The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic has spread like wildfire through the media since Detroit’s 2012 triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera (WAR = 6.9) beat out Angel’s rookie sensation Mike Trout (WAR = 10.7) for the 2012 AL MVP award. For those that aren’t familiar, WAR claims to show how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a "replacement level", or minor league/bench player at that position. While Trout’s batting average, HR total, and RBI total were all a shade behind Cabrera’s, he had a significantly higher WAR because of his elite baserunning and defensive contributions. Some argue that Cabrera deserved it because, unlike Trout’s Angels, the Tigers made the playoffs. Who was actually more valuable to their team?
I am of the opinion that Trout was more valuable than Cabrera. However, instead of continuing with that debate, I believe both had remarkable seasons and would rather imagine what affect they would have if playing together. On that note and with the power of hindsight (access to all 2012 stats), I will attempt to assemble the best 25-man 2012 MLB roster using WAR as the primary metric. It should be noted that I used logic and personal preferences when ordering the lineup, choosing fielding positions, and creating the bullpen (e.g., sliding McCutchen to RF and using the 6th/7th best WAR starting pitchers as long relievers in the pen).
To provide a little background, a replacement level player will typically obtain a WAR below 2, an average starter 2-5, an all-star 5-8, and an MVP candidate above 8. The general consensus is that a team composed of only replacement level players would win approximately 45-50 games in a 162 game season.
The following team would have an accumulated WAR of 149.4 but on its own that number is meaningless since there are many holes (e.g., not enough AB’s or IP’s to go around). However, for all of you who like assembling the perfect team, this may be intriguing since it includes baserunning and defensive abilities as well as the usual batting and pitching metrics. How many wins would this team have obtained in 2012? Would they have easily broken the league’s 116 win record?
|DH (3B)||R||A. Beltre||TEX||6.2||0.321||0.359||36||102||1|
|CL||R||F. Rodney||TB||3.7||74.2||0.60||0.78||76||2-2 (48-2)|
|SU||L||A. Chapman||CIN||3.6||71.2||1.51||0.81||122||5-5 (38-5)|
|MR||R||C. Kimbrel||ATL||3.2||62.2||1.01||0.65||116||3-1 (42-3)|
|MR||R||R. Soriano||NYY||2.6||67.2||2.26||1.17||69||2-1 (42-4)|
I was disappointed that no Jays players made this 25-man roster. The closest, Edwin Encarnacion (4.5 WAR), was beat out by Albert Pujols (4.6 WAR) for a bench spot. Let’s hope a few blue birds will crack the 2013 team.
Keep in mind that WAR isn’t perfect and there will always be a great deal of luck in baseball. For reference, the Angels obtained the #1 team WAR in 2012 (37.4) but went 89-73 (10th overall) – missing the playoffs by 4 games. On the other hand, the Nationals accumulated the 7th best team WAR (28.7) but finished at 98-64 (1st overall). Look no further than the Orioles’ improbable season when considering the effects of luck. They boasted the 6th worst WAR (15.3 - compared to 15.8 for our very own Jays) but because they had a 29-9 record in 1-run games, including 16-2 in extra inning games, they finished with a record of 93-69 (tied for 7th overall) and made the playoffs.
I obtained all my player and team statistics from MLB.com and FanGraphs.com. Please let me know what you think of this team, the WAR stat, or anything remotely related in the comments.