MVP’s Go To WAR

MVP’s Go To WAR

“Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) has been discussed in this space on multiple occasions and the complete definition & calculation formulas can be found at baseball-reference.com as well as fangraphs.com. In essence, it is an attempt by baseball analysts to come up with a player’s overall contribution to their team in one statistic. The key question is, “if this player got injured and was replaced by an available minor-leaguer or AAAA bench player, how much value would the team be losing?” The answer is shown as the number of wins a player is worth to his team over the course of a season. If you’re an “old school” fan, this type of stat might not be your cup of tea but over the years it has become much more mainstream and is certainly taken into consideration by writers who vote on post-season awards.

With that background, let’s look at the real MVP’s of each major league team for 2015.

AL East

> Blue Jays – Josh Donaldson’s WAR rating of 8.8 is league MVP caliber…Kevin Pillar & Jose Bautista were both at 5+, the former for his defense and the latter for his offense.

> Yankees – For the second consecutive year, this highly compensated squad didn’t have a player with a WAR of 4 or better…Mark Teixeira at 3.9 and Dellin Betances at 3.7 led the way .

> Orioles – Manny Machado’s mark of 7.0 made him one of the best players in baseball…Chris Davis chipped in with 5.2.

> Rays – Modern defensive metrics indicate that Kevin Kiermaier was the best defensive player in the game and his WAR of 7.3 makes him the best player you’ve never heard of.

> Red Sox – The beantowners are re-building again but Mookie Betts (6.0) & Xander Bogaerts (4.6) give them a young foundation.

AL Central

> Royals – Lorenzo Cain is a five-category Fantasy player and a real-world force on offense & defense…his WAR of 7.2 puts him in elite company.

> Twins – This team’s playoff run is even more amazing when you realize that their best WAR player (at 3.2) was SP Kyle Gibson, whose record was 11-11.

> Indians – Think about this when considering young stars in the making – Francisco Lindor & Jason Kipnis tied with a WAR rating of 4.6…Lindor only played 99 games in his rookie season at age 21.

> White Sox – Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana & Jose Abreu all produced WAR numbers just under 4.

> Tigers – Ian Kinsler ended up at 6.0 while Miguel Cabrera added 5.2 in only 119 games.

AL West

> Rangers – Adrian Beltre overcame a slow first half to post a 5.8 WAR at age 36.

> Astros – Dallas Keuchel will get bunches of Cy Young votes and his 7.2 number tells you why.

> Angels – No surprise here, as Mike Trout continues to put up unheard-of numbers….his 9.4 WAR was higher than Donaldson, higher than his MVP season in 2014, and his four-year total of 37 comes at age 24.

> Mariners – The 5.2 rating for Nelson Cruz was the best on this under-performing squad…Robinson Cano was 4th at 3.4 but he only made $24 Million.

> Athletics – Sonny Gray’s great season on the mound yielded a 5.8 WAR and will put him near the top in the Cy Young balloting.

NL East

> Mets – Curtis Granderson at 5.1 was the best position player while Jacob deGrom’s 5.0 led the hurlers.

> Nationals – A most disappointing season for this team, but you can’t blame Bryce Harper and his league-leading 9.9 WAR which should net him the NL MVP award. Max Scherzer won’t match up with the top three in Cy Young votes, but his 7.6 WAR was outstanding.

> Marlins – 20 games under .500 wasn’t what they had in mind and no player exceeded a WAR of 5…Dee Gordon was closest at 4.9.

> Braves – Working toward 2017 with an eye on their new stadium, the only player at 4.0 was Andrelton Simmons and that was mostly generated through defense.

> Phillies – A sorry lot in a re-building mode, rookie CF Odubel Herrera led the way with a rating of 3.8.

NL Central

> Cardinals – A 100-win season for the Redbirds and Jason Heyward was the top contributor at 6.5.

> Pirates – 98 wins but only one post-season game, their best number went to Starling Marte at 5.4…last year’s NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen was close behind at 4.9.

> Cubs – Nothing but excitement from this young roster and Jake Arrieta’s stunning season equaled a 9.0…the offense was led by Anthony Rizzo’s 6.2 & Kris Bryant’s 5.9.

> Brewers – The fact that Ryan Braun at 3.8 WAR was their best player tells you everything you need to know about this team’s 94-loss campaign.

