Using Wins Above Average to Identify Compilers

One nice thing about Wins Above Average (which I first posted about here last week) is that it makes it easier to identify "compilers". When your Hall of Fame case is being discussed, you do not want to be called a compiler.

Compilers, of course, build their impressive career totals by chugging away season after season, but not providing any "special" level of value. WAR rewards these compilers by counting the value they provide between replacement level and league average level. Wins Above Average (WAA) disregards this contribution. With WAA, you're only given credit for production above league average. All players will see a difference between their WAR and their WAA. Compilers will have a larger than normal difference.

Let's look at some extreme compilers. Specifically, let's look at players with the highest career WAR while having negative WAA:

First Last WAR WAA
Don Baylor 29.3 -1.5
Garrett Anderson 28.3 -1.4
Jimmy Dykes 28.1 -2.2
Hal McRae 26.2 -0.2
Tino Martinez 25.7 -0.8
Ossie Bleuge 24.7 -0.3
Chris Chambliss 24.4 -3.0
Willie Horton 24.3 -2.6
Joe Kuhel 23.8 -0.9
Roy McMillan 22.8 -2.1
Lee May 22.7 -5.2
Hal Chase 22.6 -2.8
Jeff Conine 22.3 -1.4
Bret Boone 21.4 -0.6
Charlie Jamieson 20.6 -2.4
Matty Alou 20.5 -0.1
Tom Brunansky 20.1 -3.1
Tommy Corcoran 20.0 -7.9

Were these valuable major leaguers? Sure. They just weren't above average major leaguers. There's no shame in that.

Buit wait—how was Don Baylor below average? He hit 338 homers and had an OPS+ of 118. He even stole 285 bases. I'm glad you asked (I love to explain such things).

Baylor was indeed worth +215 runs above average at the plate and +13 on the bases. But he played low value positions and suffers from a positional adjustment of –177 runs. When he played the field, he was kinda lousy (–57 runs). Add all his components together and you come out slightly negative (–23). He still provided nearly 30 wins over a replacement player, though.

How about compilers in the Hall of Fame? NO, NEVER! (RIGHT???)

Wrong.

First Last WAR WAA
Bill Mazeroski 26.9 0.7
Lloyd Waner 24.3 1.2
Rick Ferrell 22.9 1.5
Ray Schalk 22.6 3.2
Lou Brock 39.1 3.6
High Pockets Kelly 24.3 4.9
Tommy McCarthy 19.0 7.1
Jim Bottomley 32.4 8.3
Rabbit Maranville 38.2 8.9
Red Schoendienst 40.4 11.4
Fred Lindstrom 29.2 11.7
Pie Traynor 37.1 13.1
Jim Rice 41.5 13.9
Chick Hafey 29.5 14.0
Monte Ward 39.5 14.2
George Kell 33.6 14.4

We see many of the names we'd expect to see—Mazeroski, Waner, Schalk. Let's look at it a different way—WAA% (percentage of WAR represented by WAA). A lower percentage means you're a compiler.

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Bill Mazeroski 26.9 0.7 2.6%
Lloyd Waner 24.3 1.2 4.9%
Rick Ferrell 22.9 1.5 6.4%
Lou Brock 39.1 3.6 9.2%
Ray Schalk 22.6 3.2 14.3%
High Pockets Kelly 24.3 4.9 20.0%
Rabbit Maranville 38.2 8.9 23.3%
Jim Bottomley 32.4 8.3 25.7%
Red Schoendienst 40.4 11.4 28.3%
Tony Perez 50.5 16.3 32.2%
Jim Rice 41.5 13.9 33.5%
Dave Winfield 59.7 20.1 33.6%
Orlando Cepeda 46.8 16.1 34.3%
Pie Traynor 37.1 13.1 35.4%
Monte Ward 39.5 14.2 36.0%
Tommy McCarthy 19.0 7.1 37.6%
Sam Rice 51.1 19.4 37.9%
Harry Hooper 52.5 20.1 38.2%
Billy Williams 57.2 21.9 38.3%

Maz and Waner top the list again. Here, you see a guy like Tommy McCarthy rise up the list. A higher percentage of his WAR is made up of WAA. Of course, you could look at this another way—his WAR is so damn low that his WAA can't help but be a large percentage of it. We also start to see some guys like Dave Winfield and Orlando Cepeda—players with a considerably higher WAA total than the Mazeroskis of the world, but still with a low percentage when compared to their WAR total.

Let's go the other way and look at the highest WAA% from Hall of Famers.

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Babe Ruth 172.0 140.5 81.7%
Ted Williams 125.3 98.5 78.6%
Rogers Hornsby 127.8 99.2 77.6%
Lou Gehrig 118.4 90.9 76.8%
Joe DiMaggio 83.6 63.8 76.3%
Mickey Mantle 120.2 90.0 74.8%
Honus Wagner 134.5 100.6 74.8%
Dan Brouthers 83.7 61.5 73.5%
Willie Mays 154.7 113.5 73.4%
Ty Cobb 159.4 114.8 72.0%
Jimmie Foxx 94.1 66.7 70.9%
Mike Schmidt 108.3 76.6 70.8%
Lou Boudreau 56.0 39.6 70.8%
Tris Speaker 133.0 93.8 70.5%
Joe Gordon 54.9 38.5 70.1%
Hank Greenberg 56.8 39.8 70.0%
Billy Hamilton 69.6 48.7 69.9%
Eddie Collins 126.7 88.2 69.6%
Frank Chance 49.5 34.3 69.2%
Jackie Robinson 63.2 43.0 68.1%
Joe Tinker 49.2 33.3 67.6%
Nap Lajoie 104.2 70.3 67.4%
Ed Delahanty 74.7 50.2 67.1%
Roger Connor 87.2 58.5 67.0%

Babe Ruth at the top of the list—bet you didn't see that coming. But did you expect to see Joe Gordon and Frank Chance ranked so highly? Didn't think so. I tend to think Frank Chance gets a bum rap. He's the best of the double play trio that is often criticized for being weak Hall selections. But he was a high peak guy—really not as bad a selection as people make him out to be. Plus, it looks like he was a hell of a manager.

