Tagged: Red Sox

What exactly is WAR?

Let me begin by stating that I do not believe that Wins Above Replacement is a be-all and end-all statistic. I do, however, believe that along with OPS+, it is the single best measurement of a player’s value and performance, taking into account batting, baserunning, and defense. The following will examine how WAR is calculated to help determine its importance in making baseball decisions – whether they be in the front office of a MLB club or your high school pal’s fantasy keeper league.

WAR is statistical formula made up of several variables which churns out a single number to represent a player’s value to his team. The exact formula for WAR varies, as there are two main versions used – Baseball-Reference WAR (rWAR) and FanGraphs’ WAR (fWAR). In our case, we’ll examine Baseball-Reference.com WAR. The key to WAR is runs; Runs Above Average (RAA) is converted to Wins Above Average via the PythagenPat win-loss estimator. More often than not ten runs equates to one win, however, some small variations may occur. But before your head starts spinning, remember that wins are wins. A club’s total WAR, when adjusted for the replacement level, will closely mimic the actual win total of the team.

The three active leaders in career rWAR: Alex Rodriguez (111.4; 17th all-time), Albert Pujols (85.5; 40th all-time), and Chipper Jones (81.5; 49th all-time).

But what exactly is a replacement? Contrary to popular belief, the term replacement does not refer to your average Major Leaguer. Instead, it attempts to encapsulate a player stuck in baseball limbo – somewhere between AAA and the fictitious AAAA, not quite ready for The Show. According to Baseball-Reference, “Average players are relatively rare and can be expensive to acquire. Average players don’t make the league minimum.” A replacement player is just that – a stop gag. Each offseason teams spend millions on over-priced ‘average’ players. When speaking of WAR, the comparison is between Player X and the common, readily-available minor league journeyman. Replacement level equates to a .320 winning percentage. The 875 wins above replacement each year in the MLB [30 x 162 x (.500-.320)] are distributed between pitchers and position players. In conjunction with free agent salaries from the past four years, 41% of the runs are given to pitchers; hitters subsequently receive 59%. Over 650 plate appearances, players replacing league-average starters would deduct twenty runs from their team; these runs are known as the Replacement Level multiplier. For further comparison, a team comprised strictly of replacement players would win approximately 52 games in the regular season. This factor is adjusted for each league, as the AL has defeated the NL during Interleague play in eight consecutive seasons dating back to 2004.

Mike Trout's 2012 rookie campaign yielded the highest single-season WAR of any active player (10.7).

Mike Trout’s 2012 rookie campaign yielded the highest single-season rWAR of any active player (10.7).

Defense plays a large role in WAR, so naturally the statistic is calculated differently for position players and pitchers. First, let’s look at Position Player WAR. For fielders, WAR consists of batting runs, baserunning runs, fielding runs, runs added/lost due to grounding into double plays, and positional adjustments. Each category is extremely comprehensive. Batting runs account for pre-DH seasons, estimated caught stealing totals, infield singles, strikeouts, Reached On Error, and more. Baserunning runs are more than just SB and CS; getting from 1st to 3rd on a single, scoring on a grounder, tagging up, and other key baserunning occurrences all factor in. Perhaps the most complicated and debated aspect of WAR is the value of fielding. I’m of the belief that defense is half the game, but others disagree.

Darwin Barney led all of baseball with 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2012.

Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney led all of baseball with 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2012.

Since its development in 2003, Baseball Info Solutions Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) has been the default measurement for fielding runs. For seasons prior to ’03 (where observational data is non-existant), WAR used Sean Smith’s Total Zone Rating (TZR). However DRS has become “the most sophisticated public system available,” according to Baseball-Reference. Even baseball purists must appreciate the breadth and scope of DRS, which factors in dozens of potential plays (blocking a ball in the dirt, robbing a homerun, misplaying the outfield wall…) as well as a fielder’s range based on batted ball velocity, an outfielder’s arm strength based on the number of runners he allowed to advance, an infielders double play conversion rate, fielding success on bunts, stolen base conversion rate, and even pitch framing and game management for catchers. An overlooked factor of WAR is GIDP, or Grounded Into Double Play. Left-handed hitters such as Ichiro can fly out of the batter’s box and be half-way down the line in the blink of an eye. This gives lefties a decidedly large advantage over right-handed hitters. Beating out a potential double play takes skill and hustle. On average, the difference between avoiding and grounding into a double play is .44 runs (Baseball-Reference).

Ichiro led Major League Baseball in singles 9 of his first 10 seasons.

Ichiro’s speed and unique stance helped him lead the MLB in singles nine of his first ten seasons.

