangers (13-23, -51, LW: 24)
26. Kansas City Royals (11-23, -58, LW: 30)
25. San Diego Padres (13-22, -38, LW: 25)

A couple of teams currently struggling.
24. Minnesota Twins (13-17, -28, LW: 27)
23. New York Mets (17-15, -9, LW: 11)

These two are hanging on by a thread.
22. Detroit Tigers (14-19, -9, LW: 22)
21. Miami Marlins (13-20, -46, LW: 23)

Next are two underachieving teams.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-19, +10, LW: 20)
19. Cleveland Indians (17-17, +5, LW: 16)

Here are three teams who have surprised early on.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (19-16, +13, LW: 10)
17. Toronto Blue Jays (19-16, +16, LW: 13)
16. Philadelphia Phillies (18-15, +15, LW: 9)

Here’s a team that seems to be in the same malaise they were in last year.
15. Chicago Cubs (16-15, +21, LW: 5)

Next is a couple of surprises.
14. Oakland Athletics (18-16, +3, LW: 15)
13. Colorado Rockies (20-15, -10, LW: 19)
12. Seattle Mariners (19-14, -7, LW: 8)
11. Tampa Bay Rays (15-17, -2, LW: 14)

Next is some of who we would expect.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (20-15, 0, LW: 12)
9. Washington Nationals (18-17, +23, LW: 21)
8. Los Angeles Angels (21-13, +27, LW: 18)

Next is probably the biggest surprise of the season so far.
7. Atlanta Braves (19-14, +42, LW: 6)

Next up is the defending champs and some usual suspects.
6. Houston Astros (21-15, +63, LW: 4)
5. San Francisco Giants (19-15, +1, LW: 17)
4. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-11, +34, LW: 3)
3. St. Louis Cardinals (20-12, +31, LW: 7)
2. Boston Red Sox (25-9, +67, LW: 2)
1. New York Yankees (24-10, +62, LW: 1)

With every team just over 30 games right now there’s going to be some volatile jumps, but things will steady as more games are played.

OK, this week’s TBF Stat is called Secondary Average. Some readers may have heard of this, but I’m sure a lot haven’t. We all know what batting average is, but what is secondary average? This was developed by Bill James over 30 years ago and what it measures is everything else a hitter does. Where batting average is just hits divided by at-bats, secondary average takes into account walks, stolen bases, and extra bases. The formula is simply (Total Bases minus Hits) plus Walks plus stolen bases and then divide that total by at-bats. (I’ve seen some places where they subtract caught stealings, so feel free to do so)

Why is this useful? Because these are the elements that actually lead towards run production. Let’s use a couple of examples. Rod Carew was a wonderful hitter who collected 3,053 hits and a .328 batting average. But because he didn’t hit for a lot of power (92 career homeruns, less than 1,000 extra bases) his secondary average was only .249. Harmon Killebrew on the other hand had only a .256 career batting average, but because of his walks and power had a career secondary average of .446. Tony Gwynn had a career .338 average, but just a .240 secondary average. Reggie Jackson hit .076 lower than Gwynn, but had a secondary average .151 higher. The other result? Gwynn had 2,521 runs scored and batted in for his career, or .271 runs per at-bat. Carew had .262 runs per at-bat. Killebrew and Jackson on the other hand had .352 and .330 runs per at-bat respectively. Darrell Evans and Gene Tenace famously had very low batting averages, but because of their power and walks generated better than .300 runs per at-bat.

This isn’t an attempt to disparage the accomplishments of Hall of Fame hitters. This is just pointing out where value really is.

There have been many discussions over the years about the values of batting average and to be honest, I’m at the point where I couldn’t tell you any current player’s average. And really, where is your value? Not in hits, but in runs. And that is what secondary average is measuring. This season the top guy in each league is Mike Trout of the Angels and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Harper is averaging a crazy .500 runs per at-bat despite a .246 batting average because of a .711 secondary average, even higher than Trout despite a difference of .090 in batting average. Rickey Henderson, despite a pedestrian .279 batting average, averaged .311 runs per at-bat because of a .468 secondary average. Basically, if you look at secondary average, you’re looking at the most productive hitters in history:

SecA
Barry Bonds .621
Baby Ruth .608
Ted Williams .555
Mark McGwire .540
Lou Gehrig .494
Mickey Mantle .491
Jim Thome .487
Mike Trout .477
Jimmie Foxx .473

The top 20 also includes the likes of Mike Schmidt, Jeff Bagwell, Killebrew, Hank Greenberg, and Frank Thomas.

You’ll be seeing more of these over the course of the season.

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