There are many ways to determine who is the best player in a sport right now, especially baseball, but most are fraught with debate on which methods and stats are better. There are a few major sports however which generally have no issues with this, boxing and MMA are good examples. They have championship belts and if you have the belt you are the best.
So, what would happen if we introduced this concept to MLB to determine the current champion. Let me introduce you to the Unofficial MLB Player Championship.
Imagine that every at-bat in a major league game is in fact an individual bout for the title where the pitcher can win by getting the batter out and the batter wins by getting on-base safely. Imagine we tracked this throughout the season to determine who the champion was for each day of the season and work out who won the most championship bouts.
Isn’t this incredible arbitrary? Yes.
Would this be better than current methods? Probably not.
Is it pointless? Absolutely and that is why I’m doing it.
- Each MLB at-bat (regular and postseason) is a possible title bout.
- For an at-bat to be a title bout, one of either the pitcher or batter must be the current holder, or it is the first at-bat since the title was vacated due to rules detailed below.
- The batter wins if he reaches a base safely. The pitcher wins if the batter does not reach a base safely. (This does mean that a batter can get a hit but still lose the bout if they are caught trying to extend it).
- Players are credited for their appearances in title bouts, wins in championship bouts and successful retentions of the belt.
- The first bout is given to the first at-bat of the 2021 season.
- If the current champion is sent to the alternate site, to the minors, designated for assignment or placed on the injured list then the belt is relinquished and is up for grabs in the first MLB plate appearance after this has been officially confirmed.
- The commissioner of the Unofficial MLB Player Championship (Russell Eassom) reserves the right to change the above rules as and when he likes.
With all of this detailed out, let us look at the progression of the titleholders of Day One.
The Toronto Blue Jays opened the entire 2021 MLB season with a trip to face the New York Yankees in the Bronx. That meant that the first Unofficial MLB Player Championship bout was between Gerrit Cole and Marcus Semien.
Cole v Semien – Groundout – Cole wins
Semien hit a 100mph grounder into a shifted Yankee defence to make Gerrit Cole the inaugural Unofficial MLB Player Champion.
Cole v Biggio – Struck out swinging – Cole retains
Cavan Biggio did not manage to check his swing on 98mph high heat from Cole, which allowed Gerrit to successfully defend his title.
Cole v Bichette – Groundout – Cole retains
Cole v Hernandez – Single – Hernandez wins
Unlike against Semien the Yankees weren’t shifted against Teoscar Hernandez and a high heater from Cole was hit just past the glove of Yankees’ shortstop Gleyber Torres and taking the championship from Cole.
Cole v Hernandez – Called out on Strikes – Cole wins
The pair faced off again in the top of the fourth inning but this time Cole got his revenge and his title back with Teoscar going down on a generous strike call from the home plate umpire.
Cole v Guerrero Jr. – Walks – Guerrero Jr. wins
Cole however didn’t hold onto the title for too long walking Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by not getting him to swing on a full-count slider below the zone.
Cole v Guerrero Jr. – Walks – Guerrero Jr. retains
A couple of innings later Cole had the chance to get his title back but once again he failed to get Valddy to chase a ball out of the zone. Guerrero Jr. retained the title.
O’Day v Guerrero Jr. – Pops Out – O’Day wins
Vladito had the chance to end the day as the champ when he faced Darren O’Day but popped out to LeMahieu.
O’Day v Gurriel Jr. – Struck out swinging – O’Day retains
O’Day backed up his victory against one Jr. in the Toronto line-up by getting the other out as well. The submariner tied up Lourdes Gurriel Jr. with a fastball for a swinging strike and title retention.
O’Day v Tellez – Flyout – O’Day retains
O’Day followed up his first successful title defence with another getting Rowdy Tellez to fly out to Aaron Judge in foul territory to end the ninth inning. O’Day didn’t return for the start of the tenth.
So, there you have it after the Opening Day the Unofficial MLB Player Championship was with Darren O’Day. Which is objectively the right answer anyone would give when asked who the best player in MLB is right now.
This will be a weekly article going forward highlighting the interesting plays and showing the ever-building stats on the Unofficial Champion of MLB. This series is a hat tip to the amazing Unofficial Football World Championships which has an excellent book and webpage which I thoroughly recommend.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Russell is Bat Flips and Nerds’ resident analytical genius, and arguably Europe’s finest sabermetrician. If you’re not following Russell on Twitter @REassom then you’re doing baseball wrong.
While we have you, make sure you check out the excellent podcast with John chatting to former MLB and current CPBL Uni Lions pitcher, Tim Melville about everything from his time in the Royals organisation to his recent no-hitter to his love of BBQ. Click on the photo below.