We made it through the 2023 regular season. Phew! Thus, it’s time to put a bow on our inaugural year with live PLV data by revealing our “All-PLV” team. We’ve been tracking the PLV all year, so if you’re curious and want to look back, you can find the prior articles in my archive.
Also, if you are just now discovering PLV, Nick Pollack’s “What is PLV?” primer remains the best place to get a proper introduction.
To qualify for the team, batters needed to see at least 1,500 pitches, which equates to roughly 375 plate appearances. Starting pitchers needed to throw 2,000 pitches (approximately 125 IP) to be considered, and relievers 1,000 (~55 IP). Below are the nine hitters and two pitchers who made our 2023 club, listed with their season-to-date stats and PLV rankings.
We also included a few “honorable mentions” for players with outstanding PLV numbers who were blocked by their positions. Let’s start on the mound.
Starting Pitcher: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler won’t generate much Cy Young attention due to his 3.61 ERA, but voters who put more stock into FIP and xERA will have him on their shortlist. Wheeler’s 3.15 FIP and 3.14 xERA were among the best in baseball this year, as were his innings pitched, BB%, WHIP, and SwStr%.
Wheeler’s 5.37 PLV led starters by a fair margin, and all four of his offerings rank from well above average to near league best. His four-seamer tops the list, ranking behind only Spencer Strider and Bryce Miller in PLA.
The fastball’s effectiveness translated across many stats, ranking in the top 10% in CSW% (34.5%), SwStr% (16.5%), Avg. (.199), and wOBA (.253).
Reliever: Paul Sewald
Paul Sewald doesn’t throw hard, averaging only 92.2 mph on his four-seam fastball, but his ability to avoid hard contact and generate strikeouts made him one of the best relievers in baseball again this season.
Sewald ranked among the league leaders in several Statcast categories, including xAVG, HC%, and Exit Velocity, along with a K-rate in the 92nd percentile.
Sewald has only two pitches in his repertoire, a four-seamer and a slider, both of which rank high on the PLV scale. His PLV of 5.36 on his fastball puts him in elite company, driven by excellent horizontal movement and a high spin rate rather than velocity.
Catcher: Sean Murphy
After a torrid first half, Sean Murphy cooled off but still finished the season with one of the best offensive stat lines among qualified catchers. Murphy’s power and on-base skills were particularly impressive.
Murphy ranked above average in every PLV category except for Contact, an exceptional accomplishment for a catcher.
As evidenced by his high OBP and ISO, Murphy ranked highest in Decision Value (DV) and Power. The chart below indicates that his decision-making actually improved in the second half despite the drop-off in his numbers.
First Base: Freddie Freeman
The choice at first base was a coin flip between Freeman and Olson, who were both deserving, as was Diaz. Olson ranked higher in Power, but Freddie matched or exceeded him in every other category and thus got the nod.
Freeman had one of his best seasons in 2023, which is saying a lot since he’s on a Hall of Fame track. He finished one double short of 60, but that doesn’t detract from his impressive final numbers.
Freeman ranked well above average in every PLV category except Power, where he was slightly above average. You wouldn’t know it from his 29 HRs, .567 SLG, and .213 ISO.
Freeman’s Hitter Performance (HP) ranked between one and three runs added per 100 pitches seen all season, illustrating his remarkable consistency.
Second Base: Mookie Betts
Betts started 70 games at second base this season, lining up in the infield nearly as often as his traditional right field. His defensive versatility didn’t slow him at the plate, where he put up the best numbers since his MVP season in 2018.
It’s easy to forget that Betts had a dismal April by his standards. He peaked in August when it mattered most for his team.
Shortstop: Corey Seager
Corey Seager played in only 119 games this season but put up stats that were so impressive that he’ll be listed on many MVP ballots. Despite the missed games, Seager finished the year among the AL leaders in home runs and RBI and was second in batting average and OPS.
Seager’s PLV profile displays excellent Strikezone Judgement and Power and the highest HP rating of 80.
Seager was incredibly consistent in 2023 despite the two trips to the IL in April and July. He added nearly three runs per 100 pitches seen on the season, peaking at close to four twice.
Third Base: Wilmer Flores
Wilmer Flores is undeniably the most surprising player on our All-PLV team. After putting together the finest offensive season of his career, the veteran utility player shined above all other third basemen in PLV terms in 2023.
Flores wasn’t in the Giants’ lineup daily and amassed only 454 plate appearances despite only one short stint in the IL. But his playing time increased as the season wore on as he forced his way onto the field.
His PLV numbers aren’t as impressive as most of the players on our team, but they were above average in every category except SZ Judgement.
Flores’s decision-making at the plate improved as the season wore on, leading to a near career-high .355 OBP. His BB/K rate mirrors this, increasing from 0.5 in the first half to 0.83 after the All-Star break.
Left Field: Yordan Alvarez
Honorable Mention: Juan Soto
Alvarez is a solid decision-maker with a stellar Contact ability and top-shelf Power.
Unsurprisingly, Yordan’s Power dipped mid-season after his stint on the IL. His ISO in August was only .194, far below every other month of the season when he was in the .300+ range.
Center Field: Aaron Judge
Honorable Mention: Mike Trout
Like Alvarez, Judge’s season was marred by injury in 2023, most notably a sprained toe which kept him out of the lineup from June 4 – July 26.
Before hitting the IL, Judge was on another MVP-level pace, slashing .291/.404/.674 with 19 HRs, 42 runs, and 40 RBI in 49 games. After his return, he continued to hit homers, but his SLG dropped by over .100 points in the second half.
Judge struggled with Contact but thrived in every other PLV category, especially Power, where he and Ohtani were the only players with an 80 rating.
The chart below illustrates the sharp decline in Judge’s Power rating in the second half before a September surge. The decline looks dramatic until you realize that Judge added 0.2 extra bases per BBE, even at his low point.
Right Field: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Tucker
There’s not much to say about Acuña’s 2023 other than “Wow!”
Acuña became the first 40/70 man in MLB history and led all hitters in stolen bases, runs, and OBP. In addition, he finished in the top five in HRs, batting average, SLG, and OPS. Acuña just put up one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history.
Acuña’s prowess also translated into PLV terms, where he ranked well above average in every category.
There were a few ups and downs, but Acuña showed excellent consistency at the plate in 2023, staying way above the 90th percentile in HP all season.
Shohei Ohtani did not make a plate appearance after September 3 but still hit 44 homers, the fourth most in MLB. Ohtani led baseball in OPS, SLG, and ISO and was second to Acuña in OBP.
Ohtani was the only player to post an 80 in two categories, matching Judge in Power and Seager in HP.
Shohei put on a show in June when his power numbers shot through the roof. That month, the slugging pitcher smacked 15 HRs, seven doubles, and three triples while slashing an obscene .394/.492/.952 with an OPS of 1.444.
Despite missing most of September, Ohtani looks like he’ll take home his second MVP later this Fall.