The Total WAR Project, Part IV: St. Louis Cardinals – Phillies Nation

The Total WAR Project, Part IV: St. Louis Cardinals

One sentence introducing you to this format. While at The Phrontiersman, I identified the ten teams that pose the greatest threat to the Phillies’ World Series run in 2010 and decided to see how they’re doing in relation to each other this offseason; the rules are here, and we’ve already covered the Braves, Mets, and Rockies. If something seems odd, or if you have questions about the methodology, odds are you’ll find it in one of those posts.

This isn’t really a war story, but I find it interesting. English singer-songwriter James Blunt was actually a Royal Army captain before making it big as a musician. While serving in an armored reconnaissance unit during the NATO peacekeeping mission in 1999, Blunt kept his guitar strapped to the outside of his tank and played in his free time. It was there that he began writing his album Back to Bedlam, which, of course, contained his international No. 1 hit, “You’re Beautiful.” But I hate that song, so I’m not going to link it here.

Interesting fact about the Cardinals: they’re not named after the bird. Nope—according to Bill James, St. Louis had three professional baseball teams in the late 19th century. The Cardinals were actually founded in 1882 as the Brown Stockings (later the Browns). In 1885, the St. Louis Maroons joined the National League from the Union Association before moving to Indianapolis. Finally, in 1900, the Browns, after a year as the St. Louis Perfectos (I’m sure whoever thought of that moniker lost his job immediately), the team decided to continue the city’s baseball tradition of adopting progressively lighter shades for its team names—cardinal refers to the color (much like Stanford University), not the bird.

Incidentally, in 1902, the American League set up shop in St. Louis with another team called the Browns. In 1954 they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Don’t worry. They are named after the bird.

Total WAR continues after the jump. With some Madcon, for your listening pleasure.

2009 Roster

C1: Yadier Molina (3.4 WAR)
C2: Jason LaRue (1.7 WAR)

1B: Albert Pujols (8.4 WAR)
2B: Skip Schumaker (1.2 WAR)
3B: Mark DeRosa (0.4 WAR), Joe Thurston (0.2 WAR), Brian Barden (0.4 WAR)
SS: Brendan Ryan (3.2 WAR)
INF: Khalil Greene (-0.8 WAR), Julio Lugo (0.2 WAR)

OF1: Matt Holliday (2.7 WAR),
OF2: Colby Rasmus (2.3 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Ludwick (1.8 WAR)
OF4: Chris Duncan (-0.5 WAR)
OF5: Rick Ankiel (0.1 WAR)

SP1: Chris Carpenter (5.6 WAR)
SP2: Adam Wainwright (5.7 WAR)
SP3: Joel Pineiro (4.8 WAR)
SP4: Kyle Lohse (0.8 WAR)
SP5: Todd Wellemeyer (-0.3 WAR)

CL: Ryan Franklin (0.9 WAR)
SU: Kyle McClellan (0.3 WAR)
RP: Jason Motte (-0.3 WAR)
RP: Trever Miller (0.5 WAR)
RP: Dennys Reyes (0.2 WAR)
RP: Brad Thompson (0.0 WAR)
RP: Mitchell Boggs (0.6 WAR)
RP: John Smoltz (1.1 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 44.6

I know I’ve got a fantasy sports problem because I’ve got an English Premier League fantasy team. Yes, I play fantasy soccer. With a limited budget to spend on players, I decided that it would be best to load the team up with as many superstars as I could, and fill the rest of my roster with reclamation projects and mediocre defenders (I have three Stoke City defenders on my team—that should tell you everything you need to know). So while I have Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka, Andrei Arshavin, and Fernando Torres on my team, I have to rely on solid-but-unspectacular players like Ivan Klasnic and Vedran Corluka or feast-or-famine types like Leighton Baines to fill in the gaps.

This Cardinals team is much the same. I’ve been fascinated by this team since the summer. The total WAR of 44.6 is a decent number for a playoff team, if the first few Total WAR posts have been any indication. I think it just illustrates how truly incredible a ballplayer Albert Pujols is. Essentially, there are only 3 other position players besides Pujols (Holliday, Ryan, and Molina) who are anything other than mediocre. Last year, Nick Stavinoha got 91 plate appearances for this team and put up a WAR of -0.7. This illustrates two things: first, how truly terrible Stavinoha was (almost as bad, per plate appearance, as Pujols and Holliday were good). Second, it illustrates how desperate the Cardinals were for position players that they gave someone that bad 91 plate appearances.

Likewise the pitching staff, anchored by two of the three best pitchers in the National League last year and one of the best third starters in baseball. But apart from the first three rotation spots, the cupboard is bare.

This team really indulges the fantasy of seeing if one man can, in fact, win a baseball game on his own. Apparently he can—I thought for sure the Cards were going to the World Series last year.

