Let’s Imagine a Baseball-Playing LeBron James

LeBron James is a basketball player. Let’s imagine a LeBron James equivalent as a baseball player.

I was talking with a friend, and we got to discussing the amount of coverage devoted to the current LeBron James free-agency sweepstakes. Neither one of us is a basketball fan, but still we’ve become aware of what’s happening, and the news is almost impossible to avoid. In thinking about why James is generating so many headlines, I can see two explanations. One, he’s an icon, and he has a polarizing history, so as the James saga turns, media companies see traffic and revenue. He’s one of the most compelling athletes on the planet. Two, and presumably more importantly, LeBron James is amazing. His decision is going to change the whole NBA landscape, because he’s incredibly, impossibly valuable, in a way that no baseball player is or could be.

If Mike Trout were a free agent, that would be a big deal — one of the very biggest deals. It doesn’t get better than Mike Trout. But Trout appears to be worth about 10 – 11 WAR. He plays just one position. He fills just one of nine slots. When James is on the floor, he’s one of five guys, and he spends very little time hurt or on the bench. And the offense can be programmed to heavily feature James’ skills, so he ends up with more opportunities. James can just about make a basketball team good, with limited assistance. Trout’s a smaller component. Oh, with Trout, the Angels have baseball’s biggest competitive advantage, but a roster of Mike Trout and 24 nothings would be a terrible roster indeed.

So, in reality, there is no LeBron James baseball equivalent. There couldn’t be. It’s practically impossible. But let’s imagine. If there were a baseball equivalent to LeBron James, what would that player look like? What kinds of numbers would a guy have to post to be as valuable as James is to a team?

All of the numbers you see below are approximations. This is intended simply for fun, and because this is intended simply for fun, we’re going to take two different approaches, because I can’t make up my mind over which is more accurate. Each approach will target a different single-season WAR. Obviously, the first step is figuring out James’ single-season value, and this is why we’ll have two approaches. One idea: last year, James was worth about 2.3% of all basketball WAR. Because a baseball season has 1,000 total WAR, that would give us a target of about 23. The other idea: James is projected for about 21 WAR. That’s over an 82-game season, so over a 162-game season, you’d be talking about almost 42 WAR. I don’t know which way to go, so I’ll go both.

Approach No. 1: create a baseball player worth about 23 WAR.

Approach No. 2: create a baseball player worth about 42 WAR.

LeBron James is insane. Let’s make some guys who’re also insane.

Approach No. 1

  • Target: ~23 WAR

We’re going to begin with a foundation, and our foundation will be 2013 Mike Trout. A season ago, Trout was worth 10.4 WAR in 157 games. We need to double that, and then some. The first, easiest step: let’s have the guy play all 162 games. That boosts the WAR to 10.7.

Now let’s work on the defense. There are limitations to how valuable a defender can be, because a defender’s value is limited by the number of opportunities. Single-season UZR has peaked around +30 runs, for infielders and for outfielders. Let’s change the player’s fielding performance to +30 runs. That takes us past 13 WAR.

Now let’s make another change! This is all about making tweaks. A year ago, Trout played mostly center field, and also a bit of left field. Our imaginary player is a full-time shortstop. The WAR sneaks past 14.

Trout, last year, stole 33 bases, and was caught seven times. Let’s turn those caught steals into successful steals. And for the hell of it, let’s add another ten successful steals, too. Now the WAR’s close to 15. And hey, Trout hit nine triples! Turn those triples into homers. The WAR slides past 15.

Trout hit way more doubles than triples. He also hit more doubles than homers. Let’s also now turn all the doubles into home runs. So, all of the player’s extra-base hits are homers, under these circumstances. The WAR’s up to 18.

We’re getting there. We’re still off by five wins, but that’s nothing at this point. Let’s take…70 outs. Trout made a lot more than 70 outs. Let’s turn those 70 outs into 70 singles. Regular singles, nothing more. And, that does it. That takes our WAR just past 23. Approach No. 1 is complete: we’ve created a baseball player worth about 23 WAR in a single season.

What does it take? A literal full season of being an incredible defensive shortstop. And, to go with good baserunning, the player hits about .438/.527/.820, with a .560 wOBA. For what it’s worth, in 2002, Barry Bonds ran a full-season .544 wOBA. He was worth more than 12 WAR. Basically, you can imagine that version of Barry Bonds, but completely healthy, and unparalleled in the field. Also, better at the plate. I don’t know what to do about intentional walks, but I don’t need to make this any more complicated.

By this approach, the baseball equivalent of LeBron James is absolute peak Barry Bonds at the plate with, I don’t know, absolute peak Ozzie Smith in the field. And, presumably, this imaginary player is better both at the plate and in the field. And he doesn’t miss a single game. So.

Approach No. 2

  • Target: ~42 WAR

Welp. Let’s make this maximally interesting. Sure, I could just keep adding more dingers to the guy above until the numbers match, but let’s go a different route. Four out of every five games, this player is the player featured in Approach No. 1. One out of every five games, this player is a starting pitcher who also hits like the player featured in Approach No. 1.