And what about eligible non-Hall of Famers? There are several 19th century players at the top of the list, so perhaps it makes sense to put 19th century players in their own list:

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Pete Browing 36.4 26.9 73.8%
Tip O'Niell 30.7 22.5 73.2%
Ross Barnes 33.1 23.8 71.9%
Benny Kauff 31.3 22.3 71.3%
Harry Stovey 46.8 32.9 70.3%
John McGraw 49.3 33.5 68.0%
Bill Joyce 33.8 22.7 67.2%
Denny Lyons 35.9 24.1 67.1%
Fred Dunlap 34.7 22.3 64.2%
George Gore 45.9 29.1 63.3%
Mike Griffin 45.2 27.7 61.4%
Mike Donlin 32.2 19.6 60.8%
Mike Tiernan 45.9 26.4 57.6%
Cupid Childs 47.2 27.2 57.5%
Charlie Bennett 38.0 21.6 56.9%
Hardy Richardson 40.6 23.0 56.6%
Jack Glasscock 58.7 32.4 55.2%
Ned Williamson 37.5 20.6 55.0%

I haven't done any adjustment to short-season 19th century players for WAA like I did for WAR. I really haven't given it much thought at all yet.

Here are the players from the 20th century:

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Charlie Keller 43.4 32.0 73.7%
Shoeless Joe Jackson 62.9 43.1 68.5%
Art Fletcher 42.8 28.7 67.1%
Jeff Bagwell 79.9 52.4 65.6%
Gil McDougald 40.0 25.6 64.0%
Larry Walker 67.3 43.0 63.9%
Bobby Grich 67.6 42.7 63.2%
Lenny Dykstra 41.5 26.0 62.6%
Al Rosen 33.0 20.6 62.5%
Tommy Heinrich 37.6 23.3 62.0%
Mark McGwire 63.1 39.0 61.8%
Gene Tenace 48.7 30.1 61.8%
Reggie Smith 63.4 38.1 60.0%
Bob Johnson 53.2 31.8 59.8%
Edgar Martinez 67.2 39.8 59.2%
Bill Dahlen 75.9 44.9 59.1%
Minnie Minoso 52.8 31.2 59.1%
Vern Stephens 43.5 25.6 58.9%
Alan Trammell 66.9 39.1 58.5%
Johnny Pesky 31.1 18.1 58.2%
Don Buford 35.5 20.6 58.1%
Art Devlin 33.8 19.6 58.1%
Heinie Groh 46.4 26.8 57.8%
Thurman Munson 43.4 25.0 57.7%
Bobby Bonds 57.0 32.8 57.5%
Sal Bando 60.6 34.8 57.4%
Earle Combs 44.7 25.5 57.1%
Lou Whitaker 69.7 39.7 56.9%
Dick Allen 61.2 34.8 56.9%
Roger Maris 39.8 22.6 56.7%
Roy Thomas 42.8 24.3 56.7%
Jim Wynn 59.8 33.7 56.3%
Wally Berger 40.0 22.2 55.5%
Willie Randolph 60.5 33.4 55.2%
Eddie Stanky 38.1 21.0 55.2%
Keith Hernandez 61.0 33.6 55.0%

Want to see an impressive list? How about 60-WAR non-Hall of Famers who had a WAA% of 60% or better? High-WAR, non-compiler types:

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Shoeless Joe Jackson 62.9 43.1 68.5%
Jeff Bagwell 79.9 52.4 65.6%
Larry Walker 67.3 43.0 63.9%
Bobby Grich 67.6 42.7 63.2%
Mark McGwire 63.1 39.0 61.8%
Reggie Smith 63.4 38.1 60.0%

It's a tough list to crack with Edgar Martinez, Bill Dahlen, and Alan Trammell narrowly missing the cut. Reggie Smith, the best player ever who gets no Hall of Fame support, looks pretty impressive here.

First Last WAR WAA WAA%
Pete Rose 75.3 28.2 37.4%
Fred McGriff 50.5 19.4 38.4%
Rafael Palmeiro 66.0 27.2 41.2%
Darrell Evans 57.3 24.3 42.3%
Ted Simmons 50.4 21.6 42.9%
Jose Cruz 52.2 23.9 45.7%
Willie Davis 57.2 26.7 46.7%
Bob Elliott 52.3 24.4 46.7%
Dwight Evans 61.8 29.2 47.2%
John Olerud 56.8 26.9 47.4%
Jimmy Sheckard 51.8 25.0 48.3%
Joe Torre 55.6 26.9 48.3%
Graig Nettles 61.6 30.0 48.8%
Tim Raines 64.6 32.1 49.6%
Jack Clark 55.0 27.3 49.6%
Tommy Leach 50.9 25.4 49.8%

While Rose tops the list by having the lowest WAA%, he still owns a pretty impressive WAA total of 28.2. Player I didn't expect to see here: Tim Raines. WAR just isn't as in love with the guy as the stat geeks are. He still looks like a Hall of Famer, but far from Priority #1 (which remains Bagwell).

Any other lists you'd like to see?

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