Also, I’d like to put Kyle Lohse in a group with Dwyane Wade and Brett Favre—people who need to transpose two letters in their names so they can be pronounced the way they’re spelled. Ok, I’ve said my piece.

2010 Roster (Note that I’ve listed an extra catcher and an extra infielder because, according to, the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder is their starting second baseman. I think this connotes a move for outfield help before Opening Day, so take this prediction with a grain of salt).

C1: Yadier Molina (3.6 WAR)
C2: Jason LaRue (0.7 WAR)
C3: Matt Pagnozzi (-0.5 WAR)

1B: Albert Pujols (7.2 WAR)
2B: Skip Schumaker (1.6 WAR)
3B: David Freese (1.8 WAR)
SS: Brendan Ryan (2.8 WAR)
INF1: Julio Lugo (0.4 WAR)
INF2: Tyler Greene (0.9 WAR)

OF1: Matt Holliday (4.8 WAR)
OF2: Colby Rasmus (3.0 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Ludwick (2.1 WAR)

SP1: Chris Carpenter (4.7 WAR)*
SP2: Adam Wainwright (5.4 WAR)*
SP3: Kyle Lohse (0.8 WAR) 4.29 FIP, 158 IP
SP4: Brad Penny (2.1 WAR)*
SP5: Mitchell Boggs (0.6 WAR) 4.83 FIP, 148 IP

CL: Ryan Franklin (0.4 WAR)*
SU: Kyle McClellan (0.3 WAR) 3.89 FIP, 63 IP
RP: Jason Motte (0.7 WAR)*
RP: Trever Miller (0.5 WAR) 3.81 FIP, 42 IP
RP: Dennys Reyes (0.2 WAR) 4.05 FIP, 40 IP
RP: Brad Thompson (0.0 WAR) 4.77 FIP, 52 IP
RP: Josh Kinney (-0.3 WAR) 4.46 FIP, 39 IP
RP: Blake Hawksworth (0.1 WAR) 4.82 FIP, 54 IP (Bill James)

2010 Projected Total WAR: 43.9

Out: Ankiel, DeRosa, Thurston, Barden, Pineiro, Smoltz, Wellemeyer, Duncan, Khalil Greene

In: Pagnozzi, Freese, Tyler Greene, Penny, Kinney, Hawksworth

Feel free to insert your Tyler Greene joke here.

Ah, Dennys Reyes. My last day at The Phrontiersman, MLB Trade Rumors linked a what-if piece I wrote about the course of the Phillies since 2003 if they had never traded Scott Rolen. In it I incorrectly identified the Reyes I thought pitched Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS (I thought it was Al, then someone said it was Anthony, then it turned out that it was Jeff Suppan and we all felt really stupid. And by we all, I mean I felt really stupid).

So I have a hard enough time keeping the pitching Reyeses straight as it is, and as of last spring they had completed their collection.

Apparently the fans are high on Jason Motte, which is good because as Phillies fans, we know the roided-up enigma that Ryan Franklin can be as well as anyone. The Cards are going to be in need of a closer soon enough. If Boggs can’t nail down the fifth starter spot, look for Hawksworth, who posted a 2.02 ERA in 40 IP last year, to get a shot if he’s at all effective in spring training. But after only posting 4.5 K/9 IP, Hawksworth might be a Kyle Kendrick-style flash-in-the-pan. If not him, then Rich Hill, who followed up a 3-WAR season in 2007 with two roughly replacement-level campaigns, is coming to spring training as a non-roster invitee.

Also, there isn’t a better solution at third base than David Freese? Are you sure? No one? After the past two years, I’m wondering if I might have to write a Rolen Back History, Part II, for the Cardinals.

I think they’re going to miss Pineiro, as well. Yes, everyone talks about him being an extreme ground ball pitcher and not striking that many guys out, but with that exceptional infield defense (even in spite of Schumaker, a converted outfielder), he was a perfect fit for the Cardinals. Will he do as well for the Angels? Mayhap, but with Chone Figgins having absconded up the coast, I wouldn’t bet money on it.

I’m a big Brad Penny fan. I always have been, since he and Nate Bump went the other way when Livan Hernandez was traded to San Francisco. Up until last year, he had also been a pretty solid fantasy bet. For whatever reason, he always slid to the mid-to-later rounds, and I always picked him up, plugged him into the lineup, and by the time I checked on him in July, he had 10 wins and 82 strikeouts and was starting the all-star game. Ok, this happened twice, but whatever. I’m pulling for him after what happened to him last year in Boston.

I raved in my last post about Colorado’s depth and how it was going to be their greatest strength. Well, the Cardinals are the exact opposite—they’ve got two of the best position players in the league and two of the best starting pitchers in the league and precious little else. Counting on Pujols to put up MVP caliber season after MVP caliber season has worked so far, but this is a seriously flawed team, and after bidding against themselves for Holliday, and with the specter of Free Agent Pujols and Free Agent Wainwright looming in the next couple seasons, the Cardinals have no money left to fix those flaws.

