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 Mike Trout was the best position player in the AL (8.6 WAR) and Cody Bellinger was tops in the NL (7.8 WAR). The fact that they each won the MVP adds to the credibility of the statistic. Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (7.0 WAR) was the best in the NL while the AL winner Justin Verlander (6.4 WAR) was in the top four.
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 Gerrit Cole (7.4), Stephen Starsburg (5.7) Hyun-Jin Ryu (4.7), Anthony Rendon (7.0), see how close the formula comes out compared to the real world. Yasmani Grandal’s WAR (5.2) just turned into $18+ Million for each of the next four years.
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 ninr position players had a number of 29 or better in 2019 and it’s difficult to take exception with the results Marcus Semien led the way with a figure of 36. Both MVP’s are on the list with Trout at 33 and Bellinger at 31. The other members of the elite nine are…
> Christian Yelich, 33
> DL LeMahieu, 33
> Alex Bregman, 31
> Anthony Rendon, 31
> Ketel Marte, 29
> Ozzie Albies, 29
The highest-rated Starting Pitchers were Verlander with 23, Cole with 22, deGrom & Zack Greinke with 21 each and Shane Beiber with 19.
As always, there are some hidden tidbits in the rankings that impact both fantasy and reality baseball…
> Rookies of the Year contributed impressively with Pete Alonso getting 24 and Yordan Alvarez coming in at 14 in less than a full season.
> In case you’re wondering which $300 Million deal paid off better, Bryce Harper’s 27 was significantly better than Manny Machado’s 18.
> Looking for upside? Yoan Moncada improved from 6-to-13-to-23 over the last three seasons… Gleyber Torres posted 28 after having 19 in his rookie season… Kolten Wong went from 12-to-24… Ronald Acuna Jr. improved to 28 from 19 as a rookie.
> What about 30 something player’s on long-term deals? Lorenzo Cain went from 25-to-11, Ian Desmond from 12-to-8, Robinson Cano from 18-to-7, Matt Carpenter from 28-to-11, Joey Votto from 22-to-11.
> Eric Hosmer posted 30 in 2017…since signing an 8-year deal, he’s dropped to 16 & 17 the first two seasons in San Diego
> Albert Pujols has accumulated 487 Win Shares in his career…his 2019 figure of 10 was actually better than either of the two previous seasons (7 & 8).
> Under the radar…Matt Chapman has 25 in each of the last two seasons and Jorge Polanco posted 26 in ’19.
> Alex Colome had more (12) than Kenley Jansen (10).
> Travis d’Arnaud (15) outperformed Buster Posey (12).
Don’t forget, it’s the season for sharing…All Holidays Matter!