Biggest WAR Fallers from 2009

With September fast approaching, it’s incredible to think the season is almost over. I say the same thing every year, but it really does seem like Opening Day was yesterday. As we get closer to the big 1-6-2, I wanted to take a look at some of the biggest decliners in WAR (not primarily due to injury) from 2009 to 2010 and do a little analysis as to why the drop occured.

UT Ben Zobrist
2009 WAR: 8.3
2010 WAR: 2.7

Zobrist was the name around sabermetric circles last year, putting up awesome offensive numbers while playing a variety of positions. Unfortunately for Ben and Rays fans alike, that prowess at the plate has not carried over to 2010. The 29-year-old’s wOBA dropped from .406 last year to just .330 this year, a combination of an 11.9% drop in home runs per fly ball and concurrent drops in BABIP and BB%. Meanwhile, here’s Zobrist’s defensive games started in 2009 versus 2010:

1B: 2/7
2B: 81/27
3B: 1/0
SS: 6/0
LF: 2/0
CF: 5/8
RF: 37/71

Due to Tampa Bay’s roster construction, Zobrist is playing a lot more of right field and less of premium positions that require a lower offensive performance to beat replacement level standards.

SS Derek Jeter
2009 WAR: 7.4
2010 WAR: 2.2

Jeter’s 2009 was truly remarkable, putting up the fourth highest wOBA of his career (and best since 2006) while also accumulating the most fielding runs of his career. In 2010, everything has come apart for the captain from the Bronx. Jeter’s on pace to have the worst offensive year of his career by a pretty decent margin with a .323 wOBA (102 wRC+); he’s walking 2.3% less of the time while also hitting grounders at a Tim Hudson-esque 65.8% rate. With a BABIP .63 lower than last year, there isn’t much saving Derek at the plate. On defense, UZR has him for -4.3 runs with DRS saying he’s been at -11. Either way, Jeter has disappointed given his 2009 and contract.

INF Chone Figgins
2009 WAR: 6.1
2010 WAR: 0.2

The most dramatic decrease of all, Figgins has gone from one of the best third basemen in baseball last year to one of the worst second basemen this year. In his first year in Seattle, Figgins has hit a measly .248/.336/.292 despite a modest .306 BABIP; after a .358 wOBA with the Angels last season, Figgins is at .298 this year, well below league average. Despite moving to second base, the positional advantage hasn’t mitigated enough to put Figgins where he should be. After a UZR/150 of 17.9 at third base in 2009, Chone is at -13.8 at second this season. Simply put, Jack Z can’t be pleased.

OF Matt Kemp
2009 WAR: 5.1
2010 WAR: 0.6

At the start of the season, Kemp was the big name throughout baseball. He was dating Rihanna and coming off of a stellar 2009 in which he put up a .367 wOBA while playing solid defense in center field. But everything has fallen apart since then. Kemp just hasn’t been the same player he once was with a UZR/150 of -15.6, nowhere near where he was last year. Moreover, Kemp’s .323 wOBA has been due primarily to a BABIP .49 points below his career average. Here are his peripherals for the the past two seasons:

BB%: 7.8/7.9
K%: 22.9/27.9
LD%: 21.3/20.2
GB%: 40.4/40.9
FB%: 38.3/39

Not much different. Still, Kemp’s production has been seriously disappointing, but at twenty five years old he has a lot of time to go back to his better days.



Print This Post



Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Adam
Guest
Adam
6 years 1 month ago

Re: Kemp

I’d say going from a K% of 23 to 28 is a big difference, and coupled with a BABIP drop from .345 to .303, that pretty much sums up the reason for his decrease in offense this year.

Adam
Guest
Adam
6 years 1 month ago

I somehow missed that Pat pointed out Kemp’s BABIP drop, my bad. Still though, an increase in K% by 5 points is no small difference, right?

Dusto
Guest
Dusto
6 years 1 month ago

Gotta blame Kemps struggles on coaching. It looks like he has had mechanical problems all year and nothing has been done about it. The same could be said of any Dodger regular minus Manny and Furcal. At one point in time or another Loney, Blake, Ethier, and even Kemp have had serious problems at the plate only to have the coaching staff verbally abuse Kemp instead of actually work with him. Nothing has been done for Loney, Blake, or Ethier. Lets not forget the struggles Russel Martin has had for 2+ years now… Can a new coaching staff be make the difference in a talented ball club? I think so.

Z2
Guest
Z2
6 years 1 month ago

How do you know the coaching staff isn’t working with Kemp? Maybe that’s why they verbally said stuff because he’s too busy worrying about a trade than playing better.

Is coaching to blame for his sucky defense this year too?

