## Negative WAR: 2010 Team Data

Each team every year doesn’t make perfect personnel decisions and ends up playing several players that produce at below replacement level. The reasons for playing these players are many (i.e. a player’s talent has degraded since they last played, injuries devastating the team, inability to evaluate talent, etc). Today, I will look at team totals for negative WAR players (I ignored any negative WAR generated by pitchers hitting).

First here is a look at the number of players each team played that contributed negative WAR in 2010.

The real value that sticks out is that of the 6 teams with the lowest number of negative WAR players, 5 of them were playoff teams this past season. The other team was San Diego which exceeded the expectation of many people. These teams were able to correctly evaluate talent in order to not have to utilize below replacement level players.

Besides just looking at the number of negative WAR players, the total negative WAR players contributed is important. A team can quickly determine if one of its players is not playing up to replacement level standards and replace them. Here is how the MLB teams stacked up in 2010:

The difference between the team with the most negative WAR, the Mariners, and the least, the Reds, is over six WAR. It is very tough for teams to make up for that lack in talent in some players by others on a team and still be successful. The Rangers though were able to overcome the most negative WAR of any playoff team and make it to the World Series.

Now with the teams ranked and compared to each other, I will next try to break down the reasons why some teams put below replacement players on the field this past year.

### 33 Responses to “Negative WAR: 2010 Team Data”

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1. xeifrank says:

Shouldn’t the negative WAR be attributed to randomness? A players observed WAR and his true talent WAR are two different things. The observed WAR for a low true talent WAR player can easily dip below 0.0 WAR based on randomness. The teams that should see the most negative observed WAR should be the teams that play the most players with a true talent level WAR close to 0.0

• jinaz says:

I think that’s right. Part of this is skill in finding players with true talents above zero, and part of it is just chance.

The Reds were a deep team this past season, with lots of above-replacement parts in terms of true talent (even if few stars outside of Votto). But they also certainly got lucky, in that very few players who are at or near replacement in talent laid an egg performance-wise. I do think the Reds should do well on this list next year (they should still be pretty deep), but I’d doubt that they’d lead (or trail?) the league again.

2. Gio says:

Where did all these dozens of negative WAR players come from? Last month there were only six.

• Heather says:

This. What meets the criteria for a team having a negative WAR player? Does Nate Robertson count for the Phillies because he pitched in 1 game before they released him? Or is there an innings/appearance minimum?

• Heather says:

Also, does it count against the team if the player contributed negative WAR with THEM or just in the season in aggregate?

• phoenix says:

this. does this include anyone who threw a major league pitch and anyone who took up a bat for one pitch or played one ball in the field? if it does include them all, the number of players data becomes a lot less relevant. but the total negative WAR should not be affected…

• Jeff Zimmerman says:

It was any player that had negative value no matter how little time and I divided out the values if a player played on 2 different team, like Willie Bloomquist for the Reds and Royals.

3. Russell says:

The Rangers’ situation isn’t that surprising really, when you consider that they struggled with injuries throughout the season and made major changes at first, catcher, and pitcher through trades. Most of the players who contributed negative WAR were not on the postseason roster.

• Ken says:

It should also be noted that the Rangers played in the worst division in baseball. While they’re 21st in team negative WAR, they are only beaten in division by the As at 19th, and from the chart it is very close.

4. tangotiger says:

“put below replacement players”

You might mean to say “put players who performed at below replacement-level”.

5. ThundaPC says:

I don’t think most teams actively mean to put negative WAR players on the field. I think it’s more of a case with teams putting out players that just happen to produce negative WAR value over the course of the season.

6. Nats Fan says:

I guess the NATS have more depth than I many think. They are 7th best on this table despite being a last place team.

A high percentage of their negative WAR came from pitching. Could this be used as evidence to stress the importance of pitching?

Hey, Jeff Zimmerman. Let me know if you want me to research that. I’m caught up on sleep, so I won’t be napping at work tomorrow. Therefore, I’ll be pretty bored and have plenty of time to do it.

• Jeff Zimmerman says:

The number are easy to figure out. Remember I removed the any pitcher’s hitting negative WAR

I don’t think you understand what I was saying. A high percentage of the Nationals’ negative WAR came from pitching. The Rockies and Twins had the same amount of WAR coming from negative-WAR players, but their record wasn’t nearly as bad. Could this mean that negative WAR from pitchers has more of an impact on a team’s record than negative WAR from position players?

• JoeyO says:

One loss with the bats or One loss from the mound – its still always going to be merely One loss.

The reason the Nats had fewer wins then the Twins and Rockies, despite having a similar amount of negative, comes from the fact the Nats had fewer Positive WAR players producing fewer total Wins then the Twins and Rockies.