Given that the Cardinals make the playoffs (and I think they will, because no one else in the NL Central has a pulse, much less a clue), having both Wainwright and Carpenter means they might only need 3 or 4 runs a game to win, which Pujols can provide by himself. That makes them dangerous.

But if one of those four big players gets hurt or has a down year, the Cardinals’ front office, to paraphrase Emperor Palpatine, will pay for its lack of vision.



  1. Pingback: / archive » Early Wednesday Afternoon Hot Stove Notes: Phillies, Yankees, Tigers, Cubs, more

  2. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I tried to read this. I really did. First this history lesson. The the rugby players. I don’t know what WAR is or what it means. If someone can explain it to me, I would appreciate it. The I went to one of the links that gave the Phils top 10 prospects and they were describing players performances with stats I’ve never heard of: wOBA, FBIAB, I mean wtf? HR, RBI, AVG, R, SB. What else do you need? Has the game passed me by?

    The Dipsy

  3. Don M

    January 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Unlike The Dipsy … I did not try to read this. I really didn’t.

    Because all this crazy stats business takes away from hustle-players … guys that use their brains, heart, and hustle to make a play… extend a play… force their opponent to make a bad play/quick decision , etc..

  4. NJ

    January 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Apparently the biggest selling album of the decade was that James Blunt album. Makes me ashamed to be British, and a person…

  5. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    All I can do is effing laugh….

    (I “half-read”…sort of “skimmed” it)


  6. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I will smoke a blunt but I will never listen to a James Blunt album. Can I be any clearer?

    The Dipsy

  7. NJ

    January 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    War, huh yeah what is it good for? Apparently the economy… NOT baseball.

    I wish someone who smoke James Blunt, wonder if anyone in the game has used any of his songs as entrance music…

  8. Chris L

    January 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    The off-season is one of the two reason why we have sabermetrics to give some way to to make predicts based on more than “your gut.” yes, wins above replacement means nothing one the actual game start but does BA or HR or RBI? All stats are predictors – more data better indicator. But until we can get them on the field it’s a nice way to analyze things.

    As for the Cards in general, Michael is right. they have a few great guys and then a lot of “huh?” They become dangerous if they have one of their rookies hit but there is a higher chance of them competing for a while and then falling behind when an injury puts Pujols, Molina or Holliday down for a few weeks.

    Once they make the playoffs though (who else wins the central?) they are one Ryan Howard sized hot streak from rising the trophy (although the longer breaks during the playoffs can really cool down a guy on a hot streak).

  9. George

    January 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I actually read this. I haven’t made any sense of it, though, and have given up, because it’s too disjointed to be worth the effort.

    I also read that thing about Rolen. I should have known from that not to trust this. At least it was a tiny bit more organized.

    I hope Mr. Baumann hasn’t quit his day job, and even gets tons of overtime that takes up all his “writing” minutes.

    I also hope this statement is “Blunt” enough.

  10. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    You guys are close-minded and bordering on stupid… but i already knew that based off of some arguments I’ve seen on here.. WAR is a pretty simple statistic.. Wins Above Replacement, aka, how MUCH better is this guy that just your average major leaguer. it’s not some kind of fancy crap that isn’t real… look at alber pujols.. hes an 8+ war player while everyone else on the team except carpenter and wainwright are more like 1-2s… if that doesn’t make sense to you you just haven’t opened up your brain in a while…

  11. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Peasant! The audacity! But maybe you’re right. I will give it a shot. As soon as I’m done figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin I’m gonna dip right into this WAR business and get to the bottom of it. But I must tell you that, based on this representative sample of WAR materials, at this time I’m gonna have to continue to agree with George Patton (I think) who maintains that “Understanding WAR is hell”.

    The Dipsy

  12. Don M

    January 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Albert Pujols only wins you 8 more games (of 162) than your Average Major League player??

    That stat sucks ass.. and balls

  13. joe

    January 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    why would you even let this guy post on here?

    this is beyond stupid

  14. George

    January 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve read about WAR, and find it a bit stupid. If it really means wins above replacement, who is the replacement it’s figured on? “peasant” says it’s the “average major leaguer” but if that’s the case, why do so many players come out above that, and so few below? Averages don’t work that way.

    I’ve also read that the replacement is a minor leaguer who would be called up in place of a veteran. If that’s so, then how does one figure out someone like Ryan Howard, who came up mid-year when Thome got injured and proceeded to eat NL pitchers alive, or Kyle Kendrick, who went 10-4 after being called on to replace some other guy whose WAR was probably about 3 or 4? Are those two to be considered mere replacements?