> Reds – 98 defeats with a big payroll isn’t the formula…even Joey Votto’s outstanding 7.6 WAR season couldn’t help..

NL West

> Dodgers – Mattingly took the fall, but beyond Zack Greinke’s 9.9 and Clayton Kershaw’s 7.5, they really weren’t very good.

> Giants – A little off-season tweaking could put them back in the mix because they have a nucleus of Buster Posey (6.1), Madison Bumgarner (5.9) & Brandon Crawford (5.6)…even rookie Matt Duffy added 4.9.

> Diamondbacks – They have one of the best players in the game with Paul Goldschmidt and his 8.8 WAR and keep an eye on A.J. Pollock with his 7.4 rating, which was better than many established stars.

> Padres – All the pre-season hype went up in smoke and their best player (Justin Upton, 4.4 WAR) is a free agent.

> Rockies – Nolan Arenado (5.8 WAR) is a star in the making but until they develop some home-grown pitching, the cellar is where they’ll be found.

Overall, the five best position players were…

1) Bryce Harper 9.9

2) Mike Trout 9.4

T3) Josh Donaldson 8.8

T3) Paul Goldschmidt 8.8

5) Joey Votto 7.6

And the top five Pitchers…

1) Zack Greinke 9.9

2) Jake Arrieta 8.8

3) Clayton Kershaw 7.6

4) Max Scherzer 7.5

5) Dallas Keuchel 7.2

As the developers of this gauge point out, you shouldn’t get too bogged down in decimal points. Over the course of a  season, one player with a 6.4 WAR and another player with a 6.1 WAR cannot really be distinguished from each other. However, a 6.4 WAR player and a 4.1 WAR player are significantly different when calculating their value to a team in any given season. If you had no other information available and had been in solitary confinement since March, your MVP ballot with Trout or Donaldson in the AL and Harper in the NL along with a Cy Young ballot listing Keuchel in the AL and Greinke in the NL certainly wouldn’t put your BWAA membership card in jeopardy.

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Jeepers Creepers Where’d You Get Those Keepers

Jeepers Creepers Where’d You Get Those Keepers

Don’t lie to me! At some point, you’ve been a relationship where you thought of the other person as a “keeper”. What exactly did you mean by that? Could the objective definition be someone whose value is worth the cost…both emotionally and financially? For those of us who are fortunate enough to play keeper-league Fantasy Baseball, the definition is even more telling. As with Sandy Alderson & Daniel Murphy or Dan Duquette & Matt Wieters, we must make those tough calls when it comes to our roster. Of course, our decisions don’t involve a $15.8 million qualifying offer, but they are nonetheless difficult and heart-wrenching.

Every keeper league has its unique characteristics, but 99% of the time, keeper decisions are being made within a few weeks of opening day, when information and advice is plentiful. For the owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), their keeper list is due in late-October for an auction draft that takes place just as the World Series is ending. The XFL is a 15-team mixed keeper league with a $260 auction draft for a roster of 23 players (14 hitters + 9 pitchers). It has a standard 5×5 format with On-Base Percentage (OBP) replacing Batting Average (BA) and each team can keep up to 15 players, including minor league prospects. So, for example, if three of your 15 keepers are Farm players (less than 50 AB’s or 20 IP in the Majors), you still need to draft 11 players at the table. To give you some understanding of the challenges involved, here’s a quick review of the salary structure –

> November Draft – Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there’s a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.

> March Supplemental Draft – A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major-leaguers, the increase each season is $5 so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around could include Carlos Martinez, Curtis Granderson, Stephen Vogt, Josh Reddick, Luke Gregerson & Brandon Crawford. Minor-leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to “the show”, their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the “dynasty” component in this particular league. An example would be Andrew McCutchen, who was taken as a minor-leaguer by Donald’s Dux (my squad) in 2007 and now enters his 8th season on the roster at a salary of $22.

> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections – Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you’ll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Kevin Pillar, Matt Duffy, Randall Grichuk, & Jackie Bradley Jr..

As with all keeper leagues, draft inflation is an important factor and some of the bargain salaries put the percentage beyond the scope of my abacus. This creates an atmosphere where one of the difficult decisions regarding keepers is not just their value versus cost, but what the estimated price will be at the draft to get them back. This makes those marginal keepers even more valuable as you pare your roster down to 15. As an instructive exercise for keeper-league aficionados, we’ll look at each roster and choose a “no-brainer” keeper (the team’s MVP) and a marginal keeper in the classic “bubble” category. That way, you can drool over the former and see if you agree with the latter.

