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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: Early Standouts on Total Runs Leaderboard

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Every season, the list of players who get off to strong starts includes a mix of well-established superstars and lesser-known players. In a shortened season, a big beginning to the season is magnified as there is less time for aberrational performances to revert back to the mean.

The 2020 season has a good mix in that regard, which we can illustrate with Total Runs. Total Runs allows us to look at a player's all-around contributions. Total Runs measures offense (Runs Created), baserunning (Baserunning Runs) and defense (Defensive Runs Saved) with an adjustment for position played for position players, and Pitching Runs Created for pitchers. Our first look at the Total Runs leaderboard features prominent names like Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge, but also a few in the spotlight for the first time.

MLB Total Runs Leaderboard

Player Team Total Runs
Shane Bieber Indians 16
Kyle Lewis Mariners 16
Lance Lynn Rangers 16
Dansby Swanson Braves 16
Fernando Tatís Jr. Padres 16
Nicholas Castellanos Reds 15
J.P. Crawford Mariners 15
Mookie Betts Dodgers 14
Mike Yastrzemski Giants 14
Aaron Judge Yankees 14
Ramón Laureano Athletics 14
Luis Robert White Sox 14

in an 18-game cameo in 2019 and that has carried over into 2020. He’s tied for the lead in Total Runs after a start that has featured a .385 batting average, 1.016 OPS and 10 RBI in 13 games. The key for Lewis will be making contact. Lewis has struck out 48 times in 123 at-bats.

Lewis’ teammate, shortstop J.P. Crawford, is one run off the Total Runs lead. His 15 runs are the product of a .421 on-base percentage and early positive returns on defense, with 5 Defensive Runs Saved, which ties him with Betts for most in MLB. Crawford cost the Mariners 5 runs with his defensive play at shortstop last season, so it’s worth keeping an eye on possible improvement there.

Two Bay-Area outfielders also make the list: Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of baseball legend Carl Yastrzemski, from the Giants and Ramón Laureano of the Athletics.

Yastrzemski had a very good rookie season at age 28 but has come out looking like a major star in 2020. He has a 1.088 OPS, is tied for the MLB lead in runs scored (12) and leads the sport in walks (13). Projection systems (including ours in The Bill James Handbook 2020) forecast a decline in 2020, but Yastrzemski has only shown improvements so far.

Laureano may already be known for his outstanding outfield arm, which he showed off last season, but in 2020 he’s proven to be a more complete player overall. He’s reaching base at an impressive rate (.392 OBP) and has 2 Defensive Runs Saved. Yastrzemski and Laureano share the common bond of having cut back on their chasing pitches out of the strike zone significantly thus far.

Lastly, Luis Robert began his debut season with the White Sox as one of the most highly-regarded prospects in MLB. He hasn’t disappointed, hitting .354 through 12 games with 5 extra-base hits, 4 stolen bases and 2 Defensive Runs Saved.

A 60-game season may not give us a full look at a player’s true talent level, but it presents the opportunity to catch players as they break out in a big way. It’s something that will be fun to watch as this year continues to take shape.

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