A Summary of the Positional Power Rankings Data

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’ve been rolling out posts that work through the expected production for each team at each position on the diamond, and with the DH post going up this morning, we’ve now done a post for each of the nine spots occupied by position players. If you missed them, I’ll put the links below.

Introduction
Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Shortstop
Third Base
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
Designated Hitter

We’ll tackle pitchers at the beginning of next week, but with hitters behind us, I thought it’d be interesting to take a little bit of time to look at some of the data to come out of the project so far. There are several things to note, and I’ll be writing about several of those things over the next few days. For now, let’s start with the main thing we noticed as we’ve gone along.

The Positional Power Rankings love the Rockies. Love them. If you take the aggregate total of all the data presented so far, you’ll note that the Rockies come out with +32 WAR from their eight everyday players, tied with Texas for #1 in baseball. Their worst positions were 1B/3B/RF, but they managed to accumulate +3 WAR each of those spots, and then Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dexter Fowler helped push them ahead at the spots where their best players line up. We know Tulo and Gonzalez are good, but the Rockies numbers were consistently higher than we might have intuitively expected.

Which led us to notice one small problem — the park factor part of the WAR calculation didn’t get attached, so every position player was being compared to the same baseline, regardless of what home park they played in. For guys in extreme hitters parks (like Colorado and Texas), this made them look a bit better. For guys in extreme pitchers parks (like Seattle and San Francisco), this made them look a bit worse. For most players, the application of a park factor won’t change the results too terribly much, but at the team level, it can start to add up. How much do park factors matter? Well, here’s a table of the WAR totals by team and position without park factors (these tables are sortable, by the way, so click any header to sort each table by that position).

Team C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF DH Total
Rangers 4 2 4 4 6 3 3 3 3 32
Rockies 4 3 4 6 3 5 4 3   32
Tigers 5 4 2 3 7 2 4 2 2 31
Angels 3 4 3 3 2 5 5 4 2 31
Reds 4 6 4 3 3 2 4 4   30
Braves 4 3 3 3 2 4 4 5   28
Nationals 3 2 3 4 5 4 3 3   27
Red Sox 3 2 5 2 3 2 4 3 3 27
Blue Jays 3 3 2 4 4 2 3 4 2 27
Cardinals 5 3 2 1 4 4 4 3   26
Diamondbacks 5 3 4 2 4 2 4 2   26
Brewers 4 2 3 2 4 6 3 2   26
Yankees 2 3 5 2 4 2 4 1 1 24
Rays 2 1 3 3 6 2 3 3 1 24
Pirates 3 2 3 2 3 3 6 2   24
Phillies 5 2 4 3 2 2 3 2   23
Giants 6 3 2 2 4 1 3 2   23
Athletics 4 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 1 23
Royals 4 2 1 2 3 4 3 1 3 23
Orioles 5 2 1 3 3 2 4 3   23
Dodgers 3 4 2 3 2 1 5 2   22
Cubs 3 4 2 4 2 2 3 2   22
White Sox 3 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 22
Padres 3 1 3 2 4 2 3 2   20
Indians 4 2 3 3 2 1 3 1   19
Mets 3 3 2 2 5 1 2 1   19
Twins 4 2 1 1 2 3 2 2 1 18
Marlins 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 7   17
Astros 2 1 3 2 2 2 2 2 1 17
Mariners 3 1 2 1 2 2 2 1 1 15

And now, the park adjusted numbers.

Team C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF DH WAR
Angels 4 5 3 3 3 6 5 4 2 35
Tigers 5 4 2 3 6 1 4 2 2 29
Rays 2 1 4 4 6 3 4 3 2 29
Rangers 3 2 4 4 5 3 3 2 2 28
Braves 4 3 3 3 2 4 4 5   28
Reds 4 6 3 3 3 2 4 3   28
Nationals 3 2 3 4 5 4 3 3   27
Cardinals 5 3 2 1 4 5 4 3   27
Giants 6 4 2 2 5 2 4 2   27
Blue Jays 3 3 2 4 4 2 3 4 2 27
Dodgers 4 4 2 3 3 2 5 3   26
Brewers 4 2 3 2 4 6 3 2   26
Red Sox 3 2 5 2 3 1 4 2 3 25
Pirates 3 2 4 2 3 3 6 2   25
Athletics 4 2 2 3 3 3 4 3 1 25
Padres 4 2 3 2 5 3 4 2   25
Indians 4 3 3 4 3 2 4 2   25
Diamondbacks 4 3 3 2 4 2 4 2   24
Yankees 2 3 5 2 4 2 4 1 1 24
Phillies 5 2 4 3 2 2 3 2   23
Royals 4 2 1 2 3 4 3 1 3 23
Cubs 3 4 2 4 2 2 3 2   22
Rockies 3 1 2 5 1 4 3 2   21
Orioles 4 2 1 3 3 2 3 2   20
White Sox 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 1 19
Mets 3 3 2 2 5 1 2 1   19
Mariners 3 1 3 2 3 2 2 1 2 19
Twins 4 2 1 1 2 3 2 2 1 18
Marlins 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 7   17
Astros 2 1 3 2 2 2 2 2 1 17

