Who are the Twins' best/worst players this season according to WAR?
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Wins Above Replacement is not yet a household baseball statistic, but it has been featured more prominently on ESPN and MLB Network over the past few years. Many fans, media members and players shy away from WAR because they don't know how it's calculated.
To be honest, the calculation of WAR isn't as important as knowing most, if not all, front offices in baseball use some type of WAR-like, all-encompassing stat to determine a player's general value. If front offices are using it, we - as fans and media - should use it too.
In short, WAR estimates a player's value by putting a number on how many wins above or below "replacement level" he is worth. WAR's formula includes hitting, fielding, pitching, base running, turning double plays, positional value, games played and almost anything one could imagine. It's not gospel, but it's a good value tool. Replacement level is considered to be "widely available quad-A type talent." In other words, players like Chris Parmelee and Matt Guerrier. It is estimated that even a team full of 25 replacement-level players would still win around 40 games. So, in order to get from 40 wins to 90 wins a team must squeeze 50 Wins Above Replacement out of its 25-man roster - or, an average of 2 WAR per player.
The best players in baseball - Mike Trout, Albert Pujols in his prime, Roy Halladay a few years ago - are worth between 6 and 10 WAR in any given season. So, for example, if the Angels were to replace Trout (10 WAR in 2013) with, say, Eduardo Nunez (0.2 WAR this year) for 162 games, Los Angeles would stand to finish with around 10 fewer wins. Make sense?
Here are the Minnesota Twins Wins Above Replacement leaders through 117 games:
Phil Hughes (4.4 WAR): 150 2/3 IP... 3.88 ERA... 2.64 FIP... 8 K/9... 11 HR allowed
Brian Dozier (3.7 WAR): .240/.340/.427... 20 HR... 83 runs... 51 RBI... 19 SB...
Trevor Plouffe (2.1 WAR): .249/.321/.403... 8 HR... 55 RBI... 31 doubles... improved defense
Eduardo Escobar (1.9 WAR): .278/.320/.403... 31 doubles... plus defender at SS
Kyle Gibson (1.9 WAR): 126 1/3 IP... 4.13 ERA... 3.75 FIP... 55% GB rate (4th in AL)
Glen Perkins (1.9 WAR): 50 1/3 IP... 2.68 ERA... 1.90 FIP... 10.6 K/9
Danny Santana (1.6 WAR): .322/.362/.476... 10 SB... Plays two premium defensive positions
Kurt Suzuki (1.6 WAR): .301/.362/.385... 22 doubles... 48 RBI
Joe Mauer, on average, has been worth 5.7 Wins Above Replacement per 162 games in his career. His WAR is just 0.7 so far in 2014. Not exactly worth $23 million.
Jason Kubel (-1.1), Chris Colabello (-1.0) and Kendrys Morales (-0.9) have been the Twins' least valuable players.
The Twins should be optimistic about Dozier, Escobar, Santana and Gibson - all fairly young players who could still get better going forward.
For comparison's sake, the MLB WAR leaders so far this season are: Felix Hernandez (6.2), Trout (5.9), Alex Gordon (5.3), Corey Kluber (5.2), Troy Tulowitzki (5.1), Jon Lester (5.1), Clayton Kershaw (5.0), Michael Brantley (4.8) and Andrew McCutchen (4.8).
For those asking, "Alex Gordon?!?" it's because he is perhaps the best defensive corner outfielder in baseball. He has saved approximately 20 runs above average so far this season according to defensive metrics. That's incredible.