Jeter, Ichiro, And 100 WAR

Recently, David Appelman introduced all of us to the Automated WAR grids. When I clicked into the WAR grids section, the top-25 all-time leaders in recorded MLB history was illustrated as the sample grid. I took some time to let the awe set in, admiring the absolute dominance of the true legends of the game who seem to transcend even the Hall of Fame.

One of the first things I noticed was that every one of them at least matched 100 career WAR. I got to thinking about which players we watch today that we may someday see on this elite 100+ WAR list. There were 19 players active in 2010 that have accumulated 50 career WAR or better. At the top we already see ARod at 120, the only current player who we know for certain fits into that super-elite status. After ARod there is Pujols, who has racked up 81 WAR to date and will likely only need 3 more seasons to join the club. The rest of the players on the list are all guys who are at least in their late 30s and many of them are on the cusp of retirement and/or are in dramatic decline. Realistically, there were only two other players who I thought may have an outside shot at 100 WAR: Jeter and Ichiro.

We’ll start with Jeter because he’s already accumulated 70 WAR. He has averaged 4.7 WAR per season for his career and would have to continue that pace for seven more seasons to reach the 100 mark. Last year was the worst season of his 15-year career, with 2.5 WAR. Bill James projects him at 2.8 next year. Considering his 2009 came with a whopping 7.1 WAR explosion I’m not sure he won’t bounce back a bit more than that, especially after looking at his career-low BABIP in 2010. With that being said Jeter will turn 37 this season, so for him to continue to etch out nearly 5 WAR per season until he’s 44 may be a stretch. Looking at his WAR per age, Jeter seemed like he would have a pretty decent shot until last season’s nose-dive. If he can settle at some middle ground between his two most recent seasons it doesn’t seem impossible that he’ll get to 100 WAR, considering the line-up he plays in, but I’m not sure how likely it is.

Ichiro is an intriguing case. He’s six months older than Jeter and has only accumulated 50 WAR thus far in his career. Like pre-2010 Jeter, Ichiro seems to be almost immune to age regression. He’s averaged 5.1 WAR per season over the course of his MLB career and would need to keep that up for about 10 more seasons to reach the 100 WAR plateau. For most players, staying in the majors until age 47 would be a feat in and of itself, let alone producing far more than the average player does for so long. Ichiro’s skill-set, heavy on speed and defense, typically do not age nearly as well as his have to this point (see Jeter). The skills that usually do age well, on-base skills and power, aren’t generally considered his strong points. Ichiro has a career .099 ISO and his solid on-base average could be volatile if his contact skills begin to decline, considering his fairly average BB%. Still, I think most of us can agree that Ichiro definitely doesn’t fall under the category of normal, to say the least. Looking at his production over his career, he remains near his prime production, so anything is possible.

Here is the WAR Per Age graph of Jeter, Ichiro, Cal Ripken and Al Kaline (the two lowest 100 WAR club totals) for comparison.
WAR Per Age: Ichiro, Jeter, Kaline And Ripken

Ripken and Kaline were each declining steadily at the same point in their careers as our two subjects. One note on Ripken; his WAR numbers took a significant hit when he moved from shortstop to third base. A position move seems likely for Jeter if he plans on playing another six or seven seasons, which makes his rise to 100 WAR seems even less likely.

Neither of the two future Hall of Famers seems likely to reach 100 WAR, but it sure is fun thinking of what kind of seasons remain ahead of them if they even come close.




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29 Responses to “Jeter, Ichiro, And 100 WAR”

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  1. B N says:

    Ichiro is a strange case because he really is a 100 WAR type player. The only issue is, by starting in the majors at age 27 rather than 22 or so- it’s almost impossible to reach 100 WAR.

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  2. AustinRHL says:

    Really, there’s no chance whatsoever (within reason) that either of these two players will reach 100 WAR – they’re just too old, and you can’t ask someone in his late thirties to repeat his career averages for the better part of a decade. There likely are one or two players currently in the Majors other than Rodriguez and Pujols who will reach 100 WAR, but they’re in the early stages of their careers – perhaps one of Longoria, Zimmerman, Tulowitzki, Cabrera, or someone else even younger will go on to be an exceptionally durable and productive player for fifteen or twenty seasons. I’d give any of them a much better shot at the milestone than I would Ichiro or Jeter.

