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‘Total runs’ shows Yankees’ Robinson Cano is best player still in action

New York Yankees' RobinsCano doubles first inning Game 2 American League divisibaseball series against Baltimore Orioles Monday Oct. 8 2012

New York Yankees' Robinson Cano doubles in the first inning of Game 2 of the American League division baseball series against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Baltimore. Ichiro Suzuki, of Japan, scored on the play. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Updated: November 17, 2012 6:18AM



Throughout this season, I’ve used WAR (Wins Above
Replacement) as a method of comparing players. Another method makes the comparison in terms of runs rather than wins. It first was described in John Dewan’s The Fielding Bible II, and numbers from 2003 to date are listed in the stats section on
billjamesonline.com.

‘‘Total runs’’ for position players breaks down contributions into four categories. Most of offense is taken care of by runs created, the Bill James statistic that takes into account everything a hitter does at the plate.

There’s a separate category for baserunning runs. Steals are included in runs created, so here we’re talking about the ability of a player to go from first to third on a single, score on a fly ball and other gains — or losses — on the basepaths. On defense, total runs uses Dewan’s runs saved.

The final category is a positional adjustment. More hitters can handle the defensive responsibilities of first base than can handle shortstop or catcher. If you can hit and play short, you have extra value. The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, for example, is assigned 34 position runs as an every-day catcher, while the Tigers’ Prince Fielder gets 13 for filling first base for 159 games.

Let’s look at the top four players in total runs on teams still in action to see how this works.

The leading player on the remaining teams is Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Cano created 119 runs at bat but had a minus-2 for baserunning. He was strong on defense with 15 runs saved and added 30 points for playing 154 games at second. That brings his total runs to 162.

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera was a better offensive player with 131 runs created. He contributed no baserunning runs, was a minus-4 in runs saved and got a 23-run position adjustment for playing third, bringing his total to 150.

In the National League, the team leaders are both catchers, with the Giants’ Buster Posey and Molina each contributing 140 total runs. Posey did more on the offensive side with 110 runs created. He also had one baserunning run, minus-1 runs saved and 30 points for catching 111 games. (He also played 29 games at first and three at DH.)

Molina was a big contributor on defense, with 16 runs saved to go with 92 runs created, minus-2 on the basepaths and his 34 for position. His positional adjustment is larger than Posey’s because he caught more often, with 136 games behind the plate and three at first.

By WAR, the best players remaining are Cano (8.2), Posey (7.2), Cabrera (6.9) and Molina (6.7). By Win Shares, it’s Posey (38), Cano (34), Cabrera (32) and Molina (29). Whether the ranking is by runs or by wins, those are the four best players still on the big stage.



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