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 Jose Ramirwz was the best position player in the AL (3.4 WAR) and Freddie Freeman was tops in the NL (3.4 WAR). The fact that Freeman won the NL MVP and that Ramirez finished 2nd in the AL adds to the credibility of the statistic. Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber (3.2 WAR) was the best in the AL while the NL winner Trevor Bauer (2.5 WAR) was in the top three.
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 pro-rate the 2020 numbers to a 162-game season and digest the upcoming free agent contracts of Marcell Ozuna, D.J LeMahieu & Bauer, see how close the formula compares to the new contracts. Their full season numbers come out to a WAR of 6.8.
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 13 position players had a number of 10 or better in 2020 and it’s difficult to take exception with the results. Freeman led the way with a figure of 17 followed by Juan Soto with 14. Mookie Betts, Ozuna & Trea Turner posted 13 shares each. Other members of the “baker’s dozen” included…
> Fernando Tatis Jr., 12
> Brian Anderson, 12
> Ramirez, 11
> LeMahieu, 11
> Manny Machado, 11
> Kyle Tucker, 11
> Mark Canha, 11
> Brandon Lowe, 11
Some surprising names, don’t you think? Maybe underrated players or was it just the short season?
The highest-rated Starting Pitchers were Bieber with 11 and Bauer with 10.
As always, there are some hidden tidbits in the rankings that impact both fantasy and reality baseball…
> Rookies of the Year contributed 7 (Kyle Lewis) and 5 (Devin Williams).
> How about veterans with big $ contracts? Matt Carpenter, Josh Donaldson & Joey Votto each had 3. Jose Altuve & J.D. Martinez contributed 2 each. Elvis Andrus, Evan Longoria, Albert Pujols & Justin Upton all came in at 1.
> Mike Trout’s 10 shares were solid and he has over 300 for his career.
> Can the numbers give us a hint at potential? Cavan Biggio & Mike Yastrzemski both posted 10, while Willi Castro, Ian Happ & Eloy Jimenez each had 9.
> Austin Nola (8) had more than Aaron Nola (4).
Don’t forget, it’s the season for sharing…even if they’re Wins.