It’s Micah Owings crossed with God. Taking the previous WAR and multiplying by 80%, we get 18.6. Now we need to find another 23 WAR or so in 20% of the games in a season. This is going to require some breathtaking starting pitching. Let’s start with another foundation. Let’s start with 2013 Clayton Kershaw, who ran an RA9-WAR of just about 9.

Kershaw allowed 55 runs in 236 innings over 33 starts, good for an RA9 of 2.10. It’s time to go crazy. Let’s subtract 30 runs. That’s 30 runs, taken away from 55 runs. You’d think this might be simple, but it’s actually more complicated to convert to WAR, because pitchers play a large role in determining their own run environment, and the run environment determines the runs-to-wins conversion. Running through all the math, this takes us just past 14 WAR. I’m pretty sure I did it right. I’m pretty sure I at least got close.

Now, last year’s Kershaw averaged just over seven innings per start. Why not boost that up? Especially if he’s averaging under a run allowed per appearance. Let’s put him all the way up to nine innings per start, on average. The guy finishes what he starts. Now we’re looking at almost 19 WAR, and we haven’t even had to introduce some kind of four-man rotation or something.

And wait! This guy plays for a National League team, so this pitcher also hits for himself. And he doesn’t hit in the ninth spot, because he’s the best hitter on the planet, too. He averages over four plate appearances a game, batting like the imaginary player from Approach No. 1, and if you fold this in, it puts us between 23 – 24 WAR. Then you add in the WAR from the remaining four-fifths of the games and you get about 42.1. That’s precisely on target.

This approach assumes it’s fair to say a LeBron James baseball equivalent would be worth 42 WAR in a year. What would it take for a baseball player to be worth 42 WAR in a year? Based on our construction, we have a hybrid shortstop/starting pitcher. When playing the field, the guy hits better than Barry Bonds and fields better than Ozzie Smith. When pitching, the guy still hits better than Barry Bonds, and he doesn’t really ever get removed, and he allows an average of basically one run per nine innings. Craig Kimbrel has allowed an average of 1.64 runs per nine innings. This guy would be a lot better than Kimbrel, and he’d throw nine innings a game instead of one.

A potential problem: a guy who throws nine innings every five games might not have a great arm at shortstop. If you’d like to make up for that, feel free to subtract some defense and add some dingers. Or you can just pretend this guy is a wizard. Because, I mean, this is all wizardry.

The baseball equivalent of LeBron James is impossible. If he existed, he’d be sure to be underpaid, because at the usual free-agent market rates, his salary would be a whole payroll and then some. Baseball doesn’t have basketball’s maximum contract, but presumably there is some kind of line no team would ever go beyond, and these equivalents would establish that line. The LeBron James sweepstakes is generating more attention than any baseball-player sweepstakes ever could. This is because LeBron James doesn’t translate. Baseball will never have a LeBron James. It’ll have Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons and Clayton Kershaw and Craig Kimbrel, and they’ll all be good and occupying different bodies.

A man can dream, though.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Brendan
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Brendan
1 year 10 months ago

This is fun, but it really just shows how different the 2 sports are more than any kind of statement of James’ dominance.

frivoflava29
Member
frivoflava29
1 year 10 months ago

Looks to me like Fangraphs is just trying to cash in on the LeBron James media circus. Hasn’t been any good content here, really, since at least the mid-18th century.

KK-Swizzle
Guest
KK-Swizzle
1 year 10 months ago

*CLAP*…..*CLAP*…..*CLAP*…..

(for ignoring the troll)

frivoflava29
Member
frivoflava29
1 year 10 months ago

So far, 21 people don’t know that Fangraphs (and professional baseball) hasn’t existed since the mid-18th century

frivoflava29
Member
frivoflava29
1 year 10 months ago

I’m genuinely confused if people despise irony (because I really like this site) or if I’m genuinely annoying and not the least bit funny in suggesting that such a nice site would do something so bold, stupid, and pointless as “cash in” on another sport’s huge star. C’est la vie, I’m not a people person.

asdf
Guest
asdf
1 year 10 months ago

i’m with you frivoflava. I enjoyed the article because I literally read everything Jeff writes on the internet, but it’s a legitimate question that less-brain-sick people should ask.

The 18th-century comment was a bit much, though, which is probably why you’re getting downvotes.

thebamoor
Member
thebamoor
1 year 10 months ago

How much “should” LBJ-as-a-baseball-player make every year?

asdf
Guest
asdf
1 year 10 months ago

@ $6m per win? $242,000,000

But let’s not stop there. What would a contract for such a player look like?

Using standard baseball aging models (- .5 war / year), $6m/win increasing at 4% annually, and assuming this is his peak year (age 27), and that the team paying him wants him until he’s a 2 win bench player…

It would be an 81 year contract worth $438,886,455,000,000.

In other words, 107 year old Clayton Trout would be the utility infielder + closer for the world series winning Los Angeles Yankees.

James
Guest
James
1 year 10 months ago

How can we translate this to blernsball performance?

steex
Guest
steex
1 year 10 months ago

It would be approximately equal to the performance of Tiny Iota.

Rapido
Guest
Rapido
1 year 10 months ago

MULTIBALL! MULTIBALL! BLURN! BLURN!

Fry
Guest
Fry
1 year 10 months ago

Boring? Baseball wasn’t…hmm, so they finally jazzed it up.