Finally, we reach positional adjustments. Teams are willing to sacrifice offense at key defensive positions such as shortstop and catcher, as demonstrated by this chart. To level the playing field, rWAR adds/subtracts runs based on your primary position. Catchers receive the biggest boost, earning ten runs, or roughly one win, per 1,350 innings played (9 innings multiplied by 150 games). On the contrary, a Designated Hitter sees fifteen runs disappear from his WAR due to his lack of defending. Shortstops are awarded 7.5 runs while second basemen only gain three. Despite corner outfielders subtracting 7.5, center fielders claim an extra 2.5 runs. On the corners of the diamond, third basemen add two runs while first basemen are helplessly left watching a full victory vanish from their WAR. Not fair you say? Statistics would say otherwise.

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No active pitcher has a higher career WAR than Roy Halladay (63.1), but even he trails Cy Young by a whopping 99.2 wins for the all-time mark.

No active pitcher has a higher career rWAR than Roy Halladay (63.1), but even he trails Cy Young by a whopping 99.2 wins for the all-time mark (162.3).

Calculating Pitcher WAR can be just as, if not more, complex than Position Player WAR. Despite the simplicity of Runs Allowed and Innings Pitched, Pitcher WAR becomes complicated when trying to determine how an average pitcher would handle certain situations. One key which calls for adjustments is the level of opposition. Remember that Giants’ pitchers never had to face Barry Bonds the year he amassed a ridiculous .609 On-Base Percentage. Interleague play muddles up the conversation even more, as away games are not counted. Baseball-Reference believes that “including nine games the Red Sox don’t have a DH will skew their offensive averages lower when most pitchers are facing them with a DH.” Makes sense to me, so I’ll allow it.

Although Pud Galvin (right) holds the record for single-season pitching rWAR (19.9 in 1884), he struggled with the stick. Tim Keefe (left) was able to pitch and hit his way to the highest single-season rWAR ever (19.5 in 1883).

Although Pud Galvin (right) holds the record for single-season pitching rWAR (19.9 in 1884), he struggled with the stick. Tim Keefe (left) was able to pitch and hit his way to the highest single-season rWAR ever (19.5 in 1883).

This brings us to Defense-Independent Pitching Stats, more commonly known as DIPS. Within this statistic lies yet another heated debate. Should pitchers be punished for defensive errors made by their teammates? WAR is attempting to “measure the value of the recorded performance–not it’s repeatability,” so Baseball-Reference.com does take into account defense in some ways. Relievers and starters have significantly different ERA’s in today’s game, causing rWAR to adjust accordingly. Bullpen relievers became a vital part of game management in the 1960’s. From 1960-1973, rWAR sets a difference of .0583 runs/game less given up by relievers. From ’74 on, when managers started utilizing their ‘pens in a more modern fashion, the difference increases to .1125 runs/game. Also taken into account are park factors – vital for pitchers playing in the odd-ball NL West, a division with some of the very best and worst hitter’s parks in the league. Park factors are calculated using data from the three previous seasons. It is generally accepted that late innings have a higher impact on the outcome of a ballgame. To account for this a leverage multiplier is used. The average leverage is 1.0, however closers often approach averages of 2.0, while mop-up guys might check in at 0.7. This metric “is applied only for relief innings and the leverage we use in the leverage at the beginning of the pitcher’s outing. This way a bad pitcher can’t bump up his leverage by walking the bases loaded and striking out the side every time” (Baseball-Reference).

Complex enough for you? WAR attempts to leave no stone unturned, that’s why to me it’s the best measure of a player’s value.

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Still confused? Click here for a comparison chart on the different versions of WAR. Also, check out the all-time career leaders for WAR.

This post is written in honor of  my roommate and great friend, Lucas Gilles, the biggest anti-WAR advocate I know.

A Night to Remember

Rays walk-off to AL Wild Card birth

Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays earned SportsCenter's Highlight of the Night on one of the craziest days in baseball history.

Today was just about the craziest day in baseball that I can remember. So many things were on the line going into the final day of the 2011 season. In some scenarios we would have had the pleasure of watching two one-game playoffs on the same day; that didn’t happen, but here’s some stuff that did:

The Brewers capped their best season in franchise history, becoming the first Brewers squad to earn 96 victories. Their win versus the Pirates also earned them home field for their NLDS match-up against the NL West-Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo will start game 1 for Milwaukee at home on Saturday.