    I agree that the more stats you have, maybe the better decisions you will make. But WAR is too arbitrary and artificial. At least 100 RBIs is always 100 RBIs, and a 2.98 ERA is just that. Zone ratings are a good stat, and so are K/9 and K/BB.

    Also, there are a lot of intangibles in the game, and I think WAR doesn’t tell anything about them. For instance, that previously mentioned 100 RBIs could be produced by some locker room pariah, and others around him who may have driven in 90 are so discontent they only drive in 75. Their WARs would then suck. I’m dead sure Milton Bradley had a very good WAR when he signed last year with the Cubs. After just a couple of months, that teams clubhouse was about to explode. Everyones’s stats went down.

  15. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    “close minded and bordering on stupid”

    Yeah…I always knew that I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed..

    I guess just trying to understand someone’s batting average and ERA isn’t good enough anymore.

  16. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    This is a statistic that is vastly becoming one of the most recognized and appreciated means of valuing what a player brings to the table, both offensively and defensively. Mike is using this stat to try and evaluate the progress (or, as the case may be, lack thereof) that our closest competitors have made this offseason.

    Not understanding the stat is one thing. (You can read up on it here:,211211)

    You might not understand it. That’s fine. You might say there are better ways to evaluate a player. Hey, if you can defend that, that’s fine. But it’s awfully condescending of you to simply and bluntly state that you refused to read a piece simply because it uses a stat you do not know.

    Give Mike some credit. He puts a lot of time and effort into these posts, and I do as well. The stat has merit and is a good evaluator of performance. Railing against Mike and I for doing this is silly.

  17. Michael Baumann

    January 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I appear to have overestimated the commentariat’s understanding of or enthusiasm for Sabermetrics.
    If there’s interest in a separate post later on about WAR and some of the other stats I’ve been throwing around or plan on throwing around in the future, I can whip one up. I’ll try to address your questions there.

  18. George

    January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I agree with joe. This is beyond stupid. “One sentence introducing you to this format.” is not even a sentence, let alone an introduction. The “Blunt” story is totally unrelated, and should have been left out. The team he’s rating doesn’t show until the third paragraph, and with the earlier “Blunt” thing, the reader is still left wondering if the Cards are the true focus of the piece. If the Cards are the focus, he blurs even that with the inane name thing. (By the way, Maroon is NOT a lighter shade of Brown, nor is Cardinal red a lighter shade of maroon-they’re different colors.)

    Never, really, does he get to the point.

  19. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Welcome to Phillies Nation you two… where old people learn how to use the internet on a daily basis.

  20. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Seriously all of these negative comments it sounds like most of the people would prefer another round of “classic phillies plays from ’09” instead of soe meaningful analysis of our own and other good teams in the league. it might have been circumspect in it’s point-making, but it was INTERESTING and CREATIVE. good lord.

  21. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    If you’re critiquing the anecdote in the post, you’re missing the point.

    Really, these posts are on a back page. They don’t interfere with the daily fare, and if the posts stir up such great negative emotion within you, they can be easily ignored. I am sorry if these posts aren’t interesting to you, though. We’ll try harder to make them a bit more universally appealing.

  22. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I for one haven’t read an article here aside form scanning a few until this one came up, thank you MIchael, it is hard to find good sabre-slanted stuff on the phillies.

  23. George

    January 27, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    To Paul Boye:

    This piece is being criticized not just for WAR, but because it was so badly written. I, for one, can relate to new stats and give them a chance. But I cannot and will not abide such horrible writing.

  24. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    George – Replacement is not average. Replacement level is the fringe major league that is right on the edge of AAA/MLB, who can be had for the league minimum salary. There are a lot of complexities to the way it is calculated, but for shorthand purposes you can think of it as 80% of league average. Here are some position players that were right around replacement level in 2009: Jeff Francouer, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios.

    This is part of what makes replacement-based stats like WAR tremendously useful – you can take a look at what GMs are paying guys and compare it to other players of the same value, and see the obvious disparities. Hell, there are some replacement level guys that get paid millions.

    I know a lot of you have probably never heard of it, but at least be open-minded to it. The statistic was developed over a period of years by the best statistical minds in the business. The components it integrates are measured by companies founded for the very task, and often contracted by MLB front offices for their valuable data. Most of the standard statistics were invented along with the box score by a 19th century Cricket reporter, and RBI was almost done away with in the 20’s because readers realized its obvious flaws. Why not use the most accurate of our resources?

  25. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Oh and by the way, compiling numbers as Michael has here for the purposes of accurately projecting the Phillies’ 2009 competition (which I think you’ll all agree is a worthwhile pursuit) takes hours of time and effort so why not show the barest amount of respect for it?