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  3. hunterfan says:

    Is this just for position players? If not, if you’re going to give Jeter and Ichiro an outside shot, I don’t know why you wouldn’t for Halladay. He’s 33 now, and at 61.6. It would depend how long he wanted to pitch, what his injuries were like, etc, but it’s certainly possible.

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  4. unafiji says:

    What about Chipper Jones???

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  5. Matt K says:

    just looking at some of the more active players…
    1) it’s really sad seeing how great griffey was early, and how many 0 war season’s he’s had later.
    2) I wonder if chipper jones comes back successfully from surgery, if he would stick around 3-5 seasons. if he comes back healthy, he could conceivably (though another longshot) to hit 100.
    3) Ichiro needs a better offense around him for his WAR to go up at all. he’s not only hampered by starting late, but also having nobody else reliable later on to offer him any protection. I also wonder how much him being a RF vs a CF affects his overal WAR.

    besides these two,
    I think some possibilities beltran (depending on knee), utley (depending on hip), cabrera, wright, teixeira, crawford, and mauer would be the closest possibilities to hitting 100 by the time their careers are over, with huge health questions on beltran, and possibly big position hit on mauer.

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  6. Matt K says:

    the one thing about chipper jones was that he was talking about retirement at the end of last season, but because he got hurt, said he doesn’t want to leave the game hurt. he could conceivably retire after this season.

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  7. steve mc says:

    Kaline was a God offensively and defensively during that pitchers era.
    his only weakness, much like Mantle, the best player in the AL in that era, was his/their inability to stay healthy. 400 missed games for Kaline, and 600 missed by the Mick.
    As for the two future hof’ers, I think that Ichiro will finish his great career with a higher WAR than Jeter, not to take anything away from this great Yankee’s player.

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  8. Pachoo says:

    Chipper has a much more likely shot at 100 than either Jeter or Ichiro has. Chipper is right now sitting at 85.5 WAR for his career.

    During the 13 year stretch from 1996 – 2008, which encompasses most of his 16 year career, he averaged 5.9 WAR’s per year.

    Just a few years ago he was still one of the best players in the game. in 2007 he posted a 7.4 WAR year and in 2008 he posted a 7.6 WAR year.

    2011 will just be 3 years removed from the 7.6 WAR performance. He Chipper can somehow rejuvenate his game a bit and play maybe 140 games per year, he can realistically post the average 4.83 WAR seasons he would need over the next 3 years to reach 100 WAR. I think it is unlikely but also very possible..much more possible than Jeter or Ichiro’s chance.

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  9. Pachoo says:

    Also, in 2007 he only played 134 games to post a 7.4 WAR. In 2008, he only played in 128 games to post a 7.6 WAR.

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  10. Matt says:

    I would say Miguel Cabrera has more of a shot than Ichiro. He is 13 wins behind him but 10 years younger. If he averages 6 wins a year like he did last year for the next 5 that will put him at 68 at age 32. I think there is a decent chance he does that since this should be his prime as a hitter. From there he would need to average 4 WAR a season until he is 40. Considering he has been a player that doesn’t rely on speed or huge defensive numbers for WAR I think that isn’t completely far fetched. I think his skills are something that should age pretty well. This may seem unrealistic but I think there is a much better chance of this happening than Ichiro accumulating the same amount of WAR the next 10 years as he did in the previous 10.

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  11. Zach Kolodin says:

    “Ichiro’s skill-set, heavy on speed and defense, typically do not age nearly as well as his have to this point (see Jeter). The skills that usually do age well, on-base skills and power, aren’t generally considered his strong points. ”

    I believe that this a misunderstanding of what the terminology of young player and old player skills means. Players whose value depends on speed and defense age better than those whose depends on power and patience BECAUSE power and patience can develop later in a player’s career, whereas speed cannot.

