The Art of WAR

There is a strong correlation between cumulative team WAR and games won. So, as an exercise in too-much-time-on-my-hands-in-the-offseason, I did a quick estimate of what cumulative team WAR might look like for the Jays in 2013 based on actual 2012 performance.

For each player, I used their 2012 fangraphs WAR as a starting point (except Santos, for whom I used 2011). For hitters, I calculated 2012 WAR/PA, and for pitchers WAR/IP. I then estimated PA and IP by player, applied the 2012 factors, and calculated 2013 “projected” WAR.

For hitters, I assumed that no player played more than 150 games (for minor injuries, rest, etc) and I did my estimates by position. So – for example – I assumed Adam Lind would get 108 games at 1B and that EE would get the rest. I only used 12 hitters (starting 9 plus Davis, Bonifacio and Buck).

For pitchers, I assumed 190 innings from JJ, 180 from each of Morrow and Romero, 200 from Buehrle, and 150 from Happ. I used an average of Janssen/Santos/Oliver/Loup/Lincoln/Rogers/Delabar for the remaining innings. For players acquired mid-season like Delabar and Lincoln, I only used their Jays stats – which means that Lincoln’s projected WAR was negative.

On that basis:

Estimated WAR for hitters: JPA 1.5 / Buck 0.8, Lind 0.3, Izturis 1.1, Reyes 4.0, Lawrie 3.0, Cabrera 5.8, Rasmus 1.4, Bautista 5.1, EE 4.4, Rajai 0.4, Emelio 0.8. Total WAR for hitters = 28.6. As a sanity check – what was the actual total WAR of those 12 players in 2012, with no adjustments for Bautista’s injury or Cabrera’s suspension? 25.5 – close enough to make the 28.6 pass the smell test.

Estimated WAR for pitchers: JJ 3.8, Morrow 3.5, Buehrle 2.1, Romero 0.5, Happ 4.1, bullpen (as a whole, ~500 innings) 8.8. Total WAR for pitchers = 22.8.

Total team WAR on this basis = about 51. A zero WAR team is expected to win 52 games. In 2012, New York won the AL East with 95 wins. Do the math. <grin>

Before the inevitable flaming starts (“What? You project Happ for a WAR of 4.1? You are insane!”) let me reiterate that exercise was done to provide an objective starting point for future discussion. I agree that Happ will not likely earn 4.1 … but I do not think that Ricky will only earn 0.5. I think it very possible that, between them , they earn 4.6. Similarly, I do not expect 5.8 from Cabrera (though it would be nice!) but neither do I expect Lind to produce only 0.3 WAR, platooned, when he has a lifetime OPS of .836 against RHP. Could they earn 6.1, combined? Again, possible.

And of course, this analysis assumes no significant injuries or regressions. An injured player earns zero WAR, so if we have 2012 luck in 2013 (whimper) then all bets are off.

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