  26. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    The title of this article is perfect, seems like the comments could become total war of modern stats vs old… in a perfectly calm world… stats all work together and we can learn to accept all of their values… IF we take the time to understand them…

  27. Phillies Red

    January 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    A quick note: replacement level and average level are very different. An average baseball player is usually worth something like1.5-2.5 WAR, while, by definition, a replacement level player is worth 0 WAR. The idea behind replacement level is that a team could, at almost anytime of the season, go out and find a player at the league minimum salary to play any given position. These are basically quad-A guys. Think John Mayberry last year, or Kyle Kendrick circa 2008.

    Feel free to ridicule WAR all you want, but other posters are correct: this is quickly becoming a very powerful and rather well accepted stat. Go check out fangraphs if you want to learn more.

    I would say that even if this stat isn’t perfect – and it’s not – you will be seeing a lot more of stats exactly like this. Bill James has his win shares, a similar concept. There will be better and more advanced ways of doing this in the future, but this is a great start on player performance evaluations. It’s these types of tools that helped give the As an advantage early last decade, and it’s currently one of the things that keeps the Red Sox a step ahead of almost every other club.

  28. Don M

    January 27, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Honestly, I thought he was saying that Albert Pujols would be better in a real WAR than James Blunt, eventhough James Blunt is a former Army captain

    Is that not the arguement he makes?




    and you’re surprised we would rather talk about the great plays from last year??

    Teams don’t even have their full rosters yet.. many things will still change due to injury, etc in Spring Training.. Minor League players will win starting jobs, Closers will emerge. etc..

    I understand the value of Sabermetrics.. I just honestly think people sometimes make too mcuh of these numbers.. You can tell a good baseball player just by watching the game.. and too many people in baseball now look at only the numbers ….

  29. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    as i said earlier, this blog has never leaned towards quality sabre-projections etc, people who read it are not generally familiar with the style of writing that is even associated with it commonly, i would imagine you will continue to get abrasive responses from armchair authors, just keep up the good work and leave it “for the birds”, i will be reading.

  30. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm


    Dude, please…we talk about “meaningful analysis” EVERY DAY on this site..

    If we want to poke fun at something that someone wrote we’re gonna do that. Nothing malicious was intended…nor ever is with us.


    Paul, Michael…welcome to Phillies Nation!!

  31. Phillies Red

    January 27, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    As a new comer to this space, I’m really happy to see this kind of write up and series. I actually have a couple of questions: What was the Phils’ WAR last year, and what is their projected WAR for 2010? These might also give other posters a better foothold on how to understand and use this stat.

    Also, what record would a team with 0 WAR have? I think it’s something between 40 and 50, right?

  32. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    We’re not saying anything is absolute, George. This is merely one way to look into the future and get at least a bit of an idea what we may be up against.

  33. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    don m

    and you’re surprised we would rather talk about the great plays from last year??”

    I am not surprised at all, in fact, i brought that up, as it makes sense that someone who doesn’t appreciate or research these statistics and philosophies in depth would not be interested in them. I am more concerned with the present and future of this team personally, and I enjoy the projections of other teams that we will compete with as well… ’10 is just around the bend… coaches, gms, even players are probably more interested in reading this information than about a year’s past glories. PROGRESS MY BROTHER.

  34. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm


    A team with a combined 0 WAR would be tremendously bad. I’m not even sure. The 2009 Royals had a combined WAR of 6.8 – yes, less than Chase Utley by himself – and they finished 65-97. 60 wins is probably the best possible scenario.

  35. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    chuck –

    i’ve been on this site as long, maybe longer than you, and i have yet to see consistent modern statistics play a major role in it’s content. i think if you asked pat gallen if this website was generally a “populist” type blog, he would blush and say “yes”. I’ve been reading it since Tim was here, love his enthusiasm, and everyone else’s for that matter… but please don’t tell me it’s known for it’s “meaningful analysis”. I’ve seen more blow ups and ridiculous trade passed around it’s comment sections you could fill a 24 hour news network with all of the crap. I viewed this article as a diversion from that, and apparently I missed a few others. If you are like me and you read Beyond The Boxscore, The Hardball Times… you know what I meant when I said “meaningful” analysis…

  36. Chris

    January 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    It’s hilarious. People trash something they simply don’t understand. While we’re at it let’s ditch doctors and healthcare and go back to going to the barber to have leeches placed all over our bodies to cure any sickness.

    Just because it is new and you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it has no value.

  37. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    and… you probably don’t.

  38. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Peasant. Where did you come from? Never mind, just be quiet.

    Mike – I appreciate the effort that you put into the piece, historical, pop cultural and english soccer references not withstanding. I know a very little about WAR and I guess its kinda like plus/minus in hockey and hoops but harder to understand. About the stat itself: I don’t understand why WAR is NOT based on EVERY player, other than the guy your are actually analyzing, that played an inning and/or had an at bat at the position your player is playing for specific year you are looking at. I agree that using minor league players as the comparison is stupid simply because these guys are not major league players. Its like apples and oranges. Further, how can you even draw a sample of how the average minor leaguer would fare in a season? Its kinda like asking me to compare rate my girlfriends of the last ten years by comparing them to a mythical girl I would never date in the first place because they’re not good enough to play in the Dipsy’s (digging the third person?) league. Isn’t it?

