Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fun with WAR

Over at Mack Avenue Tigers, Kurt is peeking into the future using ZIPS projections from Baseball Think Factory. I'm going to look into past using historical WAR estimates from Sean Smith's Baseball Projection site. In a recent post, I looked at Runs Above Replacement (RAR) for the Tigers in 2008 and 2009. RAR is the estimated total number of runs each player contributed based on everything they did on offense and defense. Every 10 runs is worth roughly one win, so a player like Miguel Cabrera who was 54.6 RAR would be 54.6/10 = 5.5 Wins Above Repacement (WAR).

The Top Tigers positions players of all-time in terms of WAR are listed in Table 1. For example, Ty Cobb was 159.3 WAR lifetime which is the third best total in the history of the game. You can find the Top 500 in all of baseball at Baseball Projection. The top two were Babe Ruth (172.0) and Barry Bonds (171.4).

Table 1: Tigers Lifetime WAR Leaders - Position Players

Rank

Player

WAR

3

Ty Cobb

159.3

24

Al Kaline

90.8

34

Charlie Gehringer

80.9

39

Sam Crawford

76.3

54

Lou Whitaker

69.6

55

Harry Heilmann

69.3

67

Alan Trammell

66.8


Before we go any further, keep in mind that WAR estimates become somewhat less reliable as we go back in time due the less detailed fielding data available. Smith uses his Total Zone fielding system to evaluate fielders for the retrosheet years starting in 1956 and Adjusted Range Factor prior to that. The most reliable data are for 2003 and forward. Data between 1956 and 2001 are a little less reliable and data prior to 1956 are the least accurate in terms of fielding contribution.

That being said, two of the most notable rankings belong to Lou Whitaker (#54) and Alan Trammell (#67). If you think Whitaker belongs in the hall of Fame, WAR supports your claim strongly. Of the 53 players ahead of Whitaker, all but one are either Hall of Famers or not yet eligible. The only exception was Bill Dahlen, a National League shortstop between 1891 and 1911. First ballot Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg finished 94th.

The only eligible non Hall-of Famers ahead of Trammell were Dahlen and Bobby Grich who played second base for the Orioles and Angels between 1970 and 1986. Automatic Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith finished 80th on a system which puts a good deal of weight on fielding.

The Tigers all-time pitching leaders are listed in Table 2. WAR pitching is based mostly on innings pitched, strikeouts, walks and home runs. It does not work as well in the early part of the 2oth century when pitchers pitchers pitched more to contact than they do today. Anyway, there are no Tigers in the top 4o. The top Tiger is Jim Bunning who is number 41 on the list with 60.1 WAR.

WAR does not support Jack Morris's quest for the Hall of Fame as he is just 136th on the all-time list. The biggest snub is Bert Blyleven at #13. The top 29 eligibles are in the Hall of Fame.

Table 2: Tigers All-time WAR Leaders - Pitchers

Rank

Player

WAR

41

Jim Bunning

60.1

51

Hal Newhouser

56.3

72

Tommy Bridges

50.7

93

Mickey Lolich

45.6

104

Dizzy Trout

43.6

136

Jack Morris

39.3

171

Bill Donovan

34.8

225

Earl Whitehill

30.1

274

Hooks Dauss

26.7



7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info Lee.
    Also, Jim Bunning was ranked 41st.
    Ron.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Ron. I knew I did the pitching table too fast. I just fixed it.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete
  3. Damn, Lee. I was going to make a post like this later in the off-season.

    Did you use a database for this or just manual stuff in excel? I was attempting to learn MySQL but kind gave up/got distracted with other things. I plan on doing a top 10 at each position for the Tigers in their history at some point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mike, Sean Smith already did the Top 500 so I just took it from there: http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/top500p.htm

    The numbers include seasons with other teams though. You'd need a database to calculate WAR just for seasons with the Tigers. I will probably buy his database and play around with it more later.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mike, From what I remember your saying in an email to me, your WAR would be for time as a Tigers' player only and 5 to 10 deep at each position?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lee: I purchased his database a couple months ago (and wrote about the best defensive single seasons in Tigers history: http://fireleyland.blogspot.com/2009/09/best-of-best-defensive-single-seasons.html)

    But I haven't gotten around to learning a database program to do the paring down of the file to just the Tigers hitters and rank them


    Anonymous: yeah my plan was just to use the time with the Tigers. So old-timers from the early 20th century will have the upper hand since it was well before free agency, but I was planning on doing it and going probably 10 deep at each position. I just keep putting it off because learning the database program language is daunting to a non-database'er.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting article of the top Tigers fielders Mike.

    The motownsports hall of fame group would be very interested if you figured out the top 10 players in WAR at each position. I don't have a lot of time these days but I'll probably see if I can do it in SAS eventually.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete

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