> Steve Moyer

* MVP – Bryce Harper $13 – Lots of choices from this championship squad, but Harper earned more dollars in this format than any other player.

* Bubble – Jose Altuve $30 – An outstanding player at a scarce position, but is the salary too high?

> Jeff Winick

* MVP – Nolan Arenado $10 – Earned almost $30 and he’ll only be 24 in 2016.

* Bubble – Cameron Maybin $10 – Earned $15 and still in his prime, but there may not be room in the OF on this roster with Yelich, C. Davis & Buxton.

> Trace Wood

* MVP – Giancarlo Stanton $19 – Despite the late-season injury, this is the slugger everyone wants.

* Bubble – Justin Upton $28 – A solid player going into his age 27 season, but maybe not the superstar that was originally advertised…what would he go for in the draft?

> Brian Walton

* MVP – Lorenzo Cain $13 – Earned more than double his salary and is a five-category player.

* Bubble – Mitch Moreland $10 – Came off the scrap heap to hit 23 HR’s and contribute 85 RBI’s…was it a fact or a fluke?

> Gene McCaffrey

* MVP – Curtis Granderson $6 – Went undrafted last November and then produced a $25+ season.

* Bubble – Adam Eaton $19 – Had a very productive year where he earned over $20, but can he do again?

> Ron Shandler

* MVP – Manny Machado $13 – Came back from an injury-plagued season with a vengeance and earned $35…of course, age could catch up with him at 23.

* Bubble – Khris Davis $15 – On August 1st, the answer was definitely no…watching the last two months could make you hesitate.

> Don Drooker

* MVP – Jose Abreu $7 – Two impact seasons with more to come for a slugger under age 30.

* Bubble – Eugenio Suarez $10 – Came out of nowhere to hit 13 HR’s in less than 100 games at SS (Tulowitzki hit 17 HR’s in 486 AB’s), but what happens if the Reds give the job back to Zack Cozart in 2016?

> Peter Kreutzer & Alex Patton

* MVP – Mike Trout $16 – Another of those dynasty players, he’ll be on this roster when Elroy Jetson is running against Ivanka Trump for President.

* Bubble – Brandon Phillips $13 – Produced a $17 season at age 33…do you take 2015’s profit and run?

> Jeff Erickson

* MVP – A.J. Pollock $11 – Was one of the top ten players in Fantasy this season…earned as much as Jose Bautista.

* Bubble – Danny Salazar $15 – Came back from the minors to post a good season, but he’s not as valuable as Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco.

> Greg Ambrosius

* MVP – Josh Donaldson $16 – A $40 season for the presumptive AL MVP.

* Bubble – Zach Wheeler $10 – Is it worth waiting until mid-season for a return on investment or do you throw him back and try to get him for less?

> Todd Zola

* MVP – Brian Dozier $15 – 28 HR’s and double-digit SB’s is great production at middle infield.

* Bubble – Brad Boxberger $9 – Had 41 Saves in 2015, but will he still have the job in 2016?

> Perry Van Hook

* MVP – Dee Gordon $11 – Was the only middle infielder to earn over $30 in this format.

* Bubble – Evan Gattis $10 – Provided 27 HR’s & 88 RBI’s but no longer gets the bump of being eligible at Catcher.

> Doug Dennis

* MVP – Nelson Cruz $28- The move to Seattle didn’t phase him at all, as he clobbered 44 HR’s and had a .369 OBP.

* Bubble – Patrick Corbin $6 – Will he come all the way back from TJS?

> Brian Feldman

* MVP – Gerrit Cole $10 – Always nice to have a reasonably-priced ace to lead your staff.

* Bubble – Neil Walker $16 – Will his “walk” year be  a boom or bust?

> Lawr Michaels

* MVP – Yoenis Cespedes $13 – This free agent will be in the middle-of-the order somewhere wearing a large money belt.

* Bubble – Matt Kemp $31 – Once again, his second half was much better but the salary is steep.

While you’re sorting out all the Halloween candy in early November, these 15 (or 16 if Alex makes an appearance) hearty fellows will be bidding in Arizona and enjoying the camaraderie of the XFL’s 13th annual draft. More information and the league history can be found at fantasyxperts.com