Zack Greinke surpassed 200 strikeouts while earning his 16th win of the season Wednesday night; he improved his record at Miller Park this season to 11-0 (the Brewers are 15-0 in Greinke starts at home). Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are the only two teammates in Brewers history to have 200 punch-outs in the same season.

Prince Fielder earned a walk in his final at-bat of 2011. That walk left his batting average for the season at .299, leaving the quest for his first .300 season short once again. The base-on-balls did however give Fielder more walks (107) than strikeouts (106) for the season. Pretty neat.

Ryan Braun did not win the batting title, going 0-for-4 while Jose Reyes got on base via a bunt single in the first and was subsequently pinch-ran for per his request so that his average would remain higher than Braun’s. Bush. League. Braun finished the year at .332, Reyes at .337.

Albert Pujols recorded the first season in his career in which he failed to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI.

The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run Wednesay; however that left him one short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to record a 40/40 season.

Following Boston’s knack for collapsing, Adrian Gonzalez (.338) lost the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.344) after leading the race for almost every single day throughout the year.

Detroit closer Jose Valverde finished the season a perfect 49/49 in saves.

Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox were literally one strike away from a victory, yet the Boston closer ended up blowing the save and allowing Baltimore to win. Three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays, who had just gotten out of a first and third nobody out situation in the eighth, walked-off with an Evan Longoria homer that squeaked inside the left field foul pole. Tampa Bay was down 7-0 to the Yankees going into the eighth inning, but thanks to sound baseball and a three-run Longoria bomb, the Rays pulled within one going into the ninth. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Dan Johnson for Sam Fuld with two outs and the bases empty. Johnson was hitting .105 with one home run on the sesason. On a 2-2 pitch, Johnson crushed a home run deep into right field which barely snuck fair for a home run. The Rays were literally one strike away from losing, yet they scratched and clawed their way to an improbable AL Wild Card birth.

And lastly one more word about the NL batting title race I’ve been covering for quite some time… I think this excerpt from Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN.com article titled “Remembering the Amazing Ted Williams” says it best, and keep in mind how Reyes asked to be removed after a first inning bunt single…

“When he got to the final day of the season, a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Williams was hitting .3996, which rounded off to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the option to play that day. Williams said if he couldn’t hit .400 from the beginning to the end of a season, he didn’t deserve it.

“I asked him about that final day,” Gwynn said, “and he said, ‘Hell yeah was I going to play.”’

Williams went 4-for-5 in the first game, the Red Sox overcame an 11-3 deficit to beat the A’s, 12-11, and Williams raised his average to .404. He insisted on playing the second game, and he went 2-for-3 to finish the season at .406. In the doubleheader, with all the pressure of .400, he went 6-for-8. “

All-Star Break Power Rankings (July 14)

The 82nd All-Star game has come and passed and Thursday brings MLB’s second half – which never fails to stir up drama. The NL has clinched home field advantage in World Series with a 5-1 victory over the AL All-Stars. The Milwaukee Brewers had three starters voted in, however, Ryan Braun sat out due to an ailing hamstring. Rickie Weeks hit lead-off and went hitless, but did steal a base and score a run. Fielder, starting at first base and hitting clean-up, delivered the big hit of the night – a three-run jack off of Texas starter C.J. Wilson – and was named the All-Star game MVP. At the end of the contest the Brewers made a drastic roster move. Milwaukee now has K-Rod and the Ax-Man at the back end of their pen. With Rickie Weeks playing like his hair is on fire, if Braun and Fielder keep mashing, the Brewers could be in line for a deep postseason run. Here are the top ten teams in baseball right now…

Even though Ryan Braun pulled out of the game, Milwaukee still had two All-Star starters in first baseman Prince Fielder and second baseman Rickie Weeks. The former minor league roommates also participated in the Home Run Derby together and batted in their normal clean-up and lead-off spots in the NL starting lineup.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34, 1st in NL East by 3.5 games)

Roy Halladay: (11-3) 2.45 ERA, 138 SO, 1.02 WHIP

Ryan Howard: (.257 BA/.353 OBP/.475 SLG) 18 HR, 72 RBI

2. Atlanta Braves (54-38, 2nd in NL East, 3.5 GB)

Jair Jurrjens: (12-3) 1.87 ERA, 65 SO, 1.07 WHIP

Brian McCann: (.310 BA/.381 OBP/.514 SLG) 15 HR, 50 RBI

3. Boston Red Sox (55-35, 1st in AL East by 1.0 game)

Josh Beckett: (8-3) 2.27 ERA, 94 SO, 0.95 WHIP

Adrian Gonzalez: (.354 BA/.414 OBP/.591 SLG) 17 HR, 77 RBI

4. New York Yankees (53-35, 2nd in AL East, 1.0 GB)

CC Sabathia: (13-4) 2.72 ERA, 126 SO, 1.16 WHIP

Curtis Granderson: (.269 BA/.361 OBP/.575 SLG) 25 HR, 63 RBI

5. San Francisco Giants (52-40, 1st in NL West by 3.0 games)

Matt Cain: (8-5) 3.06 ERA, 105 SO, 1.10 WHIP

Aubrey Huff: (.236 BA/.290 OBP/.361 SLG) 8 HR, 44 RBI

6. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with STL)

