Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fun with WAR

I decided to have some fun today. Set aside any hang-ups you might have with the WAR statistic and just take a ride into hypothetical land with me. (For those unfamiliar with WAR, it stands for Wins Above Replacement. In short, it breaks down a player's overall value in wins.) I wanted to see how bad a team could be by putting out a lineup and pitching staff made up of the league's worst full-time players. Roughly, a team made up of replacement-level players (minor-league veterans or waiver-wire fodder) would win around 45 games, give or take. However, some active MLB players are worth negative WAR. To put together this team, I set up some ground rules.

They are:
 - The player had to have accumulated at least 500 plate appearances, which is close to the minimum requirement to qualify for the batting title.
 - The player had to have some kind of name recognition. The idea being that such a lineup wouldn't sound crazy to the casual fan, or have seemed ridiculous coming into the 2012 season.
 - For pitchers, starters had to pitch at least 170 innings. Relievers, 50 innings. 
 - Ryan Howard had to be mentioned at some point. Because he's fucking awful. 
 - Both the Fangraphs (fWAR) and Baseball Reference (bWAR) versions of WAR are to be used. 

Here we go. 

Catcher - Jesus Montero, Mariners (-0.2 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR)
Everyone one knows Montero should be a DH, but the Mariners are going to try him at catcher for as long as they can. Most of Montero's negative value comes from his terrible defense and baserunning, and his offense wasn't enough to overcome it. The ballpark he plays in hurts his offense quite a bit, but that doesn't excuse him from allowing more balls past him than a doorway of a Thai brothel.
Honorable mention: Ryan Doumit was the next worst among qualifiers, but he was worth 1.6 WAR. Not nearly terrible enough.

First base - Michael Young, Rangers (-1.4 fWAR, -2.4 bWAR)
There are plenty of Michael Young jokes out there, but frankly, there aren't enough. It's hard to fathom how bad he was last year. Aside from the terrible glove and sub par baserunning, he provides little power at power-heavy positions and doesn't get on base enough to be tolerable at any position. And the Phillies actually traded for him this offseason. 
Honorable mention: Casey Kotchman, Eric Hosmer (Homsar?), Justin Smoak, Ryan Howard. All of those guys were bad, but Young had the most name value (Kotchman actually was worse). Howard didn't qualify, but warrants mention because he was worth around -1.0 WAR in less than 300 PA's and people still think he's an elite first baseman. Stop thinking he's an elite first baseman.

Second base - Jemile Weeks, Athletics (0.0 fWAR, -1.0 bWAR)
Aside from the fact he plays defense like a drunk person, has no power, and couldn't hit a lick last year, he was awesome. Grade 80 hair. 
Honorable mention: no one. Like Montero, Weeks pretty much stood alone in his awfulness.

Shortstop - Rafael Furcal, Cardinals (1.2 fWAR, 1.2 bWAR)
Furcal is the first player in this exercise that managed to be the worst qualifier at his position yet still be a fairly valuable player. He had a weak year defensively and his hitting ability vanished towards the end, but injuries were a factor. 
Honorable mention: Cliff Pennington. Pennington was worth just a little bit more than Furcal, but all of his value came from defense. Pennington was an absolute disaster offensively. Clint Barmes and Brendan Ryan also fall under that category. 

Third base - Jordan Pacheco, Rockies (0.2 fWAR, -0.7 bWAR)
Pacheco has always fascinated me, partially because of his awesome-sounding name, his versatility, and the fact he looks like a prohibition-era gangster. But he's not a good player. He can hit a little, but can't walk, has almost no power, and can't really field at any of the positions he plays. It's worth noting that he'd rate much worse if he played somewhere other than Coors Field. 
Honorable mention: Ryan Roberts, because he's not very good and his tattoos are silly. If there's a criticism of WAR, it's that it fails to account for bad tattoos. 

Right Field - Jeff Francoeur, Royals (-1.2 fWAR, -2.7 bWAR)
Francoeur gets the nod over Brennan Boesch, who was just as bad but isn't as well known as Francoeur. The fact that Frenchy has a nice year every now and then (like he did in 2011) almost makes it worse, because then teams like the Royals pay him a lot of money to be terrible. He still flashes some power and has a tremendous throwing arm, but does everything else so bad that it drains his value. And he blocked Wil Myers from reaching our pleasure centers last year.
Honorable mention: Boesch, Lucas Duda. Boesch was pretty bad all around, Duda has some potential in that bat but was almost historically bad defensively. He shouldn't even own an outfielder's glove. 

