Ever since we originally discussed Wins Above MVP Level (WAM), I've wondered what the all time career leaders look like in that category—particularly when compared to the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) leaders. With Rally's WAR database and a bit more spreadsheet kung fu than I'm used to, I've now got a list of all time leaders.
But first, some observations:
- I'm starting with position players. I'm not sure our generally-agreed-upon 6.0 WAR baseline works for pitchers as well. Pitchers just seem to earn fewer WAR than position players (at least on a career level), so perhaps the baseline needs to drop to 5.0 or something. Opinions are welcome—I haven't thought about it too much.
- There have been 80,532 individual seasons by position players from 1871 to 2009.
- 81 of those resulted in a 10+ WAR season (0.1%)
- 299 seasons were 8+ WAR (0.4%)
- 1,159 seasons were 6+ WAR (1.4%)
- On an average year there are:
- 0.6 players with 10+ WAR
- 2.2 players with 8+ WAR
- 8.4 players with 6+ WAR
- Of the 1,159 seasons of 6+ WAR
- 427 different players had a WAR above 6.0 (6.1 or above), and therefore have some measurable WAM.
I thought it was interesing that there are 8.4 players with 6+ WAR in a given season. That makes four players per league who could conceivably "deserve" the MVP in a given season. I'm liking our 6.0 baseline for WAM more and more.
Enough bullets. Let's go to the table:
|First||Last||Career WAM||WAM Rank||Career WAR||WAR Rank|
So, there we have the Top 50. There's so much that can be done with this list now. I'm particularly curious about guys who ranked differently on the WAM and WAR lists. So, here are:
Players who ranked higher in WAM than WAR (difference in rank)
- Hughie Jennings (152)
- Jason Giambi (106)
- Lou Boudreau (84)
- Jackie Robinson (66)
- Joe Jackson (60)
- Ernie Banks (55)
- Dick Allen (55)
- Frank Baker (47)
- Ron Santo (36)
- Albert Pujols (26)
- Duke Snider (26)
- Ed Delahanty (21)
And after that there's quite a dropoff to Arky Vaughan, with a difference of 8 spots. This list should conceivably feature high peak guys who either had short careers or garnered the majority of their value in a few seasons. Guys like Jackie Robinson and Joe Jackson had their careers shortened while Albert Pujols, of course, is far from done. Then there's a guy like Ernie Banks who played a long time. He earned tons of value while he played shortstop. Then he moved to first base and also saw a drop in offensive production. He never approached 6 WAR (or even 3 WAR) again.
On the flipside, guys who rank higher in WAR than they do in WAM would conceivably be guys who were consistently good for a long period of time. Let's see:
Players who ranked higher in WAR than WAM (difference in rank)
- Frank Robinson (-25)
- Roberto Clemente (-15)
- Roger Connor (-14)
- Robin Yount (-10)
- Mel Ott (-10)
- Rickey Henderson (-7)
- Jeff Bagwell (-6)
- Stan Musial (-5)
- Tris Speaker (-5)
- Hank Aaron (-5)
This list has much smaller differences in rank. That's because this list seems to have players that are closer to the top of the career WAR leaders. They just don't drop very far. Every single one of these players had at least 8,800 career plate appearances while most had well over 10,000. Each of these players was very good for a very long time.
And I don't know about you, but this makes me curious who the highest ranked players in WAR are who don't show up in the WAM Top 50:
- Cap Anson (20th in WAR, 3.8 WAM)
- Al Kaline (24th in WAR, 6.7 WAM)
- George Davis (25th in WAR, 5.8 WAM)
- Chipper Jones (39th in WAR, 4.9 WAM)
- Sam Crawford (41st in WAR, 1.8 WAM)
- Bill Dahlen (42th in WAR, 2.4 WAM)
- Frank Thomas (43rd in WAR, 5.8 WAM)
- Pete Rose (45th in WAR, 4.4 WAM)
- Paul Molitor (46th in WAR, 1.3 WAM)
- Paul Waner (50th in WAR, 4.3 WAM)
Many of those guys come close, though some are a ways away from the Top 50 (like Crawford or Molitor).
You can find the complete list of all time leaders here. It is a Google Spreadsheet. Right now, it is mostly populated by the old player IDs (like "camik001"). If you're interested in helping me clean this up, I'd love to give you edit access.
Edit: User erosen has gone ahead and done this for me. Thanks, erosen!