Hank Aaron the 24th
Guest
Hank Aaron the 24th
1 year 10 months ago

Wade Boggs, goes down smooth

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
1 year 10 months ago

One time a while back a tried to figure out how many WAR a pitcher who started all 162 games and pitched a 27 strikeout game every time would be. I think I came up with over 300 WAR or something like that.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 10 months ago

I get that it was just an exercise, but at that point it’s just easier to bypass the WAR formula and say “a replacement-level team wins about 50 games, and a team with this player wins 162 games, therefore this player is worth 112 WAR”.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
1 year 10 months ago

Surely the team this hypothetical pitcher played for would lose a handful of games, right? Just because every out is recorded via strikeout doesn’t mean the other team never scores.

dude
Guest
dude
1 year 10 months ago

I would assume it would be a 100% K%, not just 27 K/9.

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
1 year 10 months ago

Right, but drop a bunch of third strikes and you can have 100% k-rate and lose a game. In theory. In crazy-land, where we currently are.

atoms
Guest
atoms
1 year 10 months ago

Seems unlikely that it would happen enough times in a row, in one game, to be likely to affect the outcome. Plus even with a couple drop-3rd-strike runs, the pitcher’s team could still win by scoring their own runs.

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
1 year 10 months ago

It’s less unlikely than a starting pitcher running a 100% k-rate for a season, so…

Brian
Guest
Brian
1 year 10 months ago

If replacement level is 52 wins over 162 games, wouldn’t the max WAR in a season be 110? It certainly couldn’t be higher than 162. (Sorry in advance for taking an admittedly goofy premise seriously.)

Alec
Guest
Alec
1 year 10 months ago

All of his teammates are far below replacement, obviously.

vecnyj
Member
Member
vecnyj
1 year 10 months ago

Yeah, if you stocked the team with players that hit ~.100 you could still score enough to win games 1-0 and maximize the pitcher’s WAR.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
1 year 10 months ago

Isn’t that Sidd Finch?

Bomok
Guest
Bomok
1 year 10 months ago

No, that’s Pitcher McPitcherson.

Dave
Guest
Dave
1 year 10 months ago

How about we make him a left-handed pitcher who throws right-handed when playing second? That would save his pitching arm for his starts.

Dave
Guest
Dave
1 year 10 months ago

*when playing short

The Party Bird
Guest
The Party Bird
1 year 10 months ago

Why don’t we make him pitch left-handed one day, then right-handed the next, then three days of shortstop?

Phillies' Front Office
Member
Phillies' Front Office
1 year 10 months ago

What if we make him 10 feet tall, with a 105 MPH pitching machine for an arm?

Alex
Guest
Alex
1 year 10 months ago

Oh, and I suppose Pitch-o-mat 5000 was just a modified howizter??

Brian
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Why are we stopping at 105 in this scenario?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 10 months ago

Is that basketball WAR a real thing? Does anyone happen to know how well developed it is?

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard
1 year 10 months ago

They use PER (personal efficientcy rating) which incorporates all a players statistics into one number (30 being the high water mark, much as 10 WAR is in baseball), but they do have estimated wins added as well, though it’s no where near as well refined as WAR since producing values for off the ball maneuvers is in it’s infantcy at this point.

nd
Guest
nd
1 year 10 months ago

One thing to point out to Dave is that PER or Win Shares don’t use a replacement level baseline. A guy with 0 WAR (basketball) would have a positive but terrible PER.

nd
Guest
nd
1 year 10 months ago

What I’m saying is that I think he is overrating LeBron because he doesn’t understand exactly how these basketball stats work. He should probably be shooting for something closer to the first scenario if we want to be realistic. See this link for a little of what I mean:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/lebron-james-shouldnt-stay-in-miami-or-go-to-cleveland/

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
1 year 10 months ago

Next do 1973 Secretariat.

FirstCasualtyofWAR
Guest
FirstCasualtyofWAR
1 year 10 months ago

Conditional: is David Eckstein riding 1973 Secretariat? That’s gonna shoot our Heart metric through the roof!

John C
Guest
John C
1 year 10 months ago

Make Prince Fielder his jockey, and he’d still beat everyone else. Unless 1973 Sham is in the race, too.

John Elway
Member
1 year 10 months ago

If I was a filly, I would.

Just neighing.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
1 year 10 months ago

How wide did your eyes get on that one? Giftwrapped.

reillocity
Guest
reillocity
1 year 10 months ago

Scouting Report: Tends to stumble out of the gate, but finishes exceptionally well often finding his best stride late. Potential Triple Crown candidate who has yet to harness much of his power; slow home run trot gets under the skin of pitchers and bench jockeys alike. Runs like a thoroughbred, almost chomping at the bit when on the sacks. Has some problems when in the field, especially with flies. Requires lots of treatment from the trainer. Strong bloodlines; speed runs in the family. Main focus was sowing his wild oats back when he was down on the farm, but has matured since and now favors the horsehide over rolling in the hay with the fillies.

John Elway
Member
1 year 10 months ago

Wow, talk about a WAR Horse!

Pat Burrell
Guest
Pat Burrell
1 year 10 months ago

I was known for rolling in the hay when I was with the Phillies.