The Rockies +32 WAR falls all the way to +21 WAR, and instead of being tied for the top spot, they end up 23rd, between the Cubs and Orioles. Yeah, Coors Field is kind of a big deal, and if you thought the Rockies hitters looked too high on each list, you were absolutely correct. We’re sorry we didn’t catch this earlier in the process. Hopefully, you still found the posts useful, and for most positions, the non-Rockies changes don’t move things around too much. Colorado is the extreme outlier as far as parks are concerned, and even the teams that get a bump upwards from the adjustment aren’t anywhere near the magnitude of the adjustment as the Rockies downward shift.

But, here’s perhaps the most interesting thing — even the park adjusted numbers actually paint a more optimistic picture of Colorado’s 2013 outlook than you might have expected, because park factors go both ways, bringing down the hitters but bringing up the pitchers. So, while the distribution of wins between the two sides of the ball change when park factors are added, the overall total isn’t affected. And — spoiler alert — the park adjustments push the pitcher’s totals up to the point where the Rockies are still projected as a roughly .500 team.

So, yes, these combination Steamer/ZIPS rate projections with FG projected playing time allocations were too high for the Rockies on the posts we’ve rolled out over the last few weeks, but the system is actually still quite a bit higher on Colorado than I would have expected going in. Based on their failures last year and their essentially non-existant off-season transactions, it’s easy to assume that they’re just going to be lousy again in 2013, but giving them better health makes a pretty large difference. According to this calculation, at least, the Rockies don’t totally suck. They’re not the best group of hitters in baseball, but they might have a better shot at being an average team than we’ve been giving them credit for.

Beyond just that calculation error, there are some other interesting things to be gleaned from the results. For instance, holy crap the Angels line-up. They probably won’t actually end up with +35 WAR from their position players — it’s easier to underperform than overperform projections due primarily to injuries — but the gap between their starting nine and everyone else’s starting nine still stands out. Also, look at the logjam in the NL between the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Reds, and Cardinals; according to this, the NL playoff race will most likely be decided by the quality of each team’s pitching staff.

There are a few other interesting things to note from the overall totals as well, and we’ll dig into those tomorrow. And then, once we roll out the pitcher rankings next week, we’ll look at the overall team ratings and see what we can learn from those.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


74 Responses to “A Summary of the Positional Power Rankings Data”

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  1. Luis Matos says:

    i wish they’d take out that rule where every AL team but Cleveland and Baltimore has a DH.

    +39 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Izzy Hechkoff says:

    Can you release data with decimals or edit the original posts?

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  3. Antonio bananas says:

    How much more should we give DH value to NL teams with the constant interleague play? Also, can we have AL and NL teams separate. I know it’s not that hard for me to skim through, but it makes a difference.

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    • Bryce Hufford says:

      You ruined a great first question (i was wondering that myself, assumed NL would be 16-30) with a horrible second one. I feel like you can do that on your own..

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      The same as before [i.e. hardly anything] – they’re not getting many more fixtures. 10 road interleague games x 4 PA per game = 40 PA as an NL DH. It’s tough to project much more than 0.2 WAR for that.

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  4. GraphsFan says:

    Will this affect the 2013 Cool Name Power Rankings?

    It’s hard to tell without decimals, but it appears Angels Stadium suppresses Chris Ianetta and TBD by 1 WAR. Pretty much every Angel position increased by 1 except Gorgeous Bourjos and Ay-Yah!Bar, probably due to their defensive component.

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  5. Antonio bananas says:

    Also, the NL logjam. Atlanta is most likely to over perform that IMO because of their youth overall. Nats have the pitching advantage. Loving this year.

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    • Will says:

      Are the Braves any younger than the Nationals?

      LaRoche and Werth are the only positional players over 29 years old.

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  6. jim says:

    pitcher rankings starting tomorrow?

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  7. Coors Field says:

    Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ralph says:

      Do you sell T-shirts that say that?

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      • Coors Field says:

        I’m a stadium. An inanimate object. I can’t actively do anything, let alone comprehend the economics behind the production and distribution of texted textiles.

        Its also incredibly difficult to type this without any hands.

        +32 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. ralph says:

    So, even with the benefit of the bonus DH WAR, the Astros are last. Wow.

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  9. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    2013 Cool Full Name Power Rankings SWEET SIXTEEN: Positional Players
    Now factoring in middle names and ubiquitous nicknames!

