Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Royals and WAR (Part 1-Pitchers)

           I don't really have a reason for the long hiatus between posts.  Laziness, I suppose.  It's a blog.  I can do what I want.

           Anyway, today I would like to focus on WAR and the Royals.  For those of you who don't know, WAR is one of those new-fangled sabermetric statistics used to capture the all-around performance of a player (offense AND defense are included for a non-pitcher).  WAR stands for "Wins Above Replacement".  Essentially, WAR measures how many wins a player adds to a team's overall record ABOVE some random AAA player.  For reference, someone like Irving Falu, who has had his cup of tea in the majors this season, is considered a "replacement" level player.  If a major league team was composed of 25 replacement level players, that team would be expected to win about 44 games.  This changes from season to season, but 44 games is basic enough.  More information after the jump.

            There are two main sabermetric websites that track WAR, but each one calculates it slightly differently. Advanced stats aren't perfect.  I will be using Fangraphs' WAR, AKA fWAR.  All WAR data I present is gathered from Fangraphs.  Here is a handy-dandy reference chart for WAR from Fangraphs.

Scrub0-1 WAR
Role Player1-2 WAR
Solid Starter2-3 WAR
Good Player3-4 WAR
All-Star4-5 WAR
Superstar5-6 WAR

            These numbers are cumulative over an entire season.  To give you some examples, Zack Greinke's 2009 Cy Young season was worth 9.3 WAR, which is astounding.  Since 2000, only Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martinez have had seasons worth more WAR.  Hall of Fame company.  Alex Gordon's 2011 season was worth 6.9 WAR; since 1980, among position players only George Brett and Willie Wilson have had higher WAR seasons for the Royals.

            I want to use WAR to talk about the Royals' pitching for the rest of this post.  Keep in mind that since this season is not over, the WAR numbers, like all other stats, are still in progress.

            I am going to try to present the collective WAR of the Royals starters.  Since many of the Royals starters have pitched from the bullpen, I must separate WAR gathered as a reliever from WAR gathered as a starter.  The separation I will use will be rough and may not be accurate, but I think for this exercise it will do.

Luke Hochevar - 1.6 WAR
Bruce Chen - 1.0 WAR
Luis Mendoza - 0.96 WAR (80% of his innings in the starter role-->80% of WAR in starter role)
Felipe Paulino (DL) - 0.9 WAR
Danny Duffy (DL) - 0.4 WAR
Vin Mazzaro - 0.4 WAR (82% of his innings in the starter role)
Nathan Adcock - Roughly 0 WAR (only 23% of his innings in the starter role)
Will Smith - -0.1 WAR
Jeremy Guthrie - -0.1 WAR
Ryan Verdugo - -0.1 WAR
Everett Teaford - -0.16 WAR (53% of his innings in the starter role)
Jonathan Sanchez - -0.6 WAR

            Collectively, the Royals starters have contributed 4.2 WAR so far on the season.  This season, Zack Greinke alone has contributed 4.2 WAR to his teams.  This is absolutely unacceptable.  One guy is equaling the performance of our 12 guys.  We actually have starters who are WORSE than a random guy from AAA (Nate Adcock fits the "replacement" definition pretty well).  Jeremy Guthrie, if you count in his time as a Rockies player, and Jonathan Sanchez are two of the absolute worst pitchers so far this year.

           On average since 2002, it takes about 93 wins to win the American League Central every year.  That means that teams must find roughly 49 WAR in their players to get 93 wins, which leaves about 24.5 WAR for pitchers depending on the offense.  The 2007 Angels, who had 94 wins, got roughly 18 WAR from their starting pitchers.  If the Royals could get 18 WAR from their starting pitchers, I think the team would be contenders for the division championship.

           So what did we learn from this exercise?  If each starter (assuming we could get through the season with 5, which is very difficult for any team) gave on average 3-4 WAR over the season, or in other words was a "good player" through the whole season, the Royals would be contenders.  Zack Greinke and Gil Meche are the only starting pitchers in recent memory able to provide that kind of performance; Felipe Paulino in 2011 came close to the 3 WAR mark, but he wasn't pitching for the Royals for the whole season.  Luke Hochevar's highest season WAR is 2.3 in 2011, and Bruce Chen's highest season WAR is 1.8 in 2000.  Other than possibly a healthy Felipe Paulino, the Royals currently have no starters who can get the Royals to contending status.  Dayton Moore has a lot of work to do this offseason.  Standing pat with the rotation during the offseason will doom next season before it starts.  The Process at work.  The next part, hopefully coming soon, will look at the position players.

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