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  12. JayT says:

    Definitely seems unlikely anyone currently in the game other then Pujols will make it to 100. At least nobody that has played more then a couple of years.
    That being said, I’d put my money on Felix Hernandez I think. He’s already played for parts of six years, he’s only 25, and he already has close to 30 war.
    After that, Mauer and Sabathia are the only guys I think have a real chance.

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  13. Pachoo says:

    Of the active position players, this would be my ranking, in order, of the most likely to able to earn 100 WAR during their careers. I listed their current WAR and their age at the beginning of the 2011 season:

    1. Arod – already above 100 WAR – 107.4 WAR / 35 years old
    2. Pujols – 80.6 WAR / 31 years old
    3. Miguel Cabrera – 37.3 WAR / 27 years old (turns 28 on 4/18/2011)
    4. Heyward – 5.0 WAR / 21 years old
    5. Andruw Jones – 70.5 WAR / 33 years old (turns 34 on 4/23/2011)
    6. Joe Mauer – 32.7 WAR / 27 years old (turns 28 on 4/19/2011)
    7. Ryan Zimmerman – 26.4 / 26 years old
    8. Evan Longoria – 19.6 WAR / 25 years old
    9. Hanley Ramirez – 28.5 WAR / 27 years old
    10. Adrian Beltre – 50.8 WAR / 31 years old (turns 32 on 4/7/2011)
    11. Chipper Jones – 85.5 WAR / 38 years old (turns 39 on 4/24/2011)
    12. David Wright – 36.6 WAR / 29 years old
    13. Jose Reyes – 25.6 WAR / 27 years old
    14. Carl Crawford – 34.5 WAR / 29 years old
    15. Scott Rolen – 71.6 WAR / 36 years old
    16. Derek Jeter – 70.4 WAR / 36 years old

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  14. Pachoo says:

    Actually, I’d move Andruw down since he doesn’t have an everyday job anymore.

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  15. nateg26 says:

    In response to a few comments; this discussion only regards position players. The WAR grids top-25 is what inspired the article and it omits pitchers. While I don’t find it hard to believe that some of the younger superstars could have a 100 WAR career, I didn’t know if players with less than half of the WAR needed to reach the bench mark should really apply. Most of the players argued for have a LONG way to go or have a lot more to prove IMO before they get into the same conversation as any HOF’ers. Jeter & Ichiro aren’t likely to reach 100 career WAR but they are both interesting and unique players who still hold some possibility of doing so. The article was an observation of what it would take for them to actually make it.

    As for Chipper Jones: If Jones hadn’t practically retired already then I’d agree with his supporters. I admit that he’s an interesting case, but one of the reasons I chose Jeter & Ichiro as my subjects is because they have both expressed intent to play for a number of years to come. Jones did not seem to fit this mold.

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  16. elbombz says:

    just based on bill james’ favorite toy, here is the percentage chance of getting 100 WAR for the 16 players listed by Pachoo plus a couple I added on:

    1. A-Rod – 110%
    2. Pujols – 97%
    3. Miguel Cabrera – 17.6%
    4. Heyward – n/a
    5. Andruw Jones – 0%
    6. Joe Mauer – 0.02%
    7. Ryan Zimmerman – 21.5%
    8. Evan Longoria – 25.9%
    9. Hanley Ramirez – 13.3%
    10. Adrian Beltre – 5.4%
    11. Chipper Jones – 0%
    12. David Wright – 0%
    13. Jose Reyes – 0%
    14. Carl Crawford – 8.1%
    15. Scott Rolen – 0%
    16. Derek Jeter – 0%
    17. Roy Halladay – 26.4%
    18. Tim Lincecum – 22.2%
    19. Chase Utley – 13.2%

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  17. Fett42 says:

    Felix Hernandez: 27.2 WAR, 24 years old. Not too shabby at all.