BigBird
Member
BigBird
1 year 10 months ago

LeBaseball would pitch left handed and field right handed. Arm problems officially solved.

BigBird
Member
BigBird
1 year 10 months ago

*LeBaseball James

Larry Bernandez
Guest
Larry Bernandez
1 year 10 months ago

Couldn’t there be an option 3 where the league was just so horrible that no other player came even close to being as good as Mike Trout?

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

Actually, that’d be interesting. How bad would the league have to be to cause Mike Trout to become, say, a 23 WAR player?

Greg
Guest
Greg
1 year 10 months ago

I’ll have to run the numbers on my MLB2K10 center fielder. I think he’s hitting .560/.570/1.400 or so.

Achmed Khan
Guest
Achmed Khan
1 year 10 months ago

Dude…..that’s nothin’

Pablo Sanchez
Guest
Pablo Sanchez
1 year 10 months ago

Soy Pablo

attgig
Member
attgig
1 year 10 months ago

commendatori
Guest
commendatori
1 year 10 months ago

This is one of your finest pieces of work, Jeff. Your mind works in some crazy ways…and I like it.

taprat
Guest
taprat
1 year 10 months ago

I was hoping for an image of Lebron playing baseball.

Juan LeBron
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Juan LeBron
1 year 10 months ago

Yeah, that would have been nice. (Hangs head)

Zachary Hornstein
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Zachary Hornstein
1 year 10 months ago

Only if this were a Cistulli article.

Jon
Guest
Jon
1 year 10 months ago

I know nothing about basketball. Zero. If you asked me to name all the active basketball players I know, my answer would be “LeBron James, Carmello somebody, that Chinese guy, and….is Shaq still playing?”.

But anyway, I just searched for “basketball WAR leaders.” I ended up here, which doesn’t mention WAR (or WARP, as it seems is more common in basketball): http://espn.go.com/nba/seasonleaders

So apparently ESPN has some player rating metric called, well, “ESPN.” There’s this guy Kevin Durant whose rating is higher than LeBron’s. And Kevin Love, who’s right behind LeBron.

I don’t know how legitimate this ESPN rating is, but does it mean that LeBron isn’t quite as dominant as you’d think when creating the baseball equivalent of him? Is it just the nature of basketball (mainly because there’s only 5 main guys per team) that there are *multiple* players who are the equivalent of Ozzie Smiths who hit 70 HR per year and get on base 60% of the time?

Michael
Guest
Michael
1 year 10 months ago

I believe its partially what you are addressing, with less players meaning individuals can contribute more, but in regards to Lebron, he has been much more consistently good than the others mentioned.

Jon
Guest
Jon
1 year 10 months ago

Ok, thanks. But is Lebron *twice* as good as anyone else in the NBA (the way that Ozzie Bonds would be about twice as good as current Mike Trout)?

I guess my point is that the baseball equivalent of LeBron is unfathomably good. Good enough to make me go look at basketball stats – which I’ve never done in my life – to see just how dominant LeBron is. But then by some metric (this ESPN rating, which I assume is at least *somewhat* legitimate, at least in the way OPS is) there are two other guys who are, if not better, at least in the same conversation as LeBron.

That really surprised me. Is this stat just bogus and is LeBron really that much better? Or is this kind of like the analog of a basketball fan who knows nothing about baseball hearing how Mike Trout is the best player on the planet, and then finding out that (this year, at least) Tulo and Felix are not very far behind him?

Paul
Guest
Paul
1 year 10 months ago

Short answer: the win spread in the NBA is much broader than in MLB, and superstars in the NBA are far more valuable than any MLB player could ever be.

According to basketball-reference.com WAR(or win shares) the best player in basketball in a particular year, be he LeBron, Jordan, Kareem, Wilt or whoever is worth about 20 wins above replacement. The 10 or so other best players are around 14 to 20 basketball WAR, or 28 to 40 WAR in 162 games. So no baseball player could realistically be as good as the usual best 10 NBA players.

But NBA teams have a much wider winning percentage. The 1996 Bulls were 72-10, an 88% winning percentage. That is the equivalent of a 142 win baseball team. Even the typical best team in a typical year wins 64 games, the equivalent of a 126 win team. NBA wins and values just do not translate to any sort of MLB standard.

John C
Guest
John C
1 year 10 months ago

“Is that stat bogus and LeBron really that much better?”

I don’t know. Let’s ask the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Moves Like Munenori
Guest
Moves Like Munenori
1 year 10 months ago

He wasn’t this year; Durant’s win-shares per 48 minutes (WS/48) was higher than Lebron’s. But last year, Lebron had the highest WS/48 since Kareem in 1972-73: http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/ws_per_48_season.html
In addition to what has been pointed out below, that in basketball the best players get more possessions, we’d also need a way to modify baseball so that Lebron could affect other players’ at bats to make them better, like having a power bat in the 5th spot to keep pitchers from pitching around the cleanup hitter. But it would have to go even further…in the at bats Clayton Trout didn’t take, there’d have to be a way in which he could give the other batters easier pitches to hit (like setting up a player for an easy three in the corner).