    16. Brock Wyatt “Steve” Holt
    15. Eric Sidney Sogard
    14. Yonder Alonso
    13. Darin Cortland Ruf
    12. Michael Accorsi Zunino
    11. Gerald Dempsey “Buster” Posey
    10. Elvis Augusto Andrus
    9. Jordany Valdespin
    8. Darwin James Kunane Barney
    7. Yoenis Céspedes Milanés
    6. Rogearvin Argelo “Shark” Bernadina
    5. Adeiny Hechavarria
    4. Covelli Loyce “Coco” Crisp
    3. Mariekson Julius “Didi” Gregorius
    2. Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton
    1. Jurickson Barthelomeus Profar

    AUTHORIAL NOTES
    – The top three are locked in a very close race, but when I found out Jurickson Profar’s middle name was “Barthelomeus,” I said “holy shit!” aloud.
    – Special Authorial Dispensation for Most Intriguingly Sexual Middle Name: Prince Semien Fielder

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • wilt says:

      Just tried to wipe the accent marks in Cespedes’ name off my screen.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jaack says:

      Predictions:

      Profar over Holt
      Stanton over Sogard
      Gregorius over Alonso
      Ruf over Crisp
      Hechavarria over Zunino
      Posey over Bernadina
      Cespedes over Andrus
      Valdespin over Barney

      Elight Eight:
      Valdespin over Profar (Upset of the Century)
      Stanton over Cespedes
      Gregorius over Posey
      Hechavarria over Ruf

      FINAL FOUR:
      Valdespin over Hechavarria
      Gregorius over Stanton

      And the Winner is Mariekson Julius “Didi” Gregorius
      He will be crowned King Dididi Gregorius

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • GraphsFan says:

      Loved it, can’t wait for the pitchers.

      If you’re including middle names, its hard to beat the mellifluous Latins:
      Jesús Alejandro Montero Lopez
      Ezequiel Manuel Carrera Reyes
      José Alberto Pujols Alcántara

      And no Asians?
      Suzuki Ichir? (?? ??)
      Norichika “Nori” Aoki (?? ??)
      Kurtis Kiyoshi “Kurt” Suzuki (?? ?)
      Shin-Soo Choo (???)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        I considered Hiroyuki Nakajima. The cultural shyness re: middle names hurt Asian players. Of note: Ichiro Suzuki’s father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, whose name rhymes. “Nobuyuki Suzuki” would certainly be a top-20 name here.

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    • tcnjsteve says:

      No asdrubal cabrera? His given name resembles Hanibal’s brothers.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • David says:

      STEVE HOLT!

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  10. sggutierrez says:

    I feel like there’s some overlap with the projected WAR for players who may see time at multiple positions. Seems like each position is getting too much, if not full credit for players that may see time at another position. Angels CF, for instance is 5 WAR and LF is 6. Seems like CF gets the benefit for when Trout plays there and Bourjos sits, but does LF get demerits for when Trout plays center? I could be way off. Just seems that way?

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  11. GraphsFan says:

    Damn, those parenthetical ??s should be katakana, etc.

    BTW, Nats write up here if you’re looking for o/u analysis. I did well with that guy last year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Andre the Angels Fan says:

    Yeah Angels!!

    That should be enough to make the playoffs even if the pitching staff falls apart, amirite?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Le Vagabond says:

    You maybe right. If your confident imagine how confident all tigers fans must be with the second best position players, superior pitching to the Angels which includes Moses Verlander abd the fact they play in the Central. They may have there playoff spot secured before July.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. PackBob says:

    It would seem as well that the Mariners’ WAR for position players has a good chance go up a bit more with the fences being moved in, if the change does indeed benefit hitters once the games are played. Pitchers WAR should, of course, go down a bit if that’s the case.

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    • byron says:

      That’s not how WAR is supposed to work. Unfortunately, it is how WAR worked for this flagship series of season-preview articles at the premier sabrmetric site on the internet, so who the hell knows anymore.

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  15. brendan says:

    Am I the only one who found the defense and baserunning projections to be kind of wacky? maybe there were regressed more than I expected?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Darren says:

    728 projected WAR for hitters seems very high. With hitting typically 57%-58% of total WAR, are you projecting 1260+ WAR? That seems much higher than conventional thinking that it’s around 900-1000.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Izzy Hechkoff says:

      If a replacement team has 43 wins, there should be 1140 WAR.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Darren says:

        Cameron said it was 47-48 (at least on Fangraphs), which is about 1000

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        • Izzy Hechkoff says:

          The glossary says 43 wins. Last year, the 30 MLB teams accumulated 669.8 Position Player WAR and 460.6 pitcher WAR, which suggests a replacement level of about 43.3 wins.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CheeseWhiz says:

      Yeah, I’ve thought that the WAR totals had looked too high this entire series, and by that math we are looking at a minimum of 10% over projection. I know these are supposed to be clinical, using only projections and such, but something seems very wrong here.

