Seemingly since the dawn of time, Major League Baseball scouts have fawned over the potentials of position playing prospects, creating a checklist known as the “5 tools” to grade them; the ability to hit for average, hit for power, field well, throw well, and run the bases. Now, at Hit the Cut, we like to see ourselves as innovators in terms of the sporting community, striving to produce modern day “stats” and “ideas” towards viewing each sport through a new lens. During the past few years the MLB has been overthrown by “advanced stats,” most notably through the whole Billy Beane-Moneyball craze. More and more MLB managers, general managers, scouting staffs and front office buffs are using advanced stats to evaluate draft-eligible prospects, but more importantly their own rosters. Since there is a stat for virtually everything in today’s game, we have spun our wheels and invented our own take on what a 5 tool player truly is, today. Using the foundation of the 5 tools (as listed above) we compiled five crucial statistics inserted into one formula to create a super-stat. Of the five stats, four are of the offensive variety, and one of the defensive variety. Through the remainder of this article we will break down each stat, explain why we chose this stat and end by providing you, the reader, with knowledge of who we deem the top true 5 tool players. Here we go:
Offensive Stat #1 – wOBA
Weighted On-Base Average is the ultimate offensive stat. It is created on the basis that all hits are not equal and should have their own specific value. Compared to OBP (On-Base Percentage) which gives every time reaching base the same value; whether that’s a single, double, walk, hit by pitch, etc or SLG (Slugging Percentage) which has a double as twice as valuable as a single, or a triple three times as valuable, etc.
How to calculate wOBA from Fan Graphs: The wOBA formula for the 2014 season was: wOBA = (0.689×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.892×1B + 1.283×2B + 1.635×3B + 2.135×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP) footnote
Offensive Stat #2 – ISO
Isolated Power is a measure of a player’s ability to hit for extra base power. Compared to stats like SLG and OBP which give you partial answers of how a player hits, ISO is a quick stat displaying the percentage of extra base hits a player gets.
How to calculate ISO three different ways from Fan Graphs: ISO = SLG – AVG ISO = ((2B) + (2*3B) + (3*HR)) / AB ISO = Extra Bases / At-Bats
Offensive Stat #3 – Off
Offense is a stat that shows how a player is relative to league averages, taking into account Batting Runs Above Average and Base Running Runs Above Average. It is a park adjusted statistic and shows how valuable offensively a player is to their team. We really liked Off here, because it puts baserunning (one of the five traditional tools) into the player-value equation.
How to calculate Off from Fan Graphs: Off = Batting Runs Above Average + Base Running Runs Above Average
Offensive Stat #4 – O-S%
Out of Zone Swing Percentage is a plate discipline stat that measures the amount of pitches out of the strike zone that a hitter swings at. We noticed that a major facet of the game, in plate discipline, was not one of the traditional five tools, yet it factors into the game more than a few of these aforementioned tools.P late discipline stats are important because they show what type of hitter a player is (aggressive, passive, etc) and if they have a particularly good eye for each pitch up to bat.
How to calculate O-S% from Fan Graphs: O-Swing% = Swings at pitches outside the zone / pitches outside the zone
Defensive Stat #1 – Def
Defense is an all-around defense measuring statistic, which takes into consideration the value of positional fielding average and positional value in relation to other postions. Rather than just looking at the value of a player’s arm, we chose to take a more broad defensive approach and Def establishes that quite well.
How to calculate Def from Fan Graphs: Def = Fielding Runs Above Average + positional adjustment
Methods and Ranking
To put all five of these statistical categories into one metric was no easy task as one of our main goals was to ensure that each stat was valued equally in the final calculation. Also adding to this difficulty was the fact that some of the stats are presented as percentages (ISO, wOBA, O-Swing%), while others come in the form of runs (Off, Def). How we addressed this was to represent the percentage stats as a deviation from the league average (this gave us values that ranged between -1 and 1). We did the same thing with the runs stats, but it became evident that, because of their comparatively larger values, if a player excelled in Off or Def, the ranking would sway in their favour. To address this, we scaled down the Off and Def so their range of values was comparable to the other stats used. Once these values were added, we had our final number, which we referred to as “tooliness”. The “tooliness” ranking of players from the beginning of the 2012 MLB season to now (games up to and including June 8, 2015) are presented below (for length concerns, only the top 25 players are included; full rankings can be seen at the Google Sheet linked at the bottom of the page).
*These stats are deviations from the league average for the measured time period. **These stats are deviations from the league average for the measured time period which are also scaled down.
As the table shows, your “expected” players are at the top and throughout the results we see many recognizable names.
1) Mike Trout – There’s no surprise whatsoever to see Trout as the leader for our statistic. Since he has come into the big leagues Trout has absolutely raked at the plate, leading the league in wRC+, runs scored, Off, WAR, and amongst the top 5 in several other categories. He’s won an MVP and finished second in voting twice (both to Miguel Cabrera). Arguably the best player in the game today, Trout continues to shine as the poster boy for MLB baseball.
2) Miguel Cabrera – The king of consistency himself, Cabrera isn’t far behind Trout. Due to his lack of defensive ability “Miggy” takes some knocks but what he can do at the plate is nothing sort of extraordinary. Having hit 25 homeruns and driven in 100 RBI in every full season he has played (2004-14) Cabrera is a top example of a quality hitter. He’s the leader in wOBA, RBI, and HR since 2012.
3) Andrew McCutchen – If you want to talk about player’s that do everything for their team, then McCutchen is your guy. Easily the top 5 tool player in the National League, ‘Cutch has enjoyed major success since coming into the MLB in 2009. SInce 2012, he’s 2nd in WAR and Off (both behind Trout) and 3rd in wRC+ (behind Trout and Cabrera). There’s no question he’s one of the top MLBers today.
Carter is hockey player in WHL for the Vancouver Giants. You can follow him on Twitter @carter_popoff.
Adam is a student at McGill University. You can follow him on Twitter @adam_m3318.
You can follow Hit the Cut on Twitter @hitthecutblog.
All stats used are taken from Fangraphs.
To view formulas used and full rankings, visit this Google Sheet.