Jacob Jackson
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

It’s because in basketball the star can generate far more opportunities for himself than any baseball player possibly could. Practically every Thunder possession is filtered through Durant, save for the ones Westbrook hijacks. It would be like if Trout could insert himself into the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th slots in the batting order…while Pujols got two slots in the batting order, and the worst players on the team got one (or zero) lineup slots. Those guys are your Kendrick Perkins types – they rarely touch the ball offensively, so they don’t get assists or shots. His sole offensive role is to free up the good players to score.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

Now I want to see this done. What would happen if, say, you could duplicate Trout three times in a lineup? 1st, 4th and 7th or something. What if we had a basketball-style lineup with only 5 players and yet filled out a 9-player lineup card with them? I dunno, it randomly sounds fun.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

Now I want to see this done. What would happen if, say, you could duplicate Trout three times in a lineup? 1st, 4th and 7th or something. What if we had a basketball-style lineup with only 5 players and yet filled out a 9-player lineup card with them? I dunno, it randomly sounds fun.

John C
Guest
John C
1 year 10 months ago

I would think that you could just treble Trout’s offensive WAR for the season and you would have your answer, assuming a nine-player lineup card. A five-player card wouldn’t be so simple.

You could use Bill James’ old OWP formula to see how a team would do if they had Trout batting in all nine spots in the order, with average pitching and defense. (They’d win about 90 percent of their games.)

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
1 year 10 months ago

Just to take this thought a step further — what if there was no line-up? The manager can send any player to the plate who is not already on the bases.

So Trout would almost always lead-off and continue to bat until he gets on base or there are three outs. When he scores [or is out on the bases], he’d just grab his bat and get back in the batters box.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

That’s an interesting idea, Eric R. You would want to score in as few moves as possible, to get your best player to the plate again.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

Also, now I’m wondering: If you had a team of position players that were only Mike Trout, how bad would your pitching need to be to be a .500 team?

Big Zsig
Guest
Big Zsig
1 year 10 months ago

It is called win shares in basketball, and they have it broken down as a total and as an average.

AC
Guest
AC
1 year 10 months ago

But does he flop and get an opposing player ejected every time there’s a close play at 2nd?

Doug Lampert
Guest
Doug Lampert
1 year 10 months ago

100 years ago today Babe Ruth started his first major league game.

I’m rather surprised that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion of pitchers with insanely good hitting. I assumed when I started the article that this had been a major part of the inspiration.

Doug Lampert
Guest
Doug Lampert
1 year 10 months ago

Whoops, tomorrow, somehow I thought today was the 11th.

BobbyS
Guest
BobbyS
1 year 10 months ago

If you combine Babe Ruth’s best offensive year (15 WAR) and best pitching eyar (5.2) WAR, you’d get pretty close to the first scenario’s number! Over a 162 game season, instead of the 152, he’d be right about there!

Snoth
Guest
Snoth
1 year 10 months ago

This is the greatest sports article ever written. ever.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 10 months ago

Does that make Albert Pujols the Dwayne Wade of baseball? They’ll both be pretty embarassing in a couple of years.

TheMooseOfDeath
Guest
TheMooseOfDeath
1 year 10 months ago

Someone needs to calculate what a full season of Steve Nebraska is worth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILp5n4AQhyI

shawk
Guest
shawk
1 year 10 months ago

What would be the WAR of a switch LH/RH starting pitcher who starts every third day and only pitches complete, perfect games?

Ctownboy
Guest
Ctownboy
1 year 10 months ago

Does this superhuman baseball player get marginal pitches called strikes when he is pitching and balls when he is batting?

Chad
Guest
Chad
1 year 10 months ago

Does option 2 does make any sense? Why would more games by everyone in the league increase his PERCENT of the total?

Dan
Guest
Dan
1 year 10 months ago

Yes, because there would be twice as many WAR in twice as long of a season.

Cody
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

Babe Ruth had years with 15 WAR as a batter and other years with 5 WAR as a pitcher.

John Elway
Member
1 year 10 months ago

If Bo Jackson played Tecmo Baseball, that would be your guy.

Just neighing.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 10 months ago
Josh B
Guest
Josh B
1 year 10 months ago

So let’s build a basketball version of Miguel Cabrera! He would have better stats than LeBron in just about every category, played a position that didn’t require as much skill, let’s say Center, but was still a decent defender and was less handsome than LeBron.

Plucky
Guest
Plucky
1 year 10 months ago

Not center- he’d be a 2-guard who shoots 50% from beyond the arc but needs a great point guard to get him the open looks

D Wade.
Guest
D Wade.
1 year 10 months ago

So I must worth about 40 WARs

Spencer
Guest
Spencer
1 year 10 months ago

Use a switch pitcher a la Greg Harris and it would be easier to get to the WAR numbers without the batty pitching numbers

D'Angelo Jiminez
Guest
D'Angelo Jiminez
1 year 10 months ago

He’d be D’Angelo Jiminez.

jmsdean477
Member
jmsdean477
1 year 10 months ago

Funniest baseball article ever!!!

foxinsox
Member
Member
1 year 10 months ago

Another way to get to >20 WAR, DH who fouls off every strike and walks 700 times a year :)

RMD
Guest
RMD
1 year 10 months ago

JC Boscan made his ML debut at age 30 in 2010 with his only plate appearance being a walk. He had a 350 wRC+. Over 700 PA at 1B that actually should be about 20 WAR, lol.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 10 months ago

What % of MLB WAR would Mike Trout be worth if baseball was played 5-on-5?