7. Cory says:

The Nationals’ surprising paucity of negatives is interesting. Must be a lot of guys contributing very little positive WAR.

• CircleChange11 says:

Or playing partial seasons, due to platoon and/or injury.

8. Dan says:

It would be interesting to take a look at this data in relation to the data on DL stints / injuries. This would allow us to see which teams were forced to play negative WAR players because of injuries and which teams have good depth that allowed them to continue putting positive WAR players on the field despite injuries.

• B N says:

Exactly. As soon as I looked at the first negative WAR chart, my thoughts were: “This looks like a chart of that depends a heck of a lot on health.”

I bet you could get a solid estimate of this by looking at number of DL trips and length of DL trips respectively. I mean…. isn’t THAT when you bring in your replacement players?

• B N says:

For example, looking at this: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2010-disabled-list-position-data/

I see more than a passing correlation. I would imagine that just by classifying teams into rebuilding vs competing, plus looking at the DL, you could get fairly close to the same information. The one major outlier would be Seattle, which wasn’t that unhealthy, wasn’t in a rebuilding year, but just plain stunk.

• Jeff Zimmerman says:

Probably since I wrote them both it would be too hard to correlate the data. Give me a week and I will get something written.

9. kds says:

Sometimes for reasons such as rule 5 draftees the team may be required to keep someone on the 25 man roster even if they think he is currently less than replacement level because they think he will be very good in the future.

10. Franco says:

The first graph doesn’t seem very useful since there’s no minimum ABs/IPs. The second graph makes a whole lot of sense for why the Mariners and Mets stunk. At least the Mariners had guys who were good in 09 and were just waiting for them to bounce back at some point in ’10. The Mets kept running out guys who stunk for at least a year when they had plenty of fine replacement levels at AAA.

11. Scott says:

Melky Cabrera played so much while sucking so hard that he pushed the Braves out of the bottom 10, even below the Nats. Gotta say, not gonna miss him.

12. Dann M says:

Also, some teams might have been terrible in mid-season and then decided to continue to suck rather than call up prospects who could contribute in a positive way. The Cubs are a perfect example of this. They did call up Starlin Castro, who then contributed 2+ wins as a 20yo shortstop, as well as Andrew Cashner, whose HR propensity pushed him into a negative WAR, out of necessity for potential competence in middle relief and middle infield play.

But with Geovany Soto having some nagging issues, it wasn’t until they shut him down at season’s end that they had an option other than the massive suckage that is Koyie Hill. Welington “the Impaler” Castillo hit for good power and had a good CS% at Iowa, but they didn’t want to push him up and start his clock ticking. Likewise, AA catcher Robinson Chirinos had a 42/35 BB/K in 2010 to go along with a .300 avg and 1.000 OPS. He’s also probably the best defensive C in the system. Yet, they didn’t even make room on the 40-man for him until they had to a couple weeks ago.

The Derrek Lee trade pushed Xavier Nady into more PT and brought Hoffpauir back into the mix. Hoffpauir is more or less exactly what one thinks about when a replacement-level first baseman is mentioned: 30 years old, murders AAA pitching, has too long a swing with too many holes to be successful in the bigs for an extended period. But their 1B prospects, Bour and Ridling, are at A-ball, while Matt Spencer and Russ Canzler aren’t seen as much more than potential future Hoffpauirs.

Also, a team like the Cubs will have more negative-WAR players because they cycled through ineffective bullpen options. Beyond the amazing one-two punch of Marshall and Marmol, they employed 11 relievers who tallied negative WARs, 1 who went for even money (Bob Howry), and 1 who contributed 0.1 RAR (Scott Maine in 13 innings). Thomas Diamond and Tom Gorzelanny were net-positives based on their starting, but both were minor negatives in relief. Carlos Zambrano, amazingly, was a hair above average in his ill-fated relief stint. Casey Coleman, likewise, was a plus/plus despite his inauspicious debut. Then the back end duo was worth exactly 50.0 runs above replacement level over the course of the year (5.3 combined WAR for Marmol and Marshall), while the other relievers combined were -22 RAR or so. Of the negative-WAR pitchers, only one (Grabow) entered 2010 with more than .152 years of MLB service time.

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14. Jeff Francoeur says:

Hahaha…I’m not mentioned anywhere in this article, Yah Baby!

15. S.F. Giangst says:

It doesn’t matter how many -WAR players you have so long as you limit their opportunity to damage the club’s overall season.

Case in point: the Giants. Of all the -WAR players, only one (Fontenot) was on the roster on the final day of the season.

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18. JoeyO says:

I think the surprise here is KC.

Really, they easily have the biggest crop of Zero-value players, and generally start them on a daily basis. Yet they finished in the bottom half here.

What it tells me? This was their “everything went right season”, their “everyone peaking” showing – and they still threatened 100 loses…