Yovani Gallardo: (10-5) 3.76 ERA, 104 SO, 1.36 WHIP

Ryan Braun: (.320 BA/ .402 OBP/ .559 SLG) 16 HR, 62 RBI

Prince Fielder: (.297 BA/ .415 OBP/ .575 SLG) 22 HR, 72 RBI

7. Texas Rangers (51-41, 1st in AL West by 1.0 game)

Alexi Ogando: (9-3) 2.92 ERA, 78 SO, 1.01 WHIP

Adrian Beltre: (.273 BA/ .314 OBP/ .499 SLG) 19 HR, 71 RBI

8. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with MIL)

Jaime Garcia: (9-3) 3.22 ERA, 100 SO, 1.25 WHIP

Lance Berkman: (.290 BA/.404 OBP/ .602 SLG) 24 HR, 63 RBI

9. Detroit Tigers (49-43, 1st in AL Central by 0.5 game)

Justin Verlander: (12-4) 2.15 ERA, 147 SO, 0.87 WHIP

Miguel Cabrera: (.311 BA/ .430 OBP/ .549 SLG) 18 HR, 59 RBI

10. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43, 2nd in NL West, 2.0 GB)

Ian Kennedy: (9-3) 3.44 ERA, 106 SO, 1.15 WHIP

Justin Upton: (.293 BA/ .375 OBP/ .506 SLG) 15 HR, 46 RBI

Fielder's three-run bomb was the first home run hit by a Brewer in All-Star game history and earned him MVP honors, also a Brewers first.

If the season ended today:

AL MVP

1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

2. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays

3. Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees

NL MVP

1. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers

2. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets

3. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers

AL Cy Young

1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers

2. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees

3. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels

NL Cy Young

1. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves

2. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies

3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies

Major League Power Rankings (June 27)

Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder looks like the NL MVP, but LA’s Matt Kemp is a close second.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (49-30, 1st in NL East by 5.0 games)

No team has more wins than Philly, now imagine if Chase Utley starts to hit…

2. New York Yankees (45-31, 1st in AL East by 0.5 game)

The Yankees own baseball’s best run differential (+97), having scored 399 runs and given up only 302.

3. Boston Red Sox (45-32, 2nd in AL East, 0.5 GB)

The BoSox lead all of MLB in runs (405), batting average (.278), on base percentage (.353), and slugging (.450).

4. Milwaukee Brewers (44-35, 1st in NL Central by 3.0 games)

Ryan Braun (.308 avg, 16 hr, 59 rbi, 17 steals) and Prince Fielder (.305 avg, 21 hr, 68 rbi, 51 walks) are both on pace to have career years.

5. San Francisco Giants (44-34, 1st in NL West by 1.5 games)

The reigning champs continue to get outstanding pitching performances from their starters, and closer Brian Wilson is a legitimate contender for NL Cy Young (5-1, 2.50 ERA, 23/25 saves).

6. Tampa Bay Rays (44-34, 3rd in AL East, 2.0 GB)

Behind James Shields’ stellar season (6 complete games, 3 shutouts), the resurgent Rays find themselves 2 games back in the division, having won 8 of their last 10 contests.

7. Detroit Tigers (42-36, 1st in AL Central by 1.0 game)

Brennan Boesch has given the Tigers ample production out of left field, batting .299 with 10 homers and 38 runs batted in.

8. Cleveland Indians (40-36, 2nd in AL Central, 1.0 GB)

The Tribe seems to be treading water as of late, but continue to find ways to win thanks to breakout star Asdrubal Cabrera (.293 avg, 12 hr, 44 rbi).

9. Atlanta Braves (44-35, 2nd in NL East, 5.0 GB)

Jair Jurrjens is turning out to be yet another Atlanta ace, boasting a 10-3 record with a scintillating 2.07 ERA.

10. Texas Rangers (41-38, 1st in AL West by 2.0 games)

Despite losing three straight decisions, Rangers rookie Alexi Ogando (7-3) still boasts a 2.87 ERA and an even better 1.03 WHIP.