Preston
Guest
Preston
1 year 10 months ago

Still wouldn’t be the same because you’d still have pitchers.

Helen of Troy
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Helen of Troy
1 year 10 months ago

I’m only worth 1 WAR, but it’s a big one.

DavidKB
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DavidKB
1 year 10 months ago

I think the only fair way to do this is to consider an equal proportion of the team. So if LBJ is ~20% of his team, you are looking for two players that add up to his WAR. I think the lower target is much better, because it’s proportional to the league. So trading for post-2013 LBJ is like trading for post-’56/’57 Mickey Mantle plus post-’04 Barry Bonds.

Maths R Good
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Maths R Good
1 year 10 months ago

Exactly

Ted Williams
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Ted Williams
1 year 10 months ago

A 42 WAR player?

Imagine if I got to be a 43-45 WAR player!

Mike Trout
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Mike Trout
1 year 10 months ago
Terry Francona
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Terry Francona
1 year 10 months ago

This guy has more rings than anybody I’ve ever managed. And yes, even more rings than LeBron:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=jordan001mic

Bomok
Guest
Bomok
1 year 10 months ago

I read the title.
And i knew Mike Trout must be mentioned.

Latias
Guest
Latias
1 year 10 months ago

Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan on the basketball court, but Michael Jordan descended from atheletic apotheosis and humbled himself to be a mediocre Minor League Baseball player.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 10 months ago

Sweet, way to just throw out an unreasonable premise for an article with no explanation for its basis, and then proceed to write another 1000 words.

When I clicked on the NBA WAR calcs and see there are several guys generating close to LeBron’s WAR, it seems pretty clear your missing something in the translation from basketball to football right? I mean how do you look at that data, process it, then still think writing this article is interesting in the least bit? James is great sure, but not dominant to the extent you portray in this article.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
1 year 10 months ago

Wait, when did he translate from basketball to football?????? Are we converting LeBron James to football, then converting him to baseball?

John Elway
Member
1 year 10 months ago
Longdukdong
Guest
Longdukdong
1 year 10 months ago

A pure pointless and waste of time article. Comparing the WARs for players for two completely different sports in asinine and irrelevant. Mike Trout currently is the Lebron James of Baseball and his 11 WAR proves it. Figure that one out.

jon
Guest
jon
1 year 10 months ago

This makes no sense. Trout is not the Labron of baseball because he cannot humanly contribute as much value to his team as Labron can. The point of the article is what would his stats have to be in order that he did. It was fun. It was your comment that was pointless/waste of time.

Maths R Good
Guest
Maths R Good
1 year 10 months ago

Of course since 5 men are on the court vs 9 OR 10 (ignoring other starting pitchers, and calling bench contributions roughly the same). The total players that contribute to the WAR is way higher for baseball. So in perspective the numbers are about half or 11.5 or 21 WAR to compare. So either equal to the best player currently. Or a good deal better than the best player. Not flying, shooting fireballs, and melting faces with laser vision good.

Sean
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Sean
1 year 10 months ago

It’s not just the number of players. Yes in NBA 5 guys start but rotations are usually 8-9 guys a night. The reason why a NBA guy can be more valuable is because he can take a much higher % of his teams shots whereas baseball you have to wait when your turn comes up. If the NBA was structured where every drive you had to let a different player shoot and you were not allowed to shoot until every other guy on your team had their shot before your last one I think you would find Lebron’s value/impact on his team would go WAY DOWN.

pisstake
Guest
pisstake
1 year 10 months ago

Jeff…one thing you didn’t consider in your calculation for robot number two (that I saw, that is) is what it would mean to take away your immortal shortstop every fifth day to play a position elsewhere on the field. Wouldn’t this 1 day out of every 5 change the defensive adjustment that’s included in the calculation?

Satchel Paige
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Satchel Paige
1 year 10 months ago

They use fielding independent numbers. Which means what would your stats look like if you just told your fielders to sit on the bench.

Roger
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Roger
1 year 10 months ago

Your star shortstop is now playing closer to the plate. Nothing gets to SS or 2B because the pitcher has now fielded those balls perfectly.

Ruben Amaro JR.
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Ruben Amaro JR.
1 year 10 months ago

But how many wins will he have?

tz
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tz
1 year 10 months ago

Doesn’t matter Ruben. If you surround him with proven RBI guys and guys who know how to win, you’ll be golden.

Just imagine adding LeBaseball James AND some guys like Aaron Hill, Billy Butler, AJ Pierzynski, and good buddy Raul Ibanez to your lineup. And with the guys you trade to open up spots for them, imagine getting back a rotation full of winners like Simon, Estrada, Haren, de la Rosa, and Volquez. Heck, since this is all a dreamscape anyway, you can tack on not one but TWO proven closers, guys like Sergio Romo and Addison Reed.