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  18. cktai says:

    CC Sabathia: 49.6 WAR, 30 years old. 12 WAR and 3 year behind on Halladay while averaging over 6 WAR per year over the last 5 years

    Justin Verlander: 25.3 WAR, 27 years old, not too dissimilar from Lincecum.

    I’m going to guestimate that there is a 70% that one of these 5 (Lincecum, Halladay, Sabathia, Verlander and Hernandez) will reach 100 WAR.

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  19. cktai says:

    70% chance*

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  20. bill says:

    Andruw Jones has averaged 0.6 WAR for the last 3 years. He’d be lucky to get to 80 WAR, much less 100 WAR.

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  21. unafiji says:

    Chipper Jones has stated to sports illustrated that he has a very short time to make an absurd amount of money, and that it would be foolish to waste that opportunity. He will not hurt the organization, but if he can reasonably contribute he will finish out his contract. What is reasonable to him is something only he can define. In my opinion (attempting to be an avid braves baseball scholar based on my obsessive compulsion with the organization) I would speculate he is a bad statistical season or a major surgery(that requires significant rehab) away from retirement. But i would not be surprised at all to see Chip finish out his contract if his walk total/OBP remains high and avg stays above a not too insulting .260 mark. That being said he is foaming at the mouth to just sit on his ranch, and blow the f*&K out of any unfortunate animals that walk in front of his scope/bow. but in regards to this article he is by far the closest and most likely to surpass the 100WAR career benchmark.

    ps i was first to bring up chipper in this convo :P

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  22. Pachoo says:

    Thanks for the followup stats elbombz. I wonder why Mauer’s probability is so damn low considering his age and WAR to this point. I guess it boils down to the fact that catcher’s don’t age well.

    I’d think, however, that as he ages he will get more plate appearances at 1B and DH which should help him keep accruing WAR. I doubt his real chance to reach 100 WAR in his career is really as low as a 1 in 5,000 chance. That seems way too pessimistic.

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  23. Matt says:

    Adrian Beltre has a better chance than Jeter or Ichiro, in my opinion.

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  24. Alec says:

    In all of my experience on this site and USSM, it has been often pointed out that power is an “old” player skill, in that it erodes quickly, and players who derive value from speed and athleticism often age much better than slugger, ie Kenny Lofton…

    Correct me if I am wrong.

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  25. JayT says:

    @cktai: I doubt there is anything close to a 70% chance a pitcher that is currently in the game will reach 100 WAR. As far back as Fangraphs’ WAR stats go (only to 1974), there have only been three pitchers to get 100 WAR, and Baseball-reference only has six guys with 100+ WAR.

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  26. elbombz says:

    yeah, mauer got penalized for being a catcher. bill james’ favorite toy reduces the total amount of playing time for catchers. there’s a reason why there has never been a catcher with 100 WAR in the history of the sport. mauer might get playing time at DH and 1B, but his WAR will go down when he goes and play at less demanding positions. but he does have that option to be a DH that players like bench and berra never had. mauer would have a 21.5% chance for 100 WAR if he wasn’t a catcher.

    I also agree with JayT. I think it would be less than 70% chance that 1 out of those 5 pitchers will reach 100 WAR because pitchers are much more fragile than everyday players. you never know when one of them will blow out a shoulder or elbow. but I would be definitely be rooting for halladay to be the one who gets 100 WAR.

    chances for 100 WAR:
    sabathia 20.4%
    verlander 17.7%
    f hernandez 28.9%

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  27. Clears Cleaver says:

    Looking at the all-time grid, if Ted Williams did not go to war he would have been at the top of the list. Incredible

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  28. Everett says:

    Now that we know the James’ odds of each reaching 100, its fairly simple to calculate the percentage that at least 1 of them does.

    .728 * .736 *.796 * .823 * .711 = 27.06% that none of them makes it

    Therefore, 72.9% chance that one or more make it. That 70% is a pretty darn good guess, if you like James’ system.

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  29. Adam S says:

    Ichiro and Jeter seem like long shots. I think the 0% estimate for Jeter is right on.

    Utley, Cabrera, and Beltre seem most likely of guys who are 1/3 of the way there already.

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