Wally
Guest
Wally
6 years 1 month ago

A big part of Kemp’s drop in value is thanks to his UZR marks. If you look at B-R.com Kemp comes in at a respectable 2 WAR, and pretty much the entire difference between FG and B-R WAR is the defensive mark.

Nat
Guest
Nat
6 years 1 month ago

It’s also worth noting that his DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) is -15, which is basically the same as his UZR. BBRef uses Total Zone for its WAR calculations, and while the jury is still certainly out on defensive stats, Total Zone seems to be the sketchiest of them all.

TZ has Kemp at 1 run above average, while UZR and DRS are both -15! That’s a huge difference, almost two wins worth. In this situation, I’d put more stock in those two stats.

dutchbrowncoat
Member
dutchbrowncoat
6 years 1 month ago

besides, his drop from 5.1 to .6/2 wins isn’t all on his fielding. he isn’t hitting all that well, and his season value would be rough if it weren’t for the cf adjustment.

Wally
Guest
Wally
6 years 1 month ago

Nat,

That’s true about DRS, and I honestly don’t know about which defensive stats are really the best, but UZR and DRS also has him at roughly 0 over the last 2 years. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of each of these metrics (including total zone), but it seems likely to me that this 4 month sample from UZR and DRS is not a very good representation of Kemp’s fielding. When for the previous nearly 3 full season’s all three metrics have Kemp at roughly average, then in this season 2 of them have him as one of worse defensive CFers in the game, I just have a hard time swallowing that as the truth. He may be worse this year than his previous years, but I think we need to be regressing this season’s UZR/DRS against his previous mean. And if we’re going by the 3 season rule for UZR, then we should do so by about 2/3, which would put him at just -5. Still a huge drop from last season, but when at least 1 win of it is coming from fielding metrics, and much of it is also coming from a lower than normal BABIP without much change in his LD/GB/FB rates, I think we need to mention that much of this drop is likely a combination of bad luck (BABIP) and a fabrication of our inaccurate measurements (UZR).

U-G
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

small typo with jeter. his babip is .065 lower than last season, not .63. that would be an epic collapse.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
6 years 30 days ago

Not to mention, it would be pretty remarkable for someone to have a BABIP high enough to collapse that far!

JH
Guest
JH
6 years 1 month ago

Gutierrez has fallen pretty far, from ~6 WAR last year to 2.0 so far in ’10. His bat has been a huge disappointment.

Carlosologist
Guest
Carlosologist
6 years 1 month ago

Out of curiosity, will you do one of these for the biggest increases from 2009 to 2010?

Adam D
Guest
Adam D
6 years 1 month ago

Colby Lewis is only at 3.7 WAR last year. That’s a huge drop from his Japanese numbers of last year of 162.1 WAR (or, that’s what I’m led to believe by at least one author on this site) :-)

Adam D
Guest
Adam D
6 years 1 month ago

oops… that should be 3.7 WAR this year, not last year

Matt Defalco
Member
Matt Defalco
6 years 1 month ago

I can only wait for the rise in WAR article, if they write one.

Jose Bautista, here we come

Larry
Guest
Larry
6 years 1 month ago

I suspect Aubrey Huff takes that prize.

Judy
Guest
Judy
6 years 1 month ago

Josh Hamilton

alskor
Guest
alskor
6 years 1 month ago

“Despite moving to second base, the positional advantage hasn’t mitigated enough…”

Uh… what positional adjustment..?

“Second Base: +2.5 runs
Third Base: +2.5 runs”

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/position-adjustments/

If Jack Z isn’t pleased with his defense he has no one to blame but himself (and Wak) for making that change so late. You can’t switch positions on a guy and have high expectations.

internet
Guest
internet
6 years 1 month ago

Nate Mclouth droped farther than Kemp (4.6 WAR to 4.5 WAR).

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 1 month ago

McLouth missed some time with injuries, however.

Not that he didn’t stink up the joint when he *did* play.

Luke in MN
Guest
Luke in MN
6 years 1 month ago

Re: Zobrist. This is a good example of a stat like WAR’s limitations. Clearly Zobrist’s ability to play a lot of right field makes him MORE valuable to the Rays, not less. Players are measured against a theoretical replacement player by WAR, but on any given team, there might be a more useful player ready to sub in at, say, 2nd, than, say, RF.

Wally
Guest
Wally
6 years 1 month ago

Quite true. The mear flexability that Zobrist gives you, even if you end up sticking him in RF most of the time adds a lot of value. I can’t think of a good way to account for that numerically though.

CFIC
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

also, the defensive factors in WAR will distort the stat a lot since UZR is basically supposed to be a 3 year window instead of one season. a big reason why Zobrist was rated so highly last season

Ellis
Guest
Ellis
6 years 1 month ago

Kemp’s UZR/150:
2009: 3.9
2010: -21.2

Can a player’s fielding really change that dramatically in one year, barring injury? To me the UZR system is still way to unpredictable to give it all the respect it seems to get. I mean, Teixeira has a -7.3 UZR/150, but the dude’s an unreal first baseman.

