With the Winter Meetings on the horizon, let’s take a look at the relative value of the players in the game. In a sport awash with money, old-school fans often have difficulty wrapping their heads around the new levels of salaries and budgetary guidelines. With the average MLB salary now above $4 Million, how do we really know what a player’s contribution is worth? And do these contributions really make a difference in the standings?
In other words, what is their contribution to winning games? We’ve discussed WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numerous times in this space and that statistical outcome does impact decisions made by writers voting on awards and General Managers making deals. It has become a mainstream analysis over the last decade and can help clarify and justify some contract amounts. For example, if you believe in the WAR calculations, it confirms that Mookie Betts was the best position player in the AL (10.9 WAR) and Christian Yelich was tops in the NL (7.6 WAR). The fact that they each won the MVP adds to the credibility of the statistic. Cy Young Award winners Blake Snell (7.5 WAR) & Jacob deGrom (10.0 WAR) were also the best in their respective leagues.
Most baseball stat-heads believe a player is worth about $6-8M per win to his team and free agent signings give us a window into that formula. So, when you digest the upcoming free agent contracts of Manny Machado (5.7), Bryce Harper (1.2), Patrick Corbin (4.6), Dallas Kuechel (2.6) & Craig Kimbrel (2.1), see how close the formula comes out compared to the real world. You may also decide that the early signings of Eduardo Escobar (3.1) for $7 Million and Kurt Suzuki (2.1) for $5 Million were relative bargains.
Each year at this time, we turn to another statistical measure in an attempt to gauge player value. The other stat that is team-result based is WS (Win Shares) as developed by the godfather of modern statistical analysis, Bill James. While trying to describe the formula is impossible (James wrote an entire book on the topic in 2002), it comes down to a system where each game a team wins during the season is meticulously analyzed and the three players most responsible for that win get a “win share”. So, if a team wins 80 games, there will be 240 win shares distributed on the roster. Position players will have a tendency to accumulate higher totals than pitchers, but it’s all about comparisons between players among positions. Only twelve position players had a number of 28 or better in 2018 and it’s difficult to take exception with the results – Mike Trout led the way for the 4th time in 6 seasons with a figure of 39. Both MVP’s are on the list with Betts at 36 and Yelich at 34. The other members of the elite dozen are…
> Alex Bregman, 36
> J.D. Martinez, 33
> Francisco Lindor, 30
> Jose Ramirez, 29
> Jed Lowrie, 29
> Manny Machado, 28
> Nolan Arenado, 28
> Mitch Haniger, 28
> Matt Carpenter, 28
The highest-rated Starting Pitchers were Snell, Aaron Nola & Max Scherzer all with 22 followed by Kyle Freeland (21) and deGrom, Verlander and Kluber with 20 each.
The best Closer was the A’s Blake Treinen with 19 followed by the newest Met, Edwin Diaz with 18.
As always, there are some hidden tidbits in the rankings that impact both fantasy and reality baseball…
> Rookies of the Year contributed impressively with Shohei Ohtani getting 20 and Ronald Acuna Jr. coming in at 19.
> Jose Abreu was below 20 (17) for the first time in his career.
> Jose Altuve dropped from 35 in ’17 to 23 in ’18.
> Xander Bogaerts has his best season with 27.
> Kris Bryant had only 15 after averaging 29 in his first three seasons.
> Lorenzo Cain’s free-agent contract paid off with 25.
> Derek Dietrich added 16 to the Marlins cause and wasn’t offered a contract for 2019.
> Brian Dozier dropped from 26 to 15.
> Paul Goldschmidt has averaged 28 over the last six seasons.
> Bryce Harper’s 2015 MVP season is the only one on his resume with a number over 23.
> Felix Hernandez has had 188 in his career, but only one (1) in 2018.
> Eric Hosmer got an 8-year deal and went from 30 to 16.
> Joe Mauer finished his career with 306.
> Brandon Nimmo had more (22) than Michael Conforto (21).
> Joey Votto had 33 in each of the previous three seasons and then posted 22 in 2018.
Don’t forget, it’s the season for sharing…All Holidays Matter!