If you're anything like me, you've found yourself wondering what players rated as below average in every category that makes up Rally's WAR, but still played long enough to generate a career WAR greater than zero.
Wait, how can that happen?
WAR is calculated as Wins above replacement level whereas the individual components are runs above average. There's a big difference. A replacement level player is the type of player that is freely available to a team (at AAA, as a major league minimum free agent, etc.). So, a replacement level significantly below average. An average player is exactly that—league average. So, an average player actually has a decent amount of value. Over a full season, an average player will be worth about 2 WAR. A replacement player will be worth, well, 0 WAR. So, the more a player plays in between that replacement player and average player range, the more WAR he can compile. Get it?
Anyway, here's the list of all player with negative totals in every WAR component (except ROE—I'm still skeptical of using that one to eliminate guys from lists like these), but with a career WAR greater than zero:
There are twenty of them. And the leader in terms of both career WAR and plate appearances is none other than Hubie Brooks.
- Despite being below average in everything, Brooks was an All Star twice. In 1986, he made the team despite only appearing in 80 games that season. But in 333 plate appearances, he was worth a staggering 4.7 WAR. In other words, 44% of his career value came in 5% of his plate appearances. He was also an All Star in 1987, despite being exactly at replacement level.
- Ray Knight was also an All Star twice (for 1.8 and 2.8 WAR seasons). In 1979, he posted a career high 2.9 WAR and finished fifth in MVP voting.
- Johnnie Groth managed to stay in the big leagues for 15 years despite just two seasons in which he was over 0.7 WAR.
- Of course, Jose Guillen is still active with the Royals. Craig Monroe was active in 2009, but is not active in the majors or minors this year.
- Harry Simpson was an All Star in 1956. He actually was worth 10 batting runs that year, but coughed it all up (and then some) in the field. He was worth 0.1 WAR. He also was 11th in MVP voting.
- Walt Dropo's rookie season was worth 3.0 WAR in 609 plate appearances. The remainder of his career was worth -0.5 WAR in 3867 plate appearances.
- Bobby Darwin is a name I'm surprised didn't come up more when Rick Ankiel made his switch from pitching to hitting. Darwin made his major league debut on the mound as a 19-year old in 1962, throwing 3.1 innings. He didn't reach the majors again until 1969, when he made three appearances (3.2 IP). After the season, he gave up pitching and switched to the outfield. He was back in the big leagues by 1971 and was a starter for the Twins from 1972 to 1974 (with OPS+ marks of 123, 94, and 115). His career OPS+ was 104—better than his ERA+ of 39.
- Ask any Pirates fan about Francisco Cabrera and they'll tell you a thing or two. The guy on the list with the fewest plate appearances, it is a postseason appearance that ranks as his most well-known. I remember Francisco Cabrera as a really nice guy who would happily sign autographs for us kids at McCoy Stadium (Pawtucket, RI) as a member of the Richmond Braves.