Wednesday, December 24, 2014

14 Best Baseball Players of 2014

Clayton Kershaw reigned supreme in 2014 (BlackSportsOnline)
Here is my list for the 14 best ballplayers of 2014. Their 2013 rankings are in parentheses.

1. Clayton Kershaw (8)
The National League MVP and Cy Young winner claims the top spot after his historic season, which saw him lead both leagues in bWAR, wins, winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, complete games, WHIP, FIP, and strikeout rate.

2. Mike Trout (1)
There's no shame in finishing second to this generation's Sandy Koufax. Trout topped the American League in bWAR and RBI while pacing the majors in oWAR, runs scored, runs created, total bases, and extra base hits. Throw in his 16 steals and center field defense for the team with the best record in baseball, and it's easy to see why he was the AL's first unanimous MVP since Ken Griffey Jr.

3. Andrew McCutchen (4)
The NL's best hitter led the Senior Circuit in OPS, OPS+, oWAR, runs created, and extra base hits in addition to an ML-best .410 OBP, all while manning center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

4. Giancarlo Stanton (UR)
Rivaled McCutchen in terms of offensive production, leading the National League with 37 home runs, 299 total bases, a .555 slugging percentage, 14.6 AB/HR ratio, and 69 extra base hits. Had his season not been cut three weeks short by a beanball, he may well have finished first on this list. The recent recipient of a 13-year, $325 million contract, he'll be worth every penny.

5. Michael Brantley (UR)
The AL version of McCutchen was worth 7.0 bWAR after batting .327/.385/.506 with 20 home runs, 23 steals in 24 attempts, and almost as many walks (52) as strikeouts (56). He and Brian Dozier were the only American Leaguers to go 20/20, while he Jose Altuve were the only two men in baseball to exceed 200 hits.

6. Jonathan Lucroy (UR)
The National League's most valuable position player per bWAR. Lucroy led both leagues with 53 doubles and batted .301/.373/.465 in addition to catching more games than anyone named Salvador Perez. Toss in his excellent pitch-framing skills, and Lucroy had a legitimate MVP case.

7. Jose Abreu (UR)
The AL's answer to Stanton slugged 36 home runs, knocked in 107, and batted .317/.383/.581, becoming the first rookie in baseball history to finish in his league's top five for batting average, dingers, and RBI. The unanimous AL Rookie of the Year selection led the majors in slugging percentage and OPS+ (169). Like Stanton, had he not missed time he would have finished significantly higher on this list.

8. Felix Hernandez (UR))
The deserving AL Cy Young winner finished a close second to the next guy on this list. King Felix was the AL ERA and WHIP champion after a season in which he set the record for most consecutive starts of seven innings pitched and two earned runs allowed or fewer (16).

9. Corey Kluber (UR)
Kluber upset Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young recipient, but earned the award on the srength of his league-leading 2.35 FIP, 7.4 pitching bWAR, and 18 wins, not to mention a lights-out second half that saw him post a 1.81 ERA and 161 strikeouts over his final 19 starts (139 innings).

10. Jose Bautista (UR)
Joey Bats didn't get nearly enough credit for a monster offensive campaign in which he batted .286/.403/.524 (159 OPS+) with 35 home runs and over 100 runs, RBI, and walks. All told, he finished second in the AL in walks and OBP, third in oWAR and runs, fourth in OPS and runs created, and fifth in long balls.

11. Buster Posey (HM)
Posey continued his Joe Mauer-ish run, capping his season with a huge second half  that helped him hit .311/.364/.490 (143 OPS+) with 22 home runs and 89 RBI. His big bat (fourth in the NL in oWAR, fifth in OPS+) combined with everyday presence behind the plate (only Lucroy and Miguel Montero caught more games among NL receivers) made him one of baseball's best in 2014.

12.Jose Altuve (UR)
The 5'6 Altuve surpassed Dustin Pedroia as the best short player in baseball by leading the majors with 225 hits and a .341 batting average. The Astros second baseman also stole 56 bases--most in the AL--and socked 47 doubles in what turned out to be a six-win season.

13. Victor Martinez (UR)
Martinez might have been the best hitter in baseball. V-Mart's .974 OPS was tops in baseball and his .409 OBP was .001 behind McCutchen's MLB-leading .410 mark. The Tigers DH also finished second in hitting (to Altuve), slugging (to Abreu) and OPS+ (also to Abreu), resulting a second-place MVP finish and a fat new contract.

14. Miguel Cabrera (2)
Cabrera added another excellent season to his Hall of Fame resume by batting .313/.371/.524 (146 OPS+) with 25 home runs, 109 RBI, 320 total bases, and a league-leading 52 doubles. Not quite the monster numbers we've come to expect from Cabrera, but still pretty darn incredible.

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Rendon, Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Robinson Cano, Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Gomez, Jon Lester, Hunter Pence, Yasiel Puig, Chris Sale

Off the list: Chris Davis (3), Paul Goldschmidt (6), Matt Carpenter (7), Joey Votto (9), Yadier Molina (12), Evan Longoria (13)

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