    Baseball is a stat driven sport. No question. But I think its getting to the point where every single time a players blows his nose or takes a piss, some sabrematrician is out there trying to measure it, quantify it, and draw conclusions from it. That said, this WAR thing may be the best thing since sliced bread. But is it possible that, at present, WAR is just a little too esoteric for general consumption, even for the baseball degenerates that frequent the Nation? I’m used to reading the back of baseball cards for my stats.

    The Dipsy

  39. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    We certainly have a varied readership at PN, and the divide between groups of classic and modern evaluators isn’t any smaller. Hopefully, what we do here can bridge that gap, if only for this readership.

    Not really expecting it to be a smashing success but even if the comments on future pieces get less divisive as we go, I’ll consider that a win!

  40. Chris

    January 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  41. Paul Boye

    January 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm


    Plenty understood. You have a very rational viewpoint.

    As for the question on how minor leaguers are projected: players with similar numbers in the past are used for comparison for best guess. Obviously, that’s not foolproof. But it seems to work a good deal of the time for identifying potential production of similar players throughout their time in the minors.

  42. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm


    Wait a second, Dipsy…I resemble that remark!!


    peasant…I don’t even know how to begin to respond your remarks..

  43. peasant

    January 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    dipsy –

    i make comments when they are needed, unlike you, in fact, i am done, so don’t mistake the fact that i’m goign to go back to living my life for being quiet… you however… will be here… as i’ve always noted you are always here… so have fun with… that..

  44. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 6:07 pm


    You seem like a very disturbed and angry person.


  45. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Yes Peasant. Life is slow in the Dipsyland. I am sure that you have just made a couple hundred thousand dollars trading rubles on the Forex and you are, as we speak, communicating from your iTablet on your way to a Parisian discotheque. The only way to know that I am “always here” is because you’re here with me, soooooo…don’t hate me cuz you ain’t me and I’ll do my level best to live a more complete life so I can reap at least %10 of the benefits from living life as you do. Wait a second. I think I know who you are now. Aren’t you….”The Most Interesting Man in The World”. Stay thirsty, my friend.

    The Dipsy

  46. Chuck

    January 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm


    In re: “varied readership at PN”

    I found this site a few years ago (so I’m not all that new compared to some)…and I immediately began to appreciate what it brought to my life..

    A place to comment on, share with, question, agree with …other Phillies fans…about something that’s obviously a source of tremendous passion
    for all of us….THE PHILLIES..

    I certainly appreciate the efforts of you and Michael to bring “something else” to the table….even if some of us can’t fully grasp it or totally appreciate it.

    As i said earlier…Welcome to PhilliesNation..

  47. George

    January 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Paul Boye:

    Please point out where I made ANY statements with the word “absolute” in it. I didn’t say anything was absolute, and I even indicated that I found some of the more modern stats useful.

    I think more people would have had less difficulty with this piece had it been written in an organized manner, without the pop music, soccer game, and Cardinal team colors references. There was no attemp to explane WAR, and one can’t rely on everyone knowing everything about it. There was also no real explanation of what the piece was about except links to some other articles.

    That said, I still feel that WAR is the most arbitrary new stat around. Replacement players are not all created equal, either, and averaging them, you can still reach the point where your head’s in the refrigerator and your ass in the oven, but you still have an average temperature of 98.6.

    The only thing you can maybe achieve is a comparison. But it still doesn’t have the accuracy of a comparison of zone ratings, OBPs, K/9, etc, etc.

    And Chris: Some of us DO understand. Mark Twain said it best when speaking of the Bible: It ain’t those parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts I do understand.”

  48. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    George, I’m not sure I understand your criticism of WAR. It pulls together hitting, baserunning (in some iterations), and fielding contributions into one number, so you can compare players with different modes of contribution – say a fantastic defender/terrible hitter and an awful defender/great hitter – on an even playing field (wins above replacement). I don’t get what you mean by “replacement players are not all created equal.”

  49. rob5000

    January 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I really need to read up on this Sabermetrics thing. Any good book recommendations?

  50. The Dipsy

    January 27, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Maybe George feels like me. WAR would be the greatest stat EVER if you could could plug in variables that have a degree of some numeric certainty. For instance, I would imagine that assigning a numerical value to how good a baserunner a player is can be very difficult, perhaps impossible. Lets say we’re working on scale from 1 to 10, 10 being highest. Alright, we all know that Chase Utley is a 10 for second baseman. Thats not the hard part. Its the difference between Jeff Kent and Dan Uggla thats the problem. Does Uggla take an extra base more than Kent? Is Kent better at tagging up from third on a fly than Uggla? How often does each one break up double plays? I mean, you can’t assign a number to this. The same goes for fielding I would guess. I guess that hitting is hitting. Sooooooo…my problem with the stat is not the structure of the equation, but the speculative nature, and consequently, inherent unreliability of the numbers that get plugged into it. Thats why the stat doesn’t do that much for me.

