Players Who Out-WARred Their Entire Teams

The Pirates might not have been the worst hitting team in baseball last season, but they ended up the worst overall by no small margin. The Mariners, at 6.1 wins, produced -138.4 wRAA to the Pirates’ -99, but an 88-run difference in fielding left the Mariners with 6.1 Wins Above Replacement, more than doubling the Pirates’ 2.8. This represents the lowest team batting/fielding WAR since the Diamondbacks finished with -1.2 WAR in 2004. Yet that’s not the most interesting part. Clicking through to the Pirates team WAR figures, one thing stands out. It will make you laugh or cry, depending on your allegiances.

Andrew McCutchen produced more WAR than the entire Pittsburgh offense and defense, himself included.

Since the Diamondbacks’ foray into negative WAR values in 2004, we have for the most part seen the bottom teams produce somewhere around 6 WAR. These teams might have a few quality players contributing to their WAR totals, but they lack a single one who creates more value than the rest of the team squanders. It happened in 2007, when the White Sox produced 3.6 WAR and Jim Thome accounted for 3.7, but that was the only occurrence, other than McCutchen last season, since 2004.

What’s a bit odd is that from the start of the FanGraphs’ era, in 2002, through 2004, one team produced a negative WAR. They therefore had at least one player who out-WARred the entire team. Yet since 2004 we’ve seen just two players out-WAR the team, and we’ve seen zero teams drop below zero wins. It’s a phenomenon for which I have no explanation. But I can dive into the records and show which players produced for these teams, and which players offset that production.

2002: Detroit Tigers, -0.1 WAR

The Tigers were not only the worst offensive team in 2002, they had about a win between them and the second worse offensive team. To make matters worse they were also the worst defensive team in the league. The Expos were close, but both of those teams were more than a win worse than the third-worst team (the Yankees). Surprisingly, the Tigers had two players who produced more than 1.0 WAR. Unfortunately, they also had two players who produced worse than -1 WAR.

Leaders: Robert Fick (1.8), Shane Halter (1.7)

Trailers: Craig Paquette (-1.6), Chris Truby (-1.8)

2003: Detroit Tigers, -1.1 WAR

While the 2002 Tigers stunk, the 2003 Tigers ended up as one of the worst teams of the last 20 years. They finished at 43-119, and their offense and fielders produced -1.1 WAR. They were again the worst offensive team in the league, but they managed to avoid the cellar on defense. Still, the offense was bad enough to again drag them into the negatives. In this year they had one player who produced more than 2 WAR, but again had a nice list of trailers who completely ruined that production.

Leaders: Dmitri Young (2.3), Warren Morris (1.1)

Trailers: Matt Walbeck (-1.1), Ramon Santiago (-1.5)

2004: Arizona Diamondbacks, -1.2 WAR

The Tigers made a complete u-turn in 2004, going from -1.1 WAR to +22.2. The Diamondbacks fell on hard times, though, finishing with -1.2 WAR. This came mostly on the batting end, where they were three wins worse than the next worst team. That tends to happen when you have three players who drag you down by a win or more. Unsurprisingly, two of these are pitchers. But they were still bad enough, even when batting just every five days, to put a damper on the Arizona offense.

Leaders: Chad Tracy (1.9), Steve Finley (1.2), Shea Hillenbrand (1.1), Luis Gonzales (1.0)

Traliers: Andy Green (-1.0), Randy Johnson (-1.1), Brandon Webb (-1.1)

The All-Out-Produce Team

There are players beyond the ones outlined above who out-produced their team in WAR during those seasons. It was kind of hard not to, seeing as the teams were in the negatives. For the moment let’s leave them out. After all, producing a -0.9 WAR, even if you out-WAR the team, isn’t much to brag about. There are four players since 2002 who have out-WARred an entire team while the team was in the positive.

