Biggest WAR Risers From 2009

Yesterday we took a look at some of the players who have seen dramatic declines from last year to this one. Today we’ll do a similar perspective on guys who have had a great 2010 compared to their relatively worse 2009.

1B Aubrey Huff
2009 WAR: -1.3
2010 WAR: 4.9

Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty big swing. In 2009, Huff was just about as bad as you can be while splitting time between the Orioles and Tigers. In forty games with Detroit, Huff mustered a .257 wOBA thanks to a pathetic .189/.265/.302 slash line. He was better in 110 games in Baltimore with a .307 wOBA, but his time DHing and poor defensive performance hurt him badly. He lost 4.9 runs in the field, 15.9 at the plate, and 12.2 due to position. For Aubrey, it was a year to forget. Luckily, 2010 has been a year to celebrate for the Huff family and Giants fans alike. At thirty-three, Huff could have continued into the doldrums of baseball aging, but his rejuvenation has been integral for San Fran; his .394 wOBA as the everyday first baseman on the bay has been a huge lift for the team. As our own R.J. Anderson put it as follows back in June:

The Giants signed Huff for $3 million on a one-year basis- meaning that just getting a combination of those projected figures probably would have made Huff worth it. Instead they have received one of the best hitters in baseball to date. It’s like a karmic refund for the Edgar Renteria deal turning into a mess.

2B Rickie Weeks
2009 WAR: 1.4
2010 WAR: 4.5

Rickie is one of those guys that you just can’t wait to play good baseball; when he’s playing well, he’s easily one of the best second baseman in the game. After posting a .235/.374/.433 line in 2007 as a twenty-four year old (15.4 BB% at that age is something else), Weeks struggled more at the plate in ’08 with only a .334 wOBA. In 2009, Rickie posted an identical wOBA as in 2007, this time with less patience and more power (.272/.340/.517), but only got 162 plate appearances due to injury. In 2010, Weeks is outplaying even his 2007 season with a .370 wOBA. After some pretty big fluctuation over his career, his walk rate is steady right now at 9.4%, right around his career average. 2010 has been a good year for Weeks.

2B Kelly Johnson
2009 WAR: 0.6
2010 WAR: 4.4

The tale of Kelly Johnson has been told many times. The former Atlanta youngin’ became an everyday player when he posted a .363 wOBA in 2007 at twenty-five years old. However, after a solid but less successful 2008, Johnson’s poor 2009 lead to the end of his days with the Braves. His .306 wOBA could be partially explained by a .246 BABIP, well below his career mark of .316; it wasn’t good enough for Bobby Cox and Frank Wren. Johnson moved on to Arizona this year and has crushed the ball, hitting .278/.368/.485, a .372 wOBA, in 125 games thus far. His UZR and DRS numbers are also the best this season out of the past three years. Patience and power can be a game of high highs and low lows, and Atlanta’s loss has certainly been the Diamondbacks’ gain.

OF Jose Bautista
2009 WAR: 1.9
2010 WAR: 5.4

If I were to have asked you during this past off season Jose Bautista‘s odds of leading all of baseball in homers in 2010, what odds would you have given me? 100:1? 250:1? If you were a betting man, you could have made or lost a lot of money. Bautista, who had a .408 SLG last year and career high of .420 in 2006, has an outstanding 42 home runs this year thanks apparently to a new swing that appears to be working. At twenty-nine, Bautista is hitting .266/.382/.620 (.423 wOBA, 169 wRC+), an insane line for someone who had a career high wOBA of .339 in 2009. As Dave Cameron put it last week:

Bautista will likely never have a year like this again, but there’s no reason to think he’s going to revert back to the version we saw before last September. He has made changes that can stick, even if not quite to this degree, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Bautista hit 30 to 40 home runs each of the next several years.

For Thursday, I’ll do a split fallers/risers article on some of the guys that could have been on one of the lists.




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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

19 Responses to “Biggest WAR Risers From 2009”

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  1. Scott K. says:

    Is Josh Hamilton too obvious?

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Too much time lost to injury last year, although I did make an exception for Weeks. I may include him for tomorrow.

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      • Scott K. says:

        Yeah, I considered the injury bit, but Weeks threw me. I guess you could also make the argument that Hamilton’s success wasn’t nearly as unpredictable as these other guys.

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      • ACWNS09 says:

        You can’t really say Hamilton’s increased production comes from more playing time; his wOBA went up 120 points, which is a bigger leap than anybody on the list.

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      • Pat Andriola says:

        The point is that injury probably decreased his performance overall, including the components of wOBA, and made the sample size of his performance smaller, leading to more variance and less reliability to analyze skill.

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  2. aweb says:

    Bautista would have been at least 1000:1 on leading the majors in HR – it’s not a category where someone completely unexpected jumps up often (adrian Beltre Kevin Mitchell look like the most surprising of the past 25 years), he wasn’t necessarily due full playing time, and he’s Jose Bautista.

    Did Huff get hurt in 2005? He was cruising along as a solid hitter for his position for a while, and then had 3 terrible years.

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    • ACWNS09 says:

      Beltre and Kevin Mitchell are the most surprising? Brady Anderson wants some recognition.

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      • Bill says:

        Anderson didn’t lead the league that year. He hit 50 and Mark McGwire hit 52.

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      • nmh says:

        Anderson didn’t lead the league in HR’s in ’96. His 50 were second to Big Mac’s 52, who wouldn’t constitute much of a surprise.

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      • aweb says:

        I was surprised how few surprising guys have managed it (Kluszewski in ’54, maybe?). Some are less surprising in retrospect (Fielder in 1990 was shocking at the time), which perhaps portends great things in the future for Bautista, at least for a few years. Leading the majors in homers is almost never done by a flash in the pan.

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      • ACWNS09 says:

        I totally misread that. Just thought you meant surprising leaps in general.

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      • MelvinO says:

        Ripper Collins was a shocker. Not one of these #6org bloggers called his HR title, anyway. Apparently PECOTA “didn’t like him”. Good thing Ripper didn’t listen.

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    • Bill says:

      Cecil Fielder’s (first) home run title has to rank as a surpirse on the same level. He was in Japan the year before, wasn’t he?

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  3. AK707 says:

    No Andres Torres?

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  4. Hairball says:

    I second the vote for Andres Torres.

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  5. Ogre39666 says:

    Pagan?
    Although I guess you could chalk that up to a playing time issue.

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  6. SFG says:

    Third for Andres Torres. While the WAR jump is “only” 3.7, the difference in performance is astounding, and should be noted.

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  7. joe says:

    Surprised Liriano is not on the list (plus 4.6WAR)

    (Though pitcher WAR is a bit sketchy)

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  8. If you mention Weeks, you gotta mention Alex Rios too.

    Andres Torres is another one.

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