Pop quiz, hotshot.
What resource on our site is the best place to find statistical valuations and rankings of every player's year-to-date performance?
If you answered the Player Rater, well done, as you're already familiar with our player valuation tool, which weights every player's contribution in the 10 prominent Rotisserie categories, then comes up with a total score that shows the impact that player has had thus far. If you answered "shoot the hostage," then perhaps you've spent too much time memorizing lines from 19-year-old movies.
While we often emphasize on these pages the difference between Player Rater and rest-of-year rankings, occasionally casting aside the former's rankings while formulating our cases, there remain valuable lessons to be learned by the former's findings. For example, it informs us that James Loney, despite a batting average four points higher than Marco Scutaro's, has actually contributed less in the category to his fantasy teams; this is because Scutaro's mark has come in 196 at-bats, or 33 more than Loney has. Scutaro's batting-average contribution has therefore had more influence, if only because he has hit at a rate that much higher than the league's average while doing so in a larger sample that more greatly influences your team's final number, his Player Rating standing a perfect illustration of this.
Sticking with the dual themes of pop quizzes and the Player Rater, why not combine the two in an impromptu "Player Rater Pop Quiz"?
See how many of the following 11 questions you can get right; the answers are at the bottom. Also -- no cheating!
(All statistics are through Tuesday's games.)
1. Name the 10 players under the age of 25 to rank among the top 100 hitters.
2. Who is the only player to have led the Player Rater in two separate weeks this season? (For these purposes, a week is one Monday-Sunday scoring period, which would be the "Last 7" report on the Player Rater on Mondays.)
3. Which batting title-eligible hitter is the closest to earning a score of exactly zero in terms of batting average?
4. Who is the only player to have registered at least 2.00 in every one of the five Player Rater hitting categories? (Thanks to Pierre Becquey for this one.)
5. Which is the only team with four players ranked among the top 25 hitters?
6. Name the three teams that do not have a single hitter in the top 75.
7. Who is the lowest-rated player to have appeared in at least 95 percent of his team's games?
8. Which team has two catchers, each of whom has made a minimum of 15 starts at the position, ranked among the top 15 at the position?
9. Who are the only two rookies to rank among the top 100 hitters?
10. Who is the highest-ranked player to have spent at least 15 days on the disabled list already this season?
11. Which top-100 rated hitter has started only 52 percent of his team's games -- making him the highest-rated hitter with starts in less than 60 percent?
Interestingly, in a quick quiz of colleagues, Andrus was the most difficult one to guess … perhaps because many believe that his 25th birthday already passed? He'll turn that age on Aug. 26, as he nears the completion of his fifth full big league season. But maybe another reason he was a difficult guess is that he's traditionally regarded as a one-category contributor and one whose stolen base contributions took a nosedive in 2012. Andrus is on pace for a career-high 41 steals this season, however, and he was one of the six of these players to crack Keith Law's top 25 players under 25 in the preseason, ranking 10th.
That six players from Law's list made our top 100 hitters speaks volumes about the impact of youth in today's game; consider that there are only 71 hitters on our entire Player Rater who have yet to turn 25. Five more made the top 150: Starlin Castro, Josh Rutledge, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Dominguez and Andrelton Simmons. And we haven't even mentioned Eric Hosmer, Brett Lawrie, Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Jurickson Profar or Yasmani Grandal yet.
2. Carlos Gonzalez, in Weeks 3 (April 15-21) and 7 (May 13-19).
This is most significant because Gonzalez actually also was ranked the third-worst hitter during fantasy's Week 4 (April 22-28), and in only one of those weeks, Week 3, did his Colorado Rockies play the entire week either at Coors Field or away from it (they were at home for seven games).
Here is what's most puzzling about Gonzalez's contribution this season: He has actually been a better hitter on the road, sporting .337/.400/.635 triple-slash rates compared with .283/.376/.554 at Coors. This was a point made in my May Consistency Ratings column, and it's encouraging to hear considering that his Rockies have struggled more of late away from Coors, their team road triple-slash rates sagging to .242/.302/.385 during the month.
3. Nelson Cruz, who has batted .256684 in 207 PAs.
That's further evidence that the league's batting average continues to tumble; the current major league mark is .253076. "Bad batting average" has become an all-the-more-reliable strategy -- Larry Schecter's punt-batting-average team in the AL-only League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) has a 10-point lead in the standings -- as the major league's average is down two points from last year (.255) and 11 points from 2008 (.264).
