We should call him Mr. Metrics. Josh Donaldson is the perfect example of what Billy Beane has done in Oakland. But he does not get enough credit for it.
Over his past 207 games (all of 2013 and the beginning of 2014), Donaldson has a 11.7 WAR. Over his last 205 games, center fielder Mike Trout has a 12 WAR. Does this mean that Josh Donaldson is just as good as Mike Trout. Why doesn't he get the fame that Trout has, or the money? Josh Donaldson is the most underrated player in the major leagues, hands down. And, I'm here to prove that case.
Donaldson has a 150 wRC+ (weighted runs created; 100 is league average) this season which ranks 17th in the major leagues. That is ahead of the likes of Miguel Cabrera (145 wRC+), Joey Votto (143), and Jose Abreu just to name a few players. Of the third baseman, Donaldson ranks first in this category.
Although it is a good stat to measure how well a batter produces runs, wRC+ does not include the rest of Donaldson's game. A great statistic used to determine how well a player plays above his replacement is called WAR (Wins Above Replacement). There are two types of WAR, Baseball Reference's version of WAR (also known as bWAR) and FanGraph's version of WAR (also known as fWAR). Donaldson ranks first in the American League (second in the majors) in bWAR with a 3.9 mark and second in the American League in fWAR with a 2.9 mark.
So why does Josh Donaldson not get more credit for what he does? Although Donaldson is a stud in advanced metrics, his "traditional stats" are not atop the American League. His .276 average sits in 29th in the American League, his .370 on-base percentage is 14th, and his .523 slugging percentage is 10th. He has 12 home runs (5th) and 38 runs batted in (7th). Without metrics, Donaldson looks like a good player, but not one that is just as deserving of the American League MVP as Mike Trout.
We have known for a long time that advanced metrics are outweighed by traditional stats by the people that vote for the Hall of Fame, the league awards, and more. Josh Donaldson needs to be the player that changes that. He's among the best players in the American League, and yet I see players like Edwin Encarnacion, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols talked about more.
Let me tell you: Josh Donaldson is not the least bit lucky. He has a .303 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Hitters are considered to have a .300 BABIP as average, meaning that 30% of the balls they put in play should fall for hits. For Donaldson, 30.3% of balls put in play are hits. The statistic is used a lot of times as a luck factor; how lucky each individual hitter is at getting base hits on balls put into play. And when .300 is considered average, Josh Donaldson's .303 BABIP is not at all lucky.
So the next time you're going to tweet about Albert Pujols or write an article about Mike Trout, remember that Oakland's third baseman is right there with them, as one of the best hitters, in not only the American League, but in Major league Baseball overall.