The flip side of 2020's top honors

We’ve already saluted the best, now it's time for the worst

This blog is called Baseball's Best (and Worst), though I've leaned heavily toward the former during the past three Tuesdays. I've handed out awards for outstanding performances in nine statistical categories over the 2020 season. (Click here and here and here for details.)

But what about the flip side?

Let’s go back through the same nine categories to provide some balance. I’ll identify the median and, yes, the worst performances of the year in each group.

These listings are limited to players who met the qualification standards for this truncated season — the 142 batters with at least 186 plate appearances, as well as the 40 pitchers with at least 60 innings. Everybody else is excluded from consideration.

A median, as you know, is a midpoint. Half of a category’s batters or pitchers did better, and the other half did worse. Players at the median are firmly in the mainstream.

As for those at the bottom? No explanation is necessary, is it?

Ted Williams Award (overall batting)

  • Notes: This award is based on BPO, bases per out. Winner Juan Soto attained a base and a half for every out he made for the Nationals. Tailender Nicky Lopez was only one-third as productive with a .472 BPO. The Royals second baseman batted just .201 and rapped only nine extra-base hits.

  • Winner: Juan Soto, Nationals, 1.505 BPO

  • Median: Franmil Reyes, Indians, .762

  • Bottom: Nicky Lopez, Royals, .472

Lou Gehrig Award (scoring)

  • Notes: These rankings are based on a simple formula for scoring (abbreviated as SC) — runs scored, plus runs batted in, minus home runs. Winner Freddie Freeman generated 91 runs for the Braves. The man at the bottom of the standings, Jonathan Villar, produced only 26 runs, despite playing regularly.

  • Winner: Freddie Freeman, Braves, 91 SC

  • Median: Pete Alonso, Mets; Nelson Cruz, Twins; Tommy Edman, Cardinals; Wilmer Flores, Giants; and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Blue Jays, 50

  • Bottom: Jonathan Villar, Marlins-Blue Jays, 26

Babe Ruth Award (power)

  • Notes: Isolated power (ISO) is a batter’s number of extra bases divided by his at-bats. (A double counts for one extra base, a triple for two, and a homer for three.) Soto is again at the top, while Villar is again at the bottom. The latter generated roughly one-sixth the power of the former, based on their ISOs.

  • Winner: Juan Soto, Nationals, .344 ISO

  • Median: Jake Cronenworth, Padres; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; and Kyle Seager, Mariners, .192

  • Bottom: Jonathan Villar, Marlins-Blue Jays, .059

Nellie Fox Award (contact)

  • Notes: Contact rate (CT) is the percentage of at-bats that do not end in strikeouts. Tommy La Stella struck out only 12 times in 196 ABs, yielding a CT of .939, best in the majors. At the opposite end of the scale is Miguel Sano, who struck out in almost half of his 186 at-bats — 90 whiffs in all — giving him an anemic CT of .516.

  • Winner: Tommy La Stella, Angels-Athletics, .939 CT

  • Median: Tommy Edman, Cardinals, .765

  • Bottom: Miguel Sano, Twins, .516

Rickey Henderson Award (batting eye)

  • Notes: Batting eye (EY) is measured by dividing a batter’s number of unintentional walks by all plate appearances that did not result in intentional walks. Aaron Hicks showed the best eye, walking almost one-fifth of the time for a .190 EY. Hanser Alberto, on the other hand, walked only five times in 231 appearances for a microscopic .022 EY.

  • Winner: Aaron Hicks, Yankees, .190 EY

  • Median: David Fletcher, Angels; Jeff McNeil, Mets; and Jonathan Villar, Marlins-Blue Jays, .087

  • Bottom: Hanser Alberto, Orioles, .022

Willie Mays Award (fielding-batting combination)

  • Notes: This is a special award, given to the Gold Glove winner with the best BPO at the plate. Only 16 position players win Gold Gloves, which removes everybody else from consideration. That’s why there are no medians or bottoms here.

  • Winner: Mookie Betts, Dodgers, Gold Glove and 1.000 BPO

Juan Marichal Award (overall pitching)

  • Notes: BPO is a flexible statistic. It measures a hitter’s output — the more bases the better — but it also quantifies a pitcher’s performance. The lower a pitcher’s BPO, of course, the more effective he is. Shane Bieber of the Indians was the best in 2020, limiting opponents to .413 bases for every out he racked up. Matthew Boyd of the Tigers was the worst, giving up .896 bases per out. 

  • Winner: Shane Bieber, Indians, .413 BPO

  • Median: Chris Bassitt, Athletics, and Gerrit Cole, Yankees, .586

  • Bottom: Matthew Boyd, Tigers, .896

Randy Johnson Award (strikeouts)

  • Notes: Statisticians calculate pitchers’ strikeout rates on a nine-inning basis. Yet pitchers hardly ever go nine, so these standings are based on strikeouts per six innings. Bieber again was the leader, with 9.47 strikeouts per six, while Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela was the least powerful pitcher at 3.35 per six.

  • Winner: Shane Bieber, Indians, 9.47 SO/6IP

  • Median: Zack Greinke, Astros, 6.00

  • Bottom: Antonio Senzatela, Rockies, 3.35

Warren Spahn Award (durability)

  • Notes: Durability is measured by the number of innings a starting pitcher works. Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs led the way with 6.78 innings per start, while Boyd endured the quickest hook of any starter who worked at least 60 innings in 2020. He lasted just 5.03 innings per game.

  • Winner: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs, 6.78 IP/G

  • Median: Luis Castillo, Reds, 5.83

  • Bottom: Matthew Boyd, Tigers, 5.03