Today on ESPN.com, Jerry Crasnick writes about players who are carrying their teams in a variety of ways. And while we can’t put a number on any emotional or intangible lift a player gives his squad, we do have some cold, hard numbers that tell us which guys are really carrying their squads. To start, let’s look at which players have the highest percentage of their team’s wins above replacement.
Name WAR % Shin-Soo Choo 1.5 14% Nelson Cruz 1.9 13% Chase Utley 2.5 13% Alex Rios 1.7 12% Andrew McCutchen 1.1 12% Michael Bourn 1.2 12% Vernon Wells 2.0 11% Jered Weaver 1.1 11% Franklin Gutierrez 1.4 11% Justin Morneau 2.2 10%
Based on the numbers, no one is carrying his team quite like Choo, but that’s a byproduct of being an excellent player on a bad team. The same can be said for McCutchen and Bourn. But I think the spirit of carrying a team implies something more. To make it relevant, you have to be able to carry a team that wins.
Therefore, let’s give extra credit to Chase Utley and Roy Halladay of the Phillies. The pair has the most WAR of any batter (2.5) and pitcher (2.2) respectively this season and account for 23 percent of a first-place team’s WAR.
Moving to the American League, Nelson Cruz and Justin Morneau are both are off to scorching starts for division-leading clubs. Morneau’s 2.2 wins above replacement is already more than half as many wins as he has in any season of his career, including his 2006 MVP season and accounts for 10 percent of the Twins’ total WAR. Cruz’s 1.9 wins above replacement is possibly more impressive given that he did that in only 19 games before hitting the disabled list with a hamstring issue. He’s been a force in a lineup that has so far disappointed in offensive production. His production has accounted for 13 percent of the Rangers’ total WAR.
On the other end of the spectrum are some players that teams were counting on to perform and have faltered so far. Chief among those would be Aramis Ramirez (-0.9 WAR) of the Cubs, who has been well below replacement level.
Howie Kendrick (-0.5 WAR) and Erick Aybar (-0.2 WAR) of the Angels have seen bigger than expected regressions from their highs in 2009. Both are under replacement level and are a big reason why the Angels have been so disappointing. Over in Boston, a team that Theo Epstein built on pitching and defense has seen good hitting and the expected solid defensive play, but has been completely let down by its vaunted pitching staff. Josh Beckett’s struggles are highly visible (0.5 WAR), but the entire staff has been less than dominating, and excluding Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, the bullpen has combined for -0.6 WAR. Defenders can only do so much when the ball is being lined all over the park.
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