4. Adam Jones.
Jones' across-the-board contributions might have been overlooked by some due to headlines about Chris Davis' stunning start -- especially in terms of batting average -- and Manny Machado's emergence as a bona fide fantasy star. Still, Jones continues to show much of the growth he did in 2012; he's on pace for 31 home runs and 25 stolen bases and he's perhaps the safest bet of the bunch to keep it up.
Two things might shock you: First, that McLouth is one of the four, but second, that no other team has more than two in the top 25.
Piggybacking the Adam Jones question, the Baltimore Orioles as a team have kept up much of the offensive growth they showed in 2012, and as things stood on Wednesday morning, they were second in team batting average (.274), first in slugging percentage (.459), first in OPS (.790) and second in weighted on-base average (.339). In fact, the only two positions at which the Orioles don't have a player ranked in the top 125 hitters are second base and designated hitter. That's actually huge news for McLouth, perhaps the player fantasy owners might most question; as the leadoff hitter for a team likely to rank among the most productive in 2013, he'll have a lot of stability in terms of runs scored.
The Twins, however, are a puzzling entry, considering they have such historical fantasy stalwarts as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. Mauer leads the way as the No. 77 hitter, with Morneau (104th) and Willingham (132nd) not far behind, but beyond those three the Twins have been a fantasy wasteland. Aaron Hicks has the fourth-worst batting average by Player Rater measure, and only two Twins hitters have as many as five home runs (Willingham, 9, and Hicks, 5). It's no wonder the Twins have only one player ranked within the top 50 players in either runs scored or RBIs -- that's Mauer, who made that cut in both categories.
7. Ike Davis.
This one might have been easy, especially if you read last week's "Hit Parade." This question could've been asked another way: "Who is the worst hitter on the 'Last 30' split on our Player Rater?" Again, the answer is Davis.
Here's the problem: While the pro-Davis case formerly could have been made comparing his year-to-date stats in May with those of 2012 -- he started last season comparably poorly -- now those numbers have begun to deviate. He has struck out more often (33.3 percent, up from 28.7 percent through May 28, 2012) and has made hard contact less often (.088 well-hit average, down from .160). The New York Mets reportedly have been considering demoting Davis in the coming days, and at this point, there's good reason to think they should.
While the answer to the next question has gotten considerably more press among the "playing time-capped catchers" crop, Gomes' contributions haven't been that much less impressive in limited time. He's the No. 15 catcher on our Player Rater, thanks to his five home runs and .292 batting average, and he has seemingly carved out a long-term utility role for the Cleveland Indians. AL-only owners, or those in two-catcher mixed leagues of 12 or more teams should take a look.
Updating the "Hit Parade" of May 8, Gattis and Pollock remain the only two high-impact rookie hitters to date, as only seven rookie hitters even rank among the top 200 on the Player Rater. Jedd Gyorko and Didi Gregorius have picked up the pace of late, surging to 129th and 155th, and Jurickson Profar has since been promoted, but fantasy owners continue to hope that players like Profar and Wil Myers soon will carve out permanent roles for themselves.
10. David Ortiz.
He's the ageless wonder, at age 37 sporting the lowest strikeout rate of his career (11.0 percent), his triple-slash rates this season (.336/.397/.603) no less impressive than they were even during the prime of his career. At the same time, Ortiz's DL stint serves as a reminder that, at this age, he's always a risk to spend time on the shelf.
11. Eric Chavez.
Travis Hafner might have been a popular guess here, but the answer was actually one of last year's New York Yankees, Chavez. At this stage of his career, Chavez is a player in need of more careful management, but the Yankees, and now his Arizona Diamondbacks, have done that brilliantly of late. He generally starts only against right-handed pitching, due to a sub-.400 OPS against southpaws since 2009, and he has appeared in scarcely more than 50 percent of the Diamondbacks' innings at the hot corner this year. That "role player" gig caps Chavez's value to NL-only and deep mixed (14-plus-team) leagues, but he's a handy roster-filler in those.
TOP 150 HITTERS
Note: Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 150 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point forward, not for statistics that have already been accrued. For position-specific rankings, see the "Pos Rnk" column; these rankings can also be seen split up by position.