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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.