Just look how great you’d be at mid-season:

C Pierzynski 0.0 WAR
1B Howard 0.0
2B Hill -0.8
SS LeBaseball 11.5
3B Asche -0.4
LF Butler -0.8
CF Brown -1.3
RF Ibanez -1.0

Bench Freddy Galvis -0.9
Bench Tony Gwynn Jr. -0.8
Bench Cesar Hernandez -0.7

SP Alfredo Simon 0.5
SP Jorge de la Rosa 0.6
SP Dan Haren 0.2
SP Marco Estrada -0.9
SP Edinson Volquez 0.1

Closer Sergio Romo -0.9
Bonus Closer Addison Reed -0.5
Swingman Rofausto Carmandez -0.4

Total WAR 3.5, plus .3 x 81 = 27.8 wins

So if you round up because of grit and TWTW, you get 28 wins. That’s more wins than the Sixers will get last year AND this year combined!

In other words, you need to make your pitch to LeBaseball while he’s still available.

Chuck Norris
Guest
Chuck Norris
1 year 10 months ago

If I pitched against that guy, all that WAR would turn into 42 WHITE FLAGS.

Rockshu
Member
1 year 10 months ago

I think the most realistic (yet still obviously outlandish) scenario in creating Lebron James’ dominance in the form of a baseball player would be this:

An elite starting pitcher capable of starting all 162 games.

Felix Hernandez is on pace for roughly 8 WAR by ZIPS. 8 x 5 = 40.

Imagine your favorite team starts 2014 Felix Hernandez for every damn game of the season without fear of injury or the diminishment of stuff. That’s how much of an edge Lebron James provides on a basketball court, and it’s a lot easier to imagine that than a better peak Barry Bonds.

Old Hoss Radbourne
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Old Hoss Radbourne
1 year 10 months ago

Sounds reasonable to me.

DUTCH4007
Member
DUTCH4007
1 year 10 months ago

I agree , If you tried to something similar thing by letting a player bat 1st 4th and 7th you would have a problem with ghost runners. … Ghost runners do not show up on replay!

TAPS
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TAPS
1 year 10 months ago

Our new improved GhostFX system will get the job done.

Doug
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Doug
1 year 10 months ago

Kind of like how softball pitchers can pitch almost everyday

ET
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ET
1 year 10 months ago

I think the player you’re looking for is Domingo Ayala.

jon
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jon
1 year 10 months ago

Its definitely correct to double the WAR in my opinion, but WAR is probably worth less in basketball than baseball due to their higher standard deviation in winning percentage. A replacement level team in MLB would have a winning percentage of about .370 where in the NBA it would be something like .070 (obviously a made up number but you get the idea). So maybe the first calculation was more accurate.

MrKnowNothing
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MrKnowNothing
1 year 10 months ago

He’d probably flame out in AA ball.

Well Bearded Vogon
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Well Bearded Vogon
1 year 10 months ago

1) Is Lebron James a current basketball player or a hall of famer from another era?

2) If he’s a current player, is he a rookie with an unreasonably small sample size to establish his talent level?
2a) How many games does it take to establish true talent in basketball?
2b) How many games are there in a basketball season?

3) If he’s not a rookie, is this article considering his career performance or a peak year or something?

Hurtlocker
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Hurtlocker
1 year 10 months ago

Just think how good Babe Ruth would have been if the Red Sox had played him in the outfield between starts in his first three years?

Mr Baseball
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Mr Baseball
1 year 10 months ago

Of course I’d like to see LeBron play baseketball games every single day. Imagine if Clayton Kershaw could start every game? He’d be worth more than the 42 WAR LeBron. So basically Kershaw is better than LeBron and yes, in baseball that’s not enough. But get into a winner take all single game elimination, well then..

Sean
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Sean
1 year 10 months ago

First comment I’ve seen that is pointing out the major flaw here. In basketball Lebron can deliberately choose to have more of an impact (i.e. take more of his team’s field goal attempts) whereas Trout can only hit when his turn in the lineup comes up. If it were the free for all nature of basketball Trout could conceivably take 15-20 of his team’s at bats roughly the equivalent % Lebron gets to take for his team. Starting pitchers are the closest thing to being able to do this in baseball – but as we all know they physically can’t do this but every 5th team game so their overall impact can’t be as big as an elite NBA player can.

Tim
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Tim
1 year 10 months ago

Why not use how many standard deviations above the mean Lebron is and find a comparable WAR total for baseball? While Lebron is clearly the best player on the planet, his past season was only marginally better than Kevin Durant’s, if even that and other players like Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin put up similarly great seasons last year

DavidKB
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DavidKB
1 year 10 months ago

I’m sorry, but the statistics you’re requesting cannot be computed on a 4-function calculator. You’ll have to make your own website.

jon
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jon
1 year 10 months ago

Labron is still far better than those players for his versatility and ability to make everyone better. Even still, all those basketball player are far more valuable to their franchises than any baseball players.

Look at this: The Cavs odds to win a title went from 100:1 to 3:1 with Labron. Trout can barely get his team to the playoffs, much less instantly make ANY team in baseball THE odds on favorite to win a championship. Its not a knock on Trout, just that the sports are different and every star basketball player is incredibly important.