    The Dipsy

  51. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    rob5000: this is the greatest, most comprehensive, accessible, and generally fun to read books on the topic:

    It’s one of my favorite baseball books.

  52. Griffin

    January 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Paul and Michael are bringing a new angle to this blog and I for one, am excited. I guess I’m just not sure what is so confusing about this article.

    Oh, and Baseball between the Numbers is a great book.

  53. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Dipsy: you actually can assign a number to most things. Baseball is unique among sports in that there is a ton of data because the game can be broken up into discreet units (pitches, plate appearances). It’s a bit complex to explain here, but I’ll attempt it. Please bear with me and hopefully I can be clear enough.

    There are 27 base/out situations in baseball. By this I mean 1st and 3rd 2 outs, bases loaded 0 outs, man on 2nd 1 out, etc etc. Since we have data on these situations for every game for pretty much the entire 20th century, we can (and have) measure the average number of runs a team scores from that point to the end of the inning given a certain situation (you end up with a table like this: So for example, a team on average (using that table) scores 1.243 runs in the remainder of the inning when they have 1st and 3rd and 1 out. Obviously bases empty 2 outs has very low expectancy, bases loaded 0 outs very high. Make sense? These percentages are based on years of data, and they fluctuate only the slightest bit from [x] range of years to [y] range of years, so we know they’re reliable.

    This is extremely handy to know, for this reason: you can measure the increase in run expectancy caused by every thing a player does. Let’s say Shane Victorino is up with Rollins on first, nobody out. Refer to the table I linked – the Phils can expect to score .953 runs from this point until the end of the inning. Shane then hits a single, and Rollins advances to second base. 1st and 2nd, nobody out – the run expectancy is now 1.573. By hitting that single, Shane has increased the Phils’ run expectancy by .62 (1.573 minus .953).

    Now to connect this to base running, say on that play Rollins got a great jump, busted his ass, and made it to third on a single (say a sharp one to center) that should’ve only gotten him to second. With 1st and THIRD and nobody, out, the run expectancy is 1.904. If he had stopped at second, as we said, it would’ve been 1.573. So simply by being a good base runner, Jimmy has increased the run expectancy by .331 (1.904-1.573).

    Nowadays they track things like taking an extra base on a single, tagging up on a sac fly, stealing bases (obviously), and stretching singles into doubles. You can take the run expectancies added for each of those acts, see how many times in a season a player has done each, and add them up the appropriate amount of times to see how many runs a player has added above the average player with their baserunning (and that’s what matters: runs). Baseball Prospectus does this, and the resulting number is called Baserunning Runs Above Average (BRAA). Here is a link to a table of all Major Leaguers, sorted by BRAA: It shows that Chase Utley, as we know is one of the best baserunners in the league, second only to Michael Bourn. That famous dash to home that spurred Harry’s “You’re the man!” call? That’s the sort of thing that gets credited to you with BRAA.

    So, in fact, we CAN assign a number to it, and compare different players with such a number.

  54. DudleyMonk

    January 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Maybe this whole WAR thing pulls me out of my mental rut regarding how I view baseball statistics. I like to drive a car, not work on the engine. At this time, I choose to maintain an intense but pedestrian knowledge of baseball, based on the fundamental statistics that I grew up with. Some ruts are comfortable. This brings me to the soul song of the late 1960″s “WAR. What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING !”
    But thank you for trying to bring this old fart into a new era. Maybe I will catch on, but I seriously doubt it at this poing.

  55. Phylan

    January 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    DudleyMonk, you obviously don’t have to know jack about sabermetrics to enjoy baseball. SABR in general is not as much about the statistics as it is properly valuing the things that go on on the diamond. To take all the data we have (and there is so, so much) and figure out – what are the things a player does that correlate most with the ultimate goal – scoring runs and preventing opponent runs?

    The initial, most basic conclusions when one gets into the data with this question in mind are quite surprising, because they challenge convention – batting average and RBIs don’t correlate with offensive production as well as OBP and SLG do, pitching wins don’t correlate with pitching performance, striking out a lot isn’t a big deal if you still get on base 40% of the time, etc. For that reason, it turns a lot of people away, and it’s not a big deal. I’m sure we both enjoy having a beer and watching a baseball game just as much.

    And obviously advanced statistics are only valuable when combined with proper scouting, but they are both equally important, as a lot of organizations are now figuring out. You can’t use one without the other and build a good team.

