Fun with WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
After reading Buster Olney’s latest blog post “Framing the American League MVP debate“, it had me thinking about how the Royals stack up compared to the rest of the league in WAR. WAR is a statistic that places emphasis on a multitude of statistics and not just your typical home run, batting average, and RBI totals. A quote from FanGraphs explains WAR as follows, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”
Just to preface WAR values before I get into Royals player WARs, the average position player is worth +2 WAR, opposed to the average bench players who contribute about less than +1 WAR. On the pitching side of things, the average starting pitcher is also worth +2 WAR, and relievers who measure +1 are considered sensational.
Knowing that WAR looks at the player’s overall contribution to the team, it may come as no surprise that the Royals WAR leader is none other than, Alex Gordon. As of right now, Gordon’s WAR stands at 4.7, which is good for 8th in the American League and is tied for 19th in all of baseball with Melky Cabrera. According to FanGraphs, this means Gordon is well above the average position player and is worth 4.7 wins to the Royals.
While Gordon’s WAR is great, I want to put this into a little perspective. Mike Trout is leading all of baseball with a WAR of 10.3, and the next closest position players to him are Yadier Molina and Robinson Cano, who both have a WAR of 6.6. Trout’s season is remarkable to this point and he’s the first player to, currently, have a WAR above 10 since 2004, when Barry Bonds accomplished the feat.
September 24, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielderJeff Francoeur
(21) walks back to dugout after striking out during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Royals right-fielder, Jeff Francoeur. With all factors considered, Frenchy is, statistically, the worst position player in all of baseball with a WAR of -3.0. Yes, you read that right! A negative WAR, which means by himself he has lost the Royals 3 games just by being in the field and at the plate. A few other Royals offensive WARs are Mike Moustakas at 3.5, Alcides Escobar with a 2.9 WAR, and Salvador Perez who registers a WAR of 2.5. The Royals lone All-Star representative, Billy Butler, has a WAR of 2.4 this season and Eric Hosmer who, for the most part, is enduring a season long slump, has a WAR of .1.
On the pitching side of things, Kelvin Herrera has the highest WAR of all Royals pitchers. He registers a 2.2 WAR and trailing him are Jeremy Guthrie, Felipe Paulino, and Greg Holland all at 1.7. Guthrie and Paulino are just under the average of +2 WAR for a starting pitcher and Holland and Herrera exceed the benchmark of +1 WAR, for a relief pitcher, by a substantial margin.
While Jeff Francoeur is the worst player measured by this statistic in all of baseball, Luke Hochevar measures as one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball with a WAR of -0.8. Even more remarkable than that is the WAR of former Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez who records an astonishing -1.3 WAR. To the amazement of Royals fans everywhere, the Royals were putting these two guys on the bump with regularity during the first half of the season, and Hochevar is still being run out there every 5 days.
Royals starting pitchers Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza have a WAR of .1 and .9 respectively, both well under the league average of +2 for a starting pitcher. A few notable relievers have some outstanding WARs such as Tim Collins at 1.1 and Aaron Crow who has a .9 WAR. While it’s clear the Royals have some great offensive players, they still are lacking in the starting pitching category, as it’s evident by not having one starting pitcher over, or even at the league average in WAR. They may be helped in the off season by a free agent or two and during the season when a few pitchers come back from injuries, but the most important piece of the puzzle is missing and has been missing for several years now.