Andrew McCutchen, 2010: 3.3 WAR — Pittsburgh: 2.8 WAR
Jim Thome, 2007: 3.7 WAR — Chicago (AL): 3.6 WAR
David DeJesus, 2005: 3.5 WAR — Kansas City: 2.9 WAR
Joe Randa, 2004: 3.4 WAR — Kansas City: 2.9 WAR

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

23 Responses to “Players Who Out-WARred Their Entire Teams”

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  1. Big Jgke says:

    Joe Randa mentions are awesome!!!!

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  2. lex logan says:

    Seems odd to compare a player to his team including himself. That virtually requires a bad team. I would expect quite a few players with good seasons outperformed the rest of their team in WAR.

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  3. SC2GG says:

    Just think if we could apply this somehow to LeBron and the Cavs last year. I bet it’d set some sort of record.

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  4. J.Ro says:

    So on the 2004 Diamondbacks, every player out-WARed their entire team? (since no one was worse than -1.1)

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    I would expect quite a few players with good seasons outperformed the rest of their team in WAR

    That’s what I thought, the 12 WAR Bonds was on a team where all other batters totaled 21.5 WAR. The ’07 Pujols had teammates that put up more WAR than that.

    Ya remember these guys being on offenses that weren’t “that good” without them … but they actually were not bad at all.

    It’s ridiculous that 3 WAR guys are out-performing their team.’89 Ryan didn’t even out-WAR the rest of the TEX rotation.

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  6. Undocorkscrew says:

    Not the same thing, but I did just learn that without Jason Heyward the 2010 Braves outfield would’ve produced a WAR in the negative.

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  7. don says:

    BBreference gives Steve Carlton 12.2 and the balance of the Phillies roster 0.3 WAR in 1972.

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  8. Barkey Walker says:

    What is the performance of a replacement team supposed to look like? is 50 wins right, or is this also a criticism of the zero level for WAR?

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  9. tbr says:

    “There are four players since 2002 who have out-WARred an entire team while the team was in the positive.”

    When I read that sentence my first thought was “Zack Greinke 2009 had to be one.” Then I saw he wasn’t listed, so I looked him up: Greinke 9.4, Royals 6.1. Why isn’t he included?

    Not that I’m not bummed enough about seeing two Royals already on the list, mind you.

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    • theperfectgame says:

      I think he’s only looking at position players. In 2010, Pirate hitters/fielders put up 2.8 WAR (the number he quotes), but Pirate pitchers racked up 6.7 WAR.

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      • dustygator says:

        Yeah pitching messes it up since no matter how bad you are, getting through 1400+ innings as a team will give you positive WAR.

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      • Bill says:

        If you actually only looked at position players then the Pirates would have been somewhere near 7 WAR. You have to include pitcher hitting to knock them down to 2.8. Ignore pitchers completely and the Pirate position players actually come out ahead of the Mariners despite being miles behind defensively.

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      • theperfectgame says:

        That’s a good point. I should have just said, “it looks like he’s excluded pitching WAR and has only included WAR earned by Pirate hitters and fielders.”

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  10. awy says:

    doesn’t really make sense.

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  11. Matthias says:

    Is that a misprint on Randy Johnson in 2004? I’m pretty sure he put up a mammoth 2004 campaign (9.9 WAR)…

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    • BMH says:

      i was wondering that too, because he went to the yankees in ’05 and was beastly. also thought it was odd that both the Big Unit and Brandon Webb were negatives for the same team in the same year.

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    • Ken says:

      There are a couple of odd typos in the analysis. As far as I can tell, the 2nd and 3rd worst teams in 2002 were quite clearly not the Expos and Yankees – and with the Yankees I don’t see anyway that would make sense.

      The Randy Johnson comment just refers to his hitting value – he was -1.1 WAR at the plate, +9.9 WAR on the mound.

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      • matt w says:

        He means the second-and third-worst defensive teams. In 2002, by UZR, the Yankees had Bernie Williams -16.2 in center, Soriano still at second with a -7.6, Raul Mondesi and Juan Rivera around -5 each in the outfield corners (in 536 and 111 innings respectively!), and basically just a brutal collection of outfielders and backup third basemen. Not even an average season from Jeter could save their D.

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