If the season ended today:

AL MVP

1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

2. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays

3. Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees

NL MVP

1. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers

2. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers

3. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers

AL Cy Young

1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels

3. James Shields, SP, Rays

NL Cy Young

1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies

2. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves

3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies

Major League Power Rankings (June 20)

Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver have been two of the best pitchers in baseball and are in a battle for the American League Cy Young Award this season.

1. Boston Red Sox (43-28; 1st AL East)

Adrian Gonzalez has Boston fans thinking Triple Crown with a .348 average (1st in MLB), 64 runs batted in (1st in MLB) and 15 home runs (six shy of league leaders).

2. Philadelphia Phillies (45-28; 1st NL East)

Cole Hamels (9-3, 2.51 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 103 K, 104 innings) has the slightest of edges over teammate Roy Halladay (9-3, 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 114 K, 112.1 innings) for NL Cy Young.

3. Milwaukee Brewers (40-33; 1st NL Central)

Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks have combined for 49 homers, 144 runs batted in, and a .299 batting average.

4.  New York Yankees (41-29; 2nd AL East)

The Bronx Bombers are living up to their nickname, leading the majors with 105 home runs.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (40-33; 1st NL Central)

The Cards snapped their seven game skid Saturday win a win over Kansas City, but lost Albert Pujols to a wrist injury Sunday.

6. Cleveland Indians (39-31; 1st AL Central)

The Tribe seems to be back on track after a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh, putting them one game ahead of the Tigers for 1st place in the division.

7. Detroit Tigers (39-33; 2nd AL Central)

Justin Verlander has gone 7-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his last ten starts (May 2-June 19); his WHIP on the season is a microscopic 0.85.

8. San Francisco Giants (39-33; 1st NL West)

After a rough start to the year, Madison Bumgarner has lowered his ERA to 3.21 (better than Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez), but still has a dismal 3-8 record.

9. Texas Rangers (38-35; 1st AL West)

Texas remains atop the AL West despite a 3-7 road trip.

10. Minnesota Twins (31-39; 4th AL Central)

Putting the Twins in the top 10 seems a bit absurd – but they’re hot – white hot.

If the season ended today:

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – BOS

NL MVP: Prince Fielder – 1B – MIL

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander – SP – DET

NL Cy Young: Cole Hamels – SP – PHI

MIL 3, BOS 12 / Brewers finish 2-5 on road trip

The Boston Red Sox defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3 in a Sunday afternoon rubber match at Fenway Park. Yovani Gallardo took the loss and saw his ERA rise to 4.11 after giving up five earned runs. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield stymied the Brewers all day, but did give up home runs to Nyjer Morgan (2) and Prince Fielder (20). The Brewers finished 2-5 on the road trip that began in Chicago. Before their series with the Cubs began at Wrigley Field, Milwaukee had won eight of their last ten games and were riding high after a weekend sweep of rival St. Louis which vaulted them into first place in the NL Central. Yet with the Cardinals scuffling as of late, the Brewers find themselves still tied atop the division. Ron Roenicke’s crew has the most drastic home/road split in baseball. The Brewers are an astounding 25-9 at home, the best in the majors; however on the road they are an abysmal 15-24. They return home tomorrow to take on the Tampa Bay Rays; Chris Narveson will toe the rubber for the Crew and oppose Jeff Niemann, who gets the nod for Tampa Bay.

Brewers (39-32) vs Red Sox (42-27)

The Brewers send veteran lefty Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.20 ERA) to the hill to try and cool down the scorching hot Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park. Boston boasts the best record in the American League and has won 12 of their last 13 contests. Fellow southpaw Jon Lester (9-2, 3.73 ERA), who has never faced Milwaukee in his career, takes the ball for the AL East leaders. Ron Roenicke’s lineup for game two of the series looks a bit different than normal.

1. DH – Rickie Weeks

2. RF – Corey Hart

3. LF – Ryan Braun

4. 1B – Prince Fielder

5. 3B – Casey McGehee

6. SS – Yuniesky Betancourt

7. 2B – Josh Wilson

8. CF – Carlos Gomez

9. C – George Kottaras

In other news, the Brewers recalled reliever Mark DiFelice from Triple-A Nashville after designating Danny Herrera for assignment last night. DiFelice appeared in 59 games for the Brewers in 2009 before having shoulder surgery late in the season, forcing him to miss all of 2010. The right-hander went 4-1 with a 3.66 ERA in ’09 and should be available to pitch if needed in tonight’s ballgame.