Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Royals and WAR (Part 2-Position Players)

          Here is part two of the epic two part series "The Royals and WAR".  I know everyone has been clamoring for this like a pack of hungry hyenas, so I tried to get this post out as soon as I could.

          As I mentioned in part 1, it will take roughly 49 WAR for the Royals to produce a contending team, and possibly a division championship.  Divided equally between position players and pitchers, the position players must garner 24.5 WAR in a season to produce a playoff-caliber offense.  Keep in mind that WAR calculations for position players include defense, so it is not purely an offensive statistic.  I am going to look at the 2011 Royals position players as well as 2012.  More after the jump.

           First, the 2011 squad.  On the whole, the 2011 position players produced 25.5 WAR.  Excellent!  That is good enough for a contending, playoff-caliber group of position players!  As long as the pitchers produced a roughly equal amount of WAR, then the 2011 team could have been a playoff team. (they didn't in 2011-13.4 WAR).*

*I would like to note that Melky Cabrera, exchanged with the Giants in the trade for Jonathan Sanchez, was responsible for 4.2 WAR in 2011.  Melky so far this season has 4.3 WAR.  That trade has become a colossal catastrophe.

           Now for the 2012 position players.  I am going to include only those players with at least 100 plate appearances, just to include players who have actually contributed this season.

Alex Gordon-3.6 WAR
Mike Moustakas-2.9 WAR
Billy Butler-1.9 WAR
Alcides Escobar-1.5 WAR
Jarrod Dyson-1.1 WAR
Sal Perez-1.0 WAR
Lorenzo "The Painkiller" Cain-0.8 WAR
Chris Getz-0.3 WAR
Humberto Quintero-0.3 WAR
Brayan Pena-0.1 WAR
Eric Hosmer-Negative 0.5 WAR
Yuniesky Betancourt-Negative 0.7 WAR
Jeff Francoeur-Negative 1.7 WAR

         Of all the position players in the MLB, regardless of the number of plate appearances, and of all the pitchers in the MLB, regardless of the number of innings pitched, Jeff Francoeur has the lowest WAR.  Jeff Francoeur is the worst player in the MLB as measured by WAR.

         The Royals collectively have 10.6 WAR among position players.  That is awful.

         To put this exercise into perspective of how useful WAR is at explaining wins and losses, and therefore predicting playoff possibilities in the future, let's look at the 2011 and 2012 records according to WAR and according to what actually happened.

2011 WAR record-83.1 wins, 78.9 losses.
2011 Actual record-71 wins, 91 losses.*

*The Royals scored 730 runs last season, good enough for 10th in the MLB.  They really did have a strong offense last year.  Their pythagorean win-loss record based on runs scored and runs given up was 78-84.  The Royals were worse than their stats indicated.  It's difficult to win consistently when the team has to score 6 runs a game to win, though, due to poor pitching.  

2012 WAR record-48.6 wins, 56.4 losses
2012 Actual record-44 wins, 61 losses

          What did we learn from this exercise?  The Royals' position players are 24th in the MLB in WAR.  They are being dragged down by the exceptionally poor performance of a few players.  Is it a coincidence that while benching both Francoeur and Betancourt, the Royals completed a 3 game sweep of the Indians?  Maybe....but maybe not.

           No statistic is perfect.  WAR is a strong attempt at capturing the all-around performance of a player, but it doesn't necessarily predict overall team performance.  WAR is useful to gain insight into the value of a player, but it must be supplemented with other information to get a complete picture on individual and team performance.

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