Using Run Values to rate players this season, I have come up with the top 10 hitters of the year in terms of value to their respective teams. This version does not include their gloves, but only their wood…not funny. You’ll notice that we could actually create a real team here out of the positions that these guys play. I’m not sure if that would have been possible 10 years ago before the advent of the slugging middle infielders and catchers.
And the lineup looks something like this…
Not a bad team, and some of these guys can actually play defense, too! Utley’s 3-year average UZR defensive rating is best in the whole league – AL and NL combined – over that span. Holliday and Pujols go 9 and 10, while Youkilis weighs in at 23 (all out of 117 qualified position players).
Despite some defensive prowess on this list, the emphasis is definitely on hitting. While great glove men of the past like Ozzie Smith wowed us with circus plays – to go along with back flips – I think team management is figuring out that players can do more offensively to help the team than defensively. In the last decade we’ve seen a hitting explosion among catchers, shortstops and second basemen, coinciding with the stats analysis craze (not so coincidentally, methinks). A guy like Utley can save his team about 45 runs playing second over the span of three seasons, but can add more than 45 runs offensively in just one. Thus the emphasis on hitting from traditionally defensive positions…