Z2
Guest
Z2
6 years 1 month ago

“Can a player’s fielding really change that dramatically in one year, barring injury? ”

Yes it can. Players often take offensive struggles out to the field.
.

Ellis
Guest
Ellis
6 years 1 month ago

Any idea if that’s ever been shown on a significant scale?

Z2
Guest
Z2
6 years 1 month ago

Not that I know of, but if the question is can defense drop off that much without injury, I think that’s a reasonable possibility.

pogotheostrich
Guest
pogotheostrich
6 years 1 month ago

Sample size. One year of defense doesn’t produce enough chances for a reliable sample size.

Wally
Guest
Wally
6 years 1 month ago

I’m sure its reasonably possible that someone’s actual talent changes by 20 runs in one year’s time, but how certain are we that this actually happened to Matt Kemp vs. it just being a product of the metric’s inability to resolve true talent over a single season?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

Can you prove that?

I’m not saying it’s not true, and as a coach we often say “Leave the at bat in the dugout”, but how often do major leaguers do it, and specific major leaguers in particular?

fjkagreklg
Guest
fjkagreklg
6 years 1 month ago

Aaron Hill?

realitypolice
Guest
realitypolice
6 years 1 month ago

Embarrassingly, it took a good 30 seconds to realize that “the big 1-6-2” was not a reference to some impending weird pitcher-shortstop-catcher double play

anon
Guest
anon
6 years 1 month ago

well, a 1-6-2 would be a pretty darn badass caught double-stealing double play.

Larry Smith Jr.
Guest
6 years 30 days ago

I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who read “1-6-2” as a strange double play initially.

John
Guest
John
6 years 1 month ago

Adam Lind?

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi
6 years 1 month ago

Big drops to be sure, but Aaron Hill and Adam Lind were both sub-4 WAR players to begin with.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

Yeah, and chone figgins wasn’t a 6 WAR player. he’s a 2 to 3 WAR player that has a 6 WAR season.

Same thing with Gutierrez, were we really expecting another 5-6 WAR?

You’d think 5 WAR players just grew on trees or something. I’d say a guy would need to put up 5 WAR seasons for 3 years in a row before we really start to think of him as a 5 WAR player. As a play on the aristotle quote on excellence ‘You are what you most commonly due.’

So, we’re talking about 2-3 WAR guys that had a huge season and have now regressed the other direction.

My guess is rather than having such a big swing in talent, maybe WAR isn’t extremelly accurate … perhaps specifically defensese in one season.

I’m not saying I have something better, but i am saying maybe we should temper our reverence oF WAR, or at least average a few WAR systems together if we’re going to call it “true talent”, b/c no one’s true talent goes fromfide all-star to way below average or replacement level in one season barring major injury.

Danny
Guest
Danny
6 years 1 month ago

Jason Bay (before the injury) anyone?

CFIC
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

Jason Bartlett: 4.8 to .7

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

Ben Zobrist is an interesting situation. Surely, no one thought that he would continue putting up 6+ WAR seasons, right? … or even 5 WAR seasons.

He’s not Biggio.

FWIW, I just looked up Biggio’s WAR stats. 9.7 in ’97. Wow.

Too much vale, from year ot year, placed on replacement level and defense. I find it very hard to believe that players just go into the defensive tank in one year. Do players lose any one skill that quickly? (Barring injury).

How can WAR fluctuate so drastically and be a measure of “true talent”?

Justin Mosovsky
Guest
Justin Mosovsky
6 years 1 month ago

“How can WAR fluctuate so drastically and be a measure of “true talent”?”

How can Wrc fluctuate so drastically and be a measure of a players ability to hit the ball?

How can home runs fluctuate so drastically and be a measure of a players ability to hit the ball out of the park?

Really, we like to think that a player has an easy to decipher “true talent level” but the fact is that its not easy to project the future. Each individual is EXTREMELY hard to predict. That is why insurance companies try to get so many people to buy from them, to get rid of the problem of small sample sizes. As a whole, all WAR tells us is PAST PERFORMANCE. While we all may like to think that there is a stat out there that can determine the future based completely on past performance it in all likelihood doesn’t exist. As any person who has read the disclaimers knows, past performances are not guarantees of future gains. I think that with enough data, we could probably get an EXTREMELY good picture of how well everybody did in a ball game, but it wouldn’t change the fact that people improve/drop off.

maguro
Guest
maguro
6 years 30 days ago

Also, Nyjer Morgan 4.9 WAR to .3 WAR. Certainly nobody thought he was really a 5 WAR player or anything close to it.

wpDiscuz