Wins above replacement (WAR) has been a hot topic as of late. A lot, or all of it, deals with the American League MVP award and who is more deserving of it. On one had, Mike Trout is having an absolutely tremendous all around season and is very deserving of the award, but then there’s Miguel Cabrera who had the first triple crown in all of baseball since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat for the Red Sox. In a typical season, Cabrera would run away with the MVP award, but Mike Trout’s WAR would suggest he is overwhelmingly the best player in all of baseball.
I recently wrote an article about the 2012 Royals and their WARs for the season and now I’d like to examine seasons of the past and those hitters who have really excelled and also those who under performed, yet were one of the best players on the team. Frankly, we’ve had way too many players be the best hitters on the team but wouldn’t even be a threat in another team’s lineup. I think that trend is changing, but a player like Ken Harvey should never be the most feared guy in a lineup.
Alex Gordon has been the top performing player the past two seasons for the Royals recording WARs of 7.1 and 6.2. Before Alex Gordon it had been since 2006 that a Royals hitter had the best WAR on the team. In 2006 Mark Teahen recorded the best WAR on the team with 3.4. That just speaks volumes for how anemic a team’s offense is, if Mark Teahen is the top player and his WAR is below 4. The year before, in 2005, David DeJesus had a slightly better WAR at 4.2. From 1998-2001 the best overall player on the team were hitters. Jose Offerman started the streak with a very respectable WAR of 5.0. Johnny Damon recorded the best seasons the following two years with WARs of 5.1 and an Alex Gordon-esque WAR of 6.0. Postseason hero and former Royal great, Carlos Beltran, had a WAR of 6.1 in 2001.
From 1987-1997, WAR was completely dominated by pitching. Pitchers were the highest rated players using the WAR factor. The best overall player who was a hitter was George Brett in 1986 with a WAR of 3.8. From 1971 through 1986, hitters were predominantly the best overall players on the team. Amos Otis, John Mayberry, George Brett, and Willie Wilson all were the best players on their respected teams through these years on multiple occasions. Brett compiled a few years where he was over 8, which is remarkable. The highest WAR season for a Royals hitter was in 1980 when George Brett recorded a batting average of .390 and won the MVP which also resulted in a WAR of 9.3. This gives the Trout supporters some validation in their argument over Cabrera as Trout finished with a WAR that was even higher than Brett’s in 1980, with 10.7. Cabrera has the triple crown going for him, but when you factor in WAR he measures in at 6.9.
I ran through some notable WARs of years past with the hitters. It’s interesting to see a stat that is a relatively new measurement of a player’s worth used in different eras. My next post will cover the pitchers and what seasons we’ve been experiencing in Kansas City with some great pitchers of the past and some not so great pitchers. Yes, I’m looking at you Darrell May.