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      • Eric R says:

        Sicne there were also projected PAs, has anyone added them up to see if they are about 10% high as well?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Jason says:

          I think it somewhat is. The projections assume 700 PAs for each position. The MLB average last year was 682. Note that this is just derived from league PAs, games and lineup; not from any sort of player-specific calculations.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe the main reason why the WAR may seem inflated is that the projection models cannot/should not factor in missed time due to injury. The starters at each position account for the vast majority of playing time but backup/lesser players will get far more playing time than can be accounted for.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Darren says:

        Ya, I just checked and there are only 9 players in these power rankings projected to be a negative WAR player in 2013. This amounts to just -0.9 wins. In 2012 there were 256 negative WAR players for a total of -91.1 wins. So it seems as if each team typically has to fill playing time with below replacement players to the tune of about -3 wins a team. These types of players are likely not projected as there was likely no intention they would get much playing time anyway. So the overall player WARs are not inflated as much as the playing time per player has, which leaves these below the scap heap players out. BTW, if you deduct 91 wins from the 728 projected you get 637 for hitters which seems about right.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • David says:

      Its easier to underperform projections than overperform them, this is due to injuries resulting in significantly lower stats than career years result in high stats. Due to this, projections tend to overestimate the total WAR in the league by a small amount. In another way of stating it, the error bars tend to extend farther below the projection than above it.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Darren says:

    And wow, the Rays are 3rd before the pitching. This has to be driven by their fielding projections.

    I assume pitchers WAR projections will be FIP based and not RA9 based – so there is no double counting.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltar says:

      The Rays high ranking is the most surprising thing on the park-adjusted list except for the incredible Angels ranking and the fact that, after the Angels, the rankings are so close.
      Presumably, the Rays pitching total will be marked down about as much as the non-pitching total was marked up, so their overall total may not be that close to the top.
      I can’t wait to see the remaining articles in this series.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. bookbook says:

    I know the miscalculation is small, but I think it should be in the headline. Not everyone reads the summaries.

    (To see the M’s position players 26th overall, ahead of the Twins, Astros, and Marlins, makes a heckuva lot more sense intuitively than seeing them 30th. All the usual caveats assumed.)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. FanGraphs superfan here, who may hold you to an unreasonable standard, but . . .

    I’m surprised and a bit disappointed that you don’t plan to edit the articles themselves. This is the sort of error that, while easy to make, you don’t expect in a featured article series on FanGraphs.

    Since they’re linked to from the front page, I also assume they’ll keep getting new traffic for a while.

    +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. pat rocket says:

    Shouldn’t pitcher batting be included?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eric R says:

      Last year pitchers combined for a tiny fraction below replacement as batters [-0.04 fWAR per team]. So, it wouldn’t likely make much difference.

      Here are the top and bottom teams in 2012 in pitcher batting fWAR:

      Mets +0.7
      Reds +0.7
      Nationals +0.6
      Rockies +0.4
      Phillies +0.4
      Cardinals +0.4

      D’Backs -0.5
      Astros -0.5
      Cubs -0.6
      Dodgers -0.6
      Pirates -0.9
      Marlins -1.0

      All of the AL teams were +/- 0.2

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Aaron (UK) says:

      Not much difference, but a win or so between the best and the worst (once you allow for regression).

      With 300-350 or so PA it’s certainly not nothing, and if you projected 300 pinch-hitting appearances too the differences might be amplified.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eric R says:

        I grabbed pairs of consecutive seasons where a pitcher had at least 50 PA in each, 2009-2012; the 99 data points have an R2 of 0.09, so it would seem there is a lot of year-to-year noise.

        Breaking the sample roughly into thirds:

        Bottom third: -0.38 -> -0.09
        Middle third: -0.10 -> -0.01
        Top third: +0.35 -> +0.16

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  21. Neil says:

    Presented in this form, it seems really clear that the catchers, on the whole, are providing to much WAR. With rounding, no team is expecting less than 2 WAR and most are projected for 3 or 4? That’s absolutely nuts – impossible, even.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltar says:

      I really don’t understand your problem with the catching position have a higher rating than the others. What is the reason that this should be “impossible?”
      Since catching WAR does not include such skills as framing, the catching WAR is actually way too low. It seems obvious to me that catchers are worth way more than any other position except pitching–enough to be in a category by itself.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • David says:

      Dave addresses this issue in “A summary of the positional power rankings data”

      And because I dont know how to embed hotlinks… http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-issue-of-positional-inequality/

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • David says:

        sorry, This is obviously “a summary of the positional power rankings data” the article I meant to send you to (it is the correct link) is “The issue of positional inequality”

        Vote -1 Vote +1

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