Sean
Guest
Sean
1 year 10 months ago

Trout can’t take half of his team’s AB…Lebron can. If you apply the nature of basketball to baseball Trout could easily average 15-20 at bats a game (think of Lebron being able to shoot half his teams field goals a night). That is the huge difference here and why Lebron is much, much more valuable to his team but it has more to due with the nature of his sport. I’m sure you’d find Trout could have as big if not more of an impact if he could average 15-20 at bats a game.

attgig
Member
attgig
1 year 10 months ago

why not have LeBasebron be a catcher instead of a SS who catches every single game he’s not pitching? (or if he can be bugs bunny, catch his own pitches).

Helladecimal
Guest
Helladecimal
1 year 10 months ago

So what would the resulting stat lines actually look like?

$jo
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$jo
1 year 10 months ago

What would Jordan’s imaginary WAR have been under these two calculations?…and what was his actual WAR when he played baseball (can you do that if he never made it to the bigs?)

Trey Parker
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Trey Parker
1 year 10 months ago

But the real question is:

Would LBJ be better than Joe Cooper in BASEketball?

Sean
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Sean
1 year 10 months ago

The difference between the sports is that in basketball it is easier for an individual “take over” a game simply because they can elect to create more opportunities for their team. This means that Lebron could technically take everyone of his teams shots (if needed). Unfortunately, Mike Trout can only have a chance to contribute offensively when his spot in the order comes up. Think if the Angels could let Trout just walk up to Hank Conger mid-at bat, take his bat and finish off the at bat for him. This is essentially what an NBA player can do on any offensive possession.

Because of this you see a value inflation in a sport like basketball and why the Cavs can instantly become favorites to win the title next season. Quarterbacks have the same effect in the NFL and starting pitchers do as well – the only difference is that they normally only get to do so every 5 games. The flip side would be much cooler to see how valuable Trout would be in a sport like basketball where he could have say 50% of his teams at-bats (~15-20 at bats a game!).

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
1 year 10 months ago

Super player could also start every 5th day in addition to playing the field the other four days.

Steve Lidd
Member
Member
Steve Lidd
1 year 10 months ago

Wouldn’t be hard for LeBron to be better at baseball than Jordan was.

On March 4, 1994, Michael Jordan appeared in a game wearing a White Sox uniform for the first time. With No. 45 on his back, he tapped a comebacker to Rangers pitcher Darren Oliver, who tagged the NBA legend out unassisted. While MJ played with the big club during spring, he played the entire ’94 season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, never played in a regular season MLB game, and returned to dominating basketball the next year.
His baseball career may have been brief, but it’s certainly stuck in the public memory. Here’s a brief look back at his White Sox days on the 20th anniversary of his first appearance.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
1 year 10 months ago

I like the concept. If we’re being serious, we should probably measure how much better Lebron is than the league in general. Plot the players, how many standard deviations is he above everyone else and how far is he above the second best player (Durant). Then do the same with MLB.

Doug Lampert
Guest
Doug Lampert
1 year 10 months ago

You can use the difference between average and replacement as a simple proxie for this.

AFAICT the replacement level basketball team gets 10 wins.
Thus the hypothetical average full time player in basketball is worth 31/5 or 6.2 wins.

Lebron is 3.38 times that good. He’s well above average.

The average starter in baseball is worth 2 WAR, but he’s not full time which I assumed and used above. A hypothetical full time average baseball player is worth about 2.38 wins.

Multiply by the 3.38 multiplier we got for Lebron, and you get almost exactly 8 WAR.

So Lebron is an upgrade on replacement in the NBA by about the same amount that a 8 WAR player is an upgrade in Baseball. Looked at this way, you can see why Lebron is the best player in the NBA but not head and shoulders above the field.

Cron
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Cron
1 year 10 months ago

The take home from this for me is what stats it would take to make a 20 or 40 WAR player, otherwise it is kind of a silly exercise.

If a basketball player outperformed the field to the extent 2002 baseball Bonds did and then we back calculated what his WAR would be as a baseball player it would surely be greater than the Lebrawn calculations posted here.

Garrett's Mom
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Garrett's Mom
1 year 10 months ago

Yea, but what about baseketball?

BobbyS
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BobbyS
1 year 10 months ago

42… the answer to life, the universe… and everything.

Mike
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Mike
1 year 1 day ago

Let’s say we take all NBA players whose 2014-2015 WAR was 0 or higher. There’s 302 of them. They have an average WAR of 3.28 and a standard deviation of 3.68.

Let’s say we take all MLB players whose 2014 WAR was 0 or higher. There’s 232 of them (I wish there was 300). They have an average WAR of 2.2 and a standard deviation of 1.8.

At 19.83 WAR, Steph Curry’s WAR was 4.5 standard deviations above average (this is also known as z-score, I think). If you translate this to baseball’s average and standard deviation, it would put him at 10.2 Baseball WAR. Seems pretty reasonable to me, maybe a little high because of the greater variance in playing time in the NBA (allowing for more variance in one’s WAR). If we compared WAR rates in each sport, I suspect Curry would have a smaller z-score in a metric like that.

I don’t get the point of trying to make Lebron James get the share of playing time in the MLB that he has in the NBA (that’s basically what was accomplished in this article). I’d rather compare his skills relative to his peers, and compare that to what an equally skilled baseball player would look like. And my initial analysis here is that Steph Curry, the NBA’s best player this year, was about equal to Mike Trout’s best year a few years ago.

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