Can the Royals win in WAR?

A thought occurred to me as I was looking at the online box score for the Tigers-Angels game in progress tonight. The benches of the two teams looked pretty solid. I had just finished watching the Royals beat Cleveland (great game by Greinke!), and I wondered if the Royals’ starting lineup was as good as the benches of the two division-leading teams playing each other tonight. The Royals lineup was a fairly normal one, but the Angels bench did include a couple starters getting a breather–Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli.

In order to compare the two lineups I’m going to use each player’s 2009 wins above replacement as listed on Fangraphs. This is a fun exercise, so I’m not going to worry about things like playing time differences or true talent versus 2009 performance. Which lineup comes out on top?

Pos. Player                WAR
C    Gerald Laird          0.7
1B   Kendry Morales        3.0
2B   Maicer Izturis        2.2
SS   Adam Everett          0.1
3B   Ryan Raburn           0.4
LF   Marcus Thames         0.0
CF   Gary Matthews        -1.9
RF   Clete Thomas          1.6
DH   Mike Napoli           3.1

Pos. Player                WAR
C    Miguel Olivo          1.3
1B   Billy Butler          1.6
2B   Alberto Callaspo      0.9
SS   Yuniesky Betancourt  -1.9
3B   Mark Teahen           1.0
LF   David DeJesus         2.7
CF   Josh Anderson        -0.1
RF   Mitch Maier           0.2
DH   Mike Jacobs          -0.1

The Tigers-Angels bench lineup totals 9.2 wins above replacement in 2009. I put Ryan Raburn at third base and Maicer Izturis manning second. Both have played each position in their career, but Izturis has played more at second base this year, so I put him there and Raburn at third. This is actually a pretty decent lineup, except for Gary Matthews, Jr.

The Royals starting lineup totals 5.6 wins above replacement. Yuniesky Betancourt’s a black hole at shortstop, continuing a fine Royals tradition at that position, and the only real bright spot is David DeJesus, a solid defender whose bat has revived after a poor April.

Wow. It wasn’t even close. I didn’t expect the Royals’ lineup to win out when this first popped into my head, but I thought it might at least be a battle. No such luck.

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I’ve been surprised of late to learn that DeJesus is ahead of Butler in WAR, because DDJ has had, at least on the surface, a…well, not good year.  And Butler has come on pretty well offensively.  I suppose DeJesus makes up the huge bulk of that with his defense, since he’s as good as anybody in left.

But yeah, Mike, it really isn’t fair to put Morales and Napoli up against the Royals lineup, even on paper.  That’s just unfairly stacking the deck.

Jeff Zimmerman
Jeff Zimmerman

Mike – Thanks for the pick me up 🙁  Football can’t start soon enough this year.

Nick Steiner
Nick Steiner

My Royals friend tells me Butler is pretty good at least.  He also likes Yuni because he’s an “upgrade” over TPJ.  Poor guy.