Center Field - Drew Stubbs, Reds (1.3 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR)
Fangraphs and Baseball Reference value him differently, but no matter how you slice it Stubbs was not a good baseball player last season. He's a good defender, and has power and speed, but skills like actually hitting the baseball and recognizing a pitch escape him. He makes Rickie Weeks look like a hitting savant. 
Honorable mention: Colby Rasmus. Rasmus was pretty terrible in his own right, but had a couple hot stretches and generally hit better. 

Left field - Dayan Viciedo, White Sox (0.5 fWAR, 0.6 bWAR)
I started typing Delmon Young's name in without even looking at the "leaderboards", but turns out he didn't play enough outfield to qualify. Oh well. Viciedo has a bunch of power but provides little defensive value and didn't walk or hit enough. 
Honorable mention: Jason Kubel. Kubel had a nice year offensively for the D-Backs, but was hilarious on defense. 

Designated hitter - Delmon Young, Tigers (-1.4 fWAR, -1.2 bWAR)
Michael Young (Delmon's spirit brother) actually fared worse (dwell on that for a second), but he's already locked in at first base on this crap team. And the thing is, at least Michael played a position now and then. Delmon accumulated all this negative value while barely playing on defense. He swings at everything, makes contact with not enough of that everything, and when he does don a glove, we get a little closer to the apocalypse. I mean, seriously. 

Kittens die when he steps into the outfield. And to think the Rays had him play some center field in 2008. Young's had postseason moments and drove in 112 runs once, so there are some people out there that think he's useful. He's not. He's also a terrible human being. As I'm writing this, he's still a free agent. I sincerely hope no MLB team backs up the Brinks truck for him. 
Honorable mention: Montero and Michael Young.

Starting pitchers

Ervin Santana, Angels (-0.9 fWAR, -1.6 bWAR)
It's hard to give up 39 home runs in Angels Stadium, but Santana did it. He also didn't strike out as many as he should have and walked more than he should have. Not a good recipe, it turns out.

Ubaldo Jiminez, Indians (0.2 fWAR, -1.0 bWAR)
I don't know what exactly happened to Ubaldo, but he's basically become a mess of walks and home runs. Easily one of the most difficult pitchers to watch, and the numbers more than back that up.

Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays (0.5 fWAR, 0.1 bWAR)
Alvarez is one of those pitchers that get a ton of ground balls yet manage to also give up too many homers. Combined with the fact he couldn't strike out Wilford Brimley and you've got a pitcher who's not very good.

Ricky Romero, Blue Jays (0.5 fWAR, -1.7 bWAR)
See Jiminez, Ubaldo. 

Barry Zito, Giants (0.8 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR)
Despite the postseason heroics, Zito barely edges out Kevin Correia for me because of his contract and the fact he pitches in one of the league's best pitcher's parks. Zito embodies everything worth loathing about soft-tossing lefties, and is one of the go-to examples of why you should not give free agent pitchers a lot of money.

Honorable mention: Correia, Clayton Richard. Both guys favor a lot of contact and a lot of baseballs leaving the ballpark.

Relief pitchers

Josh Lindblom, Dodgers/Phillies (-1.1 fWAR, -0.5 bWAR)
Jeff Gray, Twins (-0.8 fWAR, -0.7 bWAR)
Livan Hernandez, Braves/Brewers (-0.7 fWAR, -1.1 bWAR)
Clay Hensley, Giants (-0.5 fWAR, -0.9 bWAR)
Logan Ondrusek, Reds (-0.9 fWAR, 0.6 bWAR)
Rhiner Cruz, Astros (-0.4 fWAR, -0.4 bWAR)
Chad Qualls, Phillies/Yankees (-0.4 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR)

Honorable mention: Joel Hanrahan and Chad Durbin were both awful, but got lucky with batted ball rates and their terribleness didn't show up in their ERA. But all of these guys listed were every kind of awful.

Final tally
-4.7 fWAR, -14.5 bWAR
There a pretty big gap there between the two forms of WAR, but basically a team made up of these players would be expected to win 30-40 games. That's not a lot of wins. If a hack like Jim Tracy or Clint Hurdle were the manager, it could be even worse. Thank God we don't actually have to watch a team like this. 

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, these guys would also be the ones to sweep the Brewers in July.