Evaluating Top Performances Through the First 100 Games
Photo Courtesy of ESPN-Mike Trout Player Profile
Now that it is August and more than 100 games have been played, I think it is finally safe to say that we have a big enough sample size to really evaluate player performance. If the first three months of baseball before the All-Star game weren’t a big enough sample size for you, the last few weeks after the break certainly can expose any outliers who may turn it around down the stretch.
So, here we are. It is late July and Mike Trout (CF, LAA) leads the MLB in wins above replacement (WAR). Are you surprised? Come on. Please don’t tell me that you really thought Bryce Harper (RF, WAS) would sustain his performance from last year.
(Note: Wins Above Replacement is an important statistic in baseball because it measures a player’ value to his team by combining their contributions in many different aspects of the game. For a more detailed explanation of WAR, visit Fangraphs Glossary: http://www.fangraphs.com/library/misc/war/ )
Anyways, for all the people out there who don’t read up on sabermetrics too much, here are the top 3 players at every position, as measured by WAR through July 31st:
- Clayton Kershaw (LAD): 5.5
- Noah Syndergaard (NYM): 4.5
- Jose Fernandez (MIA): 4.3
- Qualified RP:
- Dellin Betances (NYY): 2.4
- Kenley Jansen (LAD): 2.2
- Andrew Miller (NYY/CLE): 1.8
SOURCE: Fangraphs Pitching Leaders 2016
- Buster Posey (SF): 3.0
- Salvador Perez (KC): 2.61
- Jonathan Lucroy (MIL/TEX): 2.58
- Anthony Rizzo (CHC): 4.12
- Paul Goldschmidt (ARI): 3.23
- Freddie Freeman (ATL): 3.05
- Jose Altuve (HOU): 6.13
- Robinson Cano (SEA): 4.6
- Ian Kinsler (DET): 3.94
- Josh Donaldson (TOR): 5.76
- Kris Bryant (CHC): 5.3
- Manny Machado (BAL): 4.7
- Francisco Lindor (CLE): 4.12
- Corey Seager (LAD): 4.09
- Carlos Correa (HOU): 3.78
- Starling Marte (PIT): 4.06
- Christian Yelich (MIA): 3.38
- Ryan Braun (MIL): 3.33
- Mike Trout (LAA): 6.76
- Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS): 4.37
- Ian Desmond (TEX): 3.6
- Mookie Betts (BOS): 5.33
- Adam Eaton (CWS): 4.55
- George Springer (HOU): 3.96
- David Ortiz (BOS): 3.58
- Nelson Cruz (SEA): 2.78
- Edwin Encarnacion (TOR): 2.5
(SOURCE: ESPN MLB WAR Leaders 2016)
Ok, so now we’re somewhat on the same page. Jake Arrieta (SP, CHC) is NOT the best pitcher in baseball, sorry fellow Cubs fans. As a matter of fact, he’s not even top five in the National League. Yeah, let that one sink in. This is Clayton Kershaw’s game now—it has been for a while and you shouldn’t plan on that changing any time soon once he is healthy again.
But, the good news for Cubs fans is that Anthony Rizzo is a legitimate top first baseman and Kris Bryant will be in the conversation for the foreseeable future. In other news: a collision at home plate can’t derail Posey’s legacy; Jose Altuve and Josh Donaldson are the real deal; the shortstop position is as young as it ever has been; and the Boston Red Sox have the most dangerous lineup in baseball thanks to David Ortiz and a load of young talent.
Yes, you read that correctly Cubs fans. There is a lineup with a better core than yours, even if it is not quite as deep. Oh, and that Aroldis Chapman guy we just acquired? Yeah, he can bring the heat. But, the joke is on Cubs fans because the Yankees dealt us arguably the least desirable of their three relievers. I would have taken the other two relievers, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, over Chapman in a heartbeat. But, the price was right on Chapman and we kept Kyle Schwarber (LF, CHC) and Javier Baez (2B, CHC), so I can’t really complain much at the end of the day.
There is a reason that the Cleveland Indians had to surrender two top 100 prospects in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield to acquire Andrew Miller. Aside from the fact that Miller has two more years of contract control, unlike Chapman who is a rental, I don’t think we need to interview players or collect surveys to figure out that most MLB managers and players would prefer to have Miller in their clubhouse instead of Chapman, who has had his fair share of issues. (Aroldis Chapman Issues: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/14878838/aroldis-chapman-new-york-yankees-suspended-30-games )
But, when you look at the numbers among the most dominant bullpen in the MLB through mid-July, it is pretty clear that Chapman wasn’t really outperforming either of his set up men, despite his high fastball velocity at 100+ MPH and his closing role for the Yankees.
When you look at why the Yankees made the moves they did and received the returns they did, it all makes a lot of sense when you include the contract side of things. Dealing Betances, a 28 year old who will enter his first year arbitration at the conclusion of this season, would not be very sensible. Chapman, a 28 year old with some off field issues and a rental option who will be a unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season, demands less than Miller with the aforementioned two years of contract control remaining.
So, to recap: By this point you know a few things about me. You all now know I’m a Fangraphs guy above all else, but I’ll give ESPN the nod every once in a while to get an overall view of things. ESPN WAR leaders are always convenient to look at because you don’t have to cross reference the batting WAR and fielding WAR, like you usually will for Fangraphs. After all, as a Cubs fan, looking at Jason Heyward’s (RF, CHC) offensive WAR is just devastating; but, I’m also not going to get too excited about his defensive abilities when crosstown rival Adam Eaton is every bit as good, if not better. But, that’s a story for another day.
Also, I love throwing lots of data on the table to give a holistic view of things, so I’ll let you all come to some of your own conclusions. I call things how I see them, but how I see them is not always right. Lastly, I am from the suburbs of Chicago and was raised a proud North Sider, but I’m not afraid to point out areas of improvement for the Cubs or to give credit where it’s due on the South Side.
This is only part one of ten, so I think you’ll figure the rest out as you read on. At the end of each segment, I’ll preview the next couple pieces that will be out shortly on the website. Thanks for reading, feel free to comment with any opinions you may want to share.
On Deck: Ian Desmond: New Sensation or More of the Same?
In the Hole: Biggest Busts: Has Been’s—Relief Pitcher Edition