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When players are different yet the same: A WAR story

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Taking a look at how different players with different attributes and styles can amass the same WAR during a season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

During the doldrums of the offseason, and during the early days of Spring Training, it’s sometimes a tad difficult to come up with a subject of any real consequence. You come with lots of ideas but then think, "Nah," or "can I really write about that?" Well, this idea came to me late at night and it amused me. It started when Wins Above Replacement (WAR) popped into my head. I thought, "Maybe I can pick a number and write about the players who hit that same number in a particular season." Then my college GPA popped into my head as a possible choice for the WAR number. Granted, I wasn’t the best student, and it was (ahem) a long time ago, but I thought it could be fun to take a look at some players whose WAR matched my GPA.

The magic number is 3.2 and during the past three seasons a few players have hit that number of the nose. For the sake of this exercise - and for my sanity - I am only writing about hitters, but I did happen to look up pitchers on FanGraphs as well, and a bunch of them also had the number I was searching for including Chris Archer and Scott Kazmir in 2014 and Gio Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson in 2013.

The fun part of this piece is seeing how these players ended up with the same WAR, but also seeing how different they are in their playing styles, ability, and season numbers. There are mashers with 30 home runs and guys who hit two home runs all season who have the same overall value to their ball clubs because of their other assets and strengths.

And just a reminder, when a player has a WAR between 3 and 4 it means that he's above average, but not exceptional. He may not Bryce Harper but he's also not Pablo Sandoval who finished 2015 with a -2.0 WAR.


2015: Dexter Fowler OF and Andrelton Simmons SS

In 2015, Fowler, who is more of get-on-base player, had his 3.2 WAR for the Chicago Cubs. He batted .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 46 RBI. He also finished with a .333 wOBA and a 110 wRC+. Fowler played in 156 games last season and he amassed his WAR in 690 PA. Steamer is not very kind to the soon-to-be 30 year-old Fowler and sees his WAR lowering to 1.8 in 2016.

Simmons’ line was .265/.321/.368 with four home runs and 41 RBI last season. He’s more of a hits-a-ton-of-ground-balls while playing out-of-his-mind-defense type of player. Simmons hit ground balls 56.2% of the time while saying 17 runs on defense according to UZR. Steamer is projecting his WAR to increase slightly in 2016 to 3.5. His career high so far is a 4.5 in 2013 with a UZR of, get this, 24.6.

2014: Desmond Jennings OF, Dee Gordon 2B, and Lucas Duda 1B & OF

Jennings is more of an average all-around player, while Gordon is a speed/defense guy like Simmons, and Duda is a masher. Jennings batted .244/.319/.378 in 2014 which nearly matched his 2012 campaign when he batted .246/.318/.388. In 2014 Jennings played in 123 games and hit 10 home runs while collecting 36 RBI. Gordon, who doesn’t walk a lot and strikes out a bit, batted .289/.326/.378 with two home runs and 34 RBI to contribute to his 3.2 WAR in 2014. Gordon’s WAR went up in 2015 to 4.6 after his move to the Marlins. He had his best season in the majors with a .333/.359/.418 line in 145 games. Duda got his 3.2 WAR thanks to a 30 home run, 92 RBI performance in 2014. His line was a respectable .253/.349/.481 and he played in 153 games. He followed that performance with a 3.1 WAR in 2015.

2013: Eric Hosmer 1B  and OF and Alexei Ramirez SS

Hosmer had a solid 2013 with 17 home runs, 79 RBI and a .302/.353/.448 line in 159 games. His 2014 was nowhere near as good and his WAR was only 0.1 so he rebounded last season and was close to having a repeat of his 2013 in which a 3.5 WAR.

Ramirez is another one of those speed/defense guys whose WAR seemed to be helped out more by his fielding in his 2013 total though he did bat a very respectable .284/.313/.380 with six home runs and 48 RBI in 158 games. He has declined the last two seasons with 2015 being a particularly bad one with a WAR of -0.5. Steamer sees him improving a little in 2016 to a positive number but when measuring WAR the difference between -0.5 and 0.5 isn't very much.

So there you have it, seven players with different playing styles, strengths and weaknesses, but all with the same WAR.

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Stacey Gotsulias is a contributing writer of Beyond the Box Score. She also writes for The Hardball Times and It's About The Money. You can follow her on Twitter at @StaceGots.