Earlier today, I laid out my methodology for scaling the three major versions of WAR(P). Now, it's time to share some of my initial findings. For my first exploration, I'm starting with 2012's sample of "qualified" hitters.* In the future, we'll explore 2012's "qualified" starting pitchers, as well as several other groups.
* Note: You may be wondering why I'm working with such a limited sample. This is a good question. The first thing that I need to admit is that I'm not able to build a database with my current skillset. I'm working on it, though. And you really need a database for this kind of work. But for now, I need to do most of my calculations "by hand." It's, shall we say, pretty f'ing time-consuming.
Let's start with the top-20 names on our WARi leaderboard for 2012, followed by some tidbits and observations.
|Name||Team||PA||fWAR||fWAR (adj.)||rWAR||WARP||WARP (adj.)||WARi|
If you are surprised about Mike Trout being atop this leaderboard, you should not be. Each system has him at a higher level above replacement than anyone else in baseball, and it's not particularly close. After adjustments, every system has him at least two wins better than either Robinson Cano or Buster Posey. This is what happens when you are a phenomenal hitter, very good fielder, and the best baserunner in baseball.
One of the more interesting items here? Buster Posey is the candidate we can all believe in. According to this data, he's basically valued the same by all three metrics. Posey, who's the presumptive lead candidate for NL MVP, also has the highest WARi among National League position players. Smell test? Check.
A couple of days ago, our Spencer Schneier made the case that Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown-winning 2012 shouldn't put him even at No. 2 in the AL MVP race. Well, if you were to just use WARi to decide on MVP voting (and I'm not advocating you should), Robinson Cano -- the guy Spencer made the case for -- comes up as No. 2 overall, and in the AL. Cano sits second in rWAR, third in WARP and fourth in fWAR, and his WARi sits at 7.4
Cabrera hits at No. 3 for AL position players, and No. 6 overall. Tiger fans, you think that's a little low? (Don't answer that, I can guess.)
Seriously, guys ... what is Aaron Hill doing here? Can we talk about this for a second? If anyone was predicting that Aaron Hill would be the second-best 2B in baseball, and not Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler or Rickie Weeks, could you please buy me a lottery ticket or two? And most of the systems agree, with the lowest score being rWAR's 4.6.
All three of the Braves' primary outfielders made the top 20, but WARP appears to value Bourn and Prado a bit less than the other two systems. But, like almost every talent evaluator, saber expert or person who watched a Braves game this season, all three systems have lots of love for Jason Heyward.
Remember when Bryce Harper was way more overhyped than Mike Trout, earlier in the year? Ah, sweet memories. Now Trout is dwarfing the fact that Harper has a pretty-freaking-awesome age-19 rookie season. He sits at No. 18 overall on the leaderboard, which sure isn't bad.
|Name||Team||PA||fWAR||fWAR (adj.)||rWAR||WARP||WARP (adj.)||WARi|
Can you feel the schadenfraude? I can. We've only got 12 qualified players who sit at a negative value for WARi for the season, which makes sense, since you don't usually get 500+ PA if you're a below-replacement player. Most of these names shouldn't jump out as surprising, especially near the top of the board.
Jeff Francoeur was pretty awful this season
, but at least the Royals didn't have a better player right behind him in Triple-A oops I guess they did, what happened here? Both B-R and BP had him as the worst qualified player in baseball, which sounds about right.
If you would have said to me at the beginning of the season that Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero would basically be the two worst everyday players on the Mariners, I'd have thought you were crazy. And keep in mind that Smoak scored fourth-worst overall (-1.3 WARi) despite hitting like Miguel Cabrera in September and October.
You'll see a lot of outfielders and first basemen on this list, primarily because it's pretty difficult to be below-replacement at a more taxing fielding position, due to the positional adjustments. But that didn't stop Jemile Weeks from being awful at basically everything, but especially hitting. His brother also makes the bottom-20, and he's the most surprising name on this list, in my opinion. Rickie's name will show up again later, as fWAR has him as a better-than replacement player, so we'll talk about that later.
The Biggest Differences In Systems
Now, let's explore what may be even the most useful part of this exercise. Let's see which players' 2012 performances were graded the most differently by the different systems. I use the term "delta" to refer to the absolute value of the difference between each of the two systems. Below, you'll find the top-10 deltas for each of the three system comparisons, along with a couple of notes. Fun*, right?
* Note: Fun not guaranteed.
Differences between adjusted WARP / rWAR
Now we're talking. It's pretty easy to notice something about this list. When comparing adjusted WARP values to rWAR, we find that many of the largest deltas come from second basemen. In five of the six cases, WARP has a value more than two wins lower than rWAR for the second basemen in question. In one case (the strange case of Jose Altuve), WARP values Altuve much higher than rWAR.
Darwin Barney is an interesting case, as he has phenomenal fielding numbers by DRS (rWAR defense) and only very good ones by UZR and FRAA, which are factored into his fWAR and WARP, respectively. Without digging too deeply, I'd assume that WARP doesn't give him quite the same consideration as a gloveman, and that probably is why he shows up on this list.
It's pretty interesting to look at these changes. When it comes to Phillips, Cruz, and Ackley, the question is pretty simple. Do you think that these players were replacement-level in 2012? Or do you think they were closer to starter-quality?
Differences between adjusted fWAR / rWAR
It's a little interesting to me that we see less-large deltas between adjusted fWAR and rWAR (at least in the top 10), than we did between adjusted WARP and rWAR. Nevertheless, our good friends Darwin Barney and Dustin Ackley are back! On both of these players, fWAR and WARP appear to agree: rWAR has them overvalued.
With Barney's gigantic disparities, part of the answer has to lie with his massive DRS number on the season. DRS is the fielding metric used in rWAR calculation, and it has Barney as good for just about three wins of defensive value. FanGraphs and BP use a different metric for defensive value calculation, and it doesn't ascribe quite as much value to Darwin.
With Ackley, the issue is a bit dicier. He was *not* a good offensive player this season, with a wRC+ of 76 and an OPS+ of 79. FG's un-adjusted fWAR gives him credit for being about 1.0 wins above replacement with the bat, primarily due to the positional adjustment for 2B, but that gets scaled down by my system. At the same time, Ackley gets 1.4 offensive rWAR, which does not get scaled, for the same output.
Also, was Rickie Weeks unexpectedly horrible in 2012 or what? FanGraphs has him as an average hitter (wRC+ 101), but a truly awful defender (-16.0 fielding runs via UZR). rWAR basically just thought he was the worst.
Differences between adjusted WARP / adjusted fWAR
|Name||POS||fWAR (adj.)||WARP (adj.)||delta||WARi|
We see more of the usual suspects here. Of the names on this list, all but Drew Stubbs, Yoenis Cespedes, Aramis Ramirez and Eric Hosmer showed up on one of the previous lists of biggest deltas.
Ian Desmond is an All-Star according to FanGraphs, and an average starter according to Baseball Prospectus. He's the owner of the biggest difference among qualified position players between any two systems, per my calculations. Why? Well, FG uses UZR for fielding, which rates Desmond as a little better than average defensively. BP's FRAA, however, has Desmond as a very bad fielder, losing about a win and a half off his ledger due to poor fielding. This accounts for most of the difference between the two formulas.
Yoenis Cespedes had a gangbusters 2012 with the bat, but again, fWAR and WARP value his defense quite differently. Where UZR has Cespedes at almost a full win below average with the glove, FRAA has him hurting his team by only a couple of runs. Expect him to log better defensive numbers next season, if he spends most of the year in left field instead of center.
So, that's what we're working with to start. If you've got any questions about qualified 2012 hitters, unqualified 2012 hitters (I'm willing to run them one at a time), my methodology, other lines of inquiry, or anything else, let me know. This only works if this info is useful / interesting / both to people.