  56. jcole

    January 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    So, i was curious and checked out your previous place, and must say, i’ve been reading it off and on with my free time at work today. each time i get a few minutes i check another entry out. kinda pissed that i missed it earlier.
    but the stats and numbers are mind-numbing.

  57. bfo_33

    January 28, 2010 at 7:01 am

    WAR is another measure, great for evaluating free agents, not as useful during the season, not a great indicator on how a player impacts the rest of the line-up (the Cardinals would be lucky to win 70 games without Pujols). I have to agree that the post is very poorly organized, makes it appear to be much more complicated than it is. One the bright side, James Blunt has had a great impact on my health – I haven’t been in an elevator since that song came out.

  58. Jesus

    January 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I have to say I was a frequent visitor to The Phrontiersman and am thrilled that you have joined Phillies Nation. I love the deep SABR analysis that you guys will bring to Phillies Nation. I look forward to much more of your postings.

  59. Don M

    January 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I would agree with a lot of what has been said… SABR numbers are a great way to look beyond the boxscore, etc..

    but the problem was the extra-lenghty article which hhad 5,000 words about James Blunt …… so I didn’t read the rest . . .

    One of the things that turned me off of WAR numbers is that it really doesn’t show like I said before “Heart-Hustle-Brains, etc” … One of the articles I read before tried to say that Chase Utley is better than Albert Pujols ??? I like Utley, he’s a very good player.. But he’s not close to Albert Pujols . . so I discounted a lot of “WAR” talk just based on that one report

    I could be missing a lot.. or I could be saving myself a lot of time and effort reading nonsense? Im still not sure

  60. Phylan

    January 28, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Don M, you didn’t read that article right. WAR doesn’t say Utley’s production is better than Pujols.

  61. j reed

    January 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    James Blunt makes me say thank god for Slayer

  62. j reed

    January 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

    no stat. sabermetric or traditional measures “heart-hustle-brains”…

  63. Don M

    January 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

    my bad… it says that Chase Utley is more valuable than Pujols “because of the comparative value of their defensive positions and team contracts.”

    Like Dipsy said.. soon they’ll start measuring how much Gatorade a player drinks up until the 4th innings, and how that compares with his base stealing success rate in the 5th-7th, if the wind is blowing out to RF, with a Left-Handed starter still in the game, a Full Moon in the sky, and 3rd base coach wearing sneakers instead of cleats … I would imagine Utley would be among the best in that situation

    WAR is useful.. so are WIN SHARES… etc … but present it in a way that its understandable .. when the post starts off with 5,000 on James Blunt.. and then talks about the dudes’ Fantasy Soccer league.. you lost me

  64. The Original Chuck P

    January 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I like the post… a lot of unneccessary fluff but we’re probably a simpler audience than you’re used to.

    WAR is really not that complicated (as was evidenced by Phylan’s attempt to explain BRAA) and it can be a good measure of many things… I think that it’s a better evaluator than it is a predictor… I mean, I know you’re putting your own bias into 2010 WAR values but what is that based on? How can you justify a 2.1 WAR for Brad Penny? That’s your gut feeling…

    HOWEVER, if you maintained a WAR database for a number of years, you could then mine the data to help determine the likelihood that certain player types/positions will meet/exceed/lag their predicted WAR value. That type of information could be extremely valuable… crafting a team requires planning and the less unexpected events, the better.

    Curious, what’s a team of replacements worth? I mean the 2009 Pirates won 62 games so if the Cardinals are +43.9, a team of replacement players would have to be pretty bad (and Keanu made it look pretty easy so… there’s my fluff).

  65. The Dipsy

    January 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I am of the age where the only offensive numbers that count for me are: HR, RBI, AVG, SB. Pitching: W,L,ERA,SVS. These were on the back of baseball cards through the 70’s and 80’s and were also the sole criterion used for all my fantasy leagues (with WHIP replacing Losses for pitching). When my fantasy league, made up of all close friends, decided to add Runs for the hitters and SOs for the hitters, I quit in protest. If it ain’t broke , don’t fix it, I said. In essence, I’m a purist. Baseball SHOULD be played on hard Astroturf because thats what I remember growing up. Stadiums should be perfectly round, lifeless spheres, like the Vet. The Phillies are wearing the wrong uniforms and Managers should NOT be interviewed during games. How would you like it if you were removing some guys spleen in an operating room and some shmuck with a toupee stuck a microphone in your face? I hate technology. I hate innovation. I hate progress. The sport should be locked into 1975 forever. Sabre this!

    The Dipsy

  66. Chuck

    January 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Hey Dipsy…how many baseball cards did YOU ruin in the spokes of your bicycle..???

    I agree…simpler is better.. And actually WATCHING the game and looking at the players is best.

    Stats are cool… I enjoy them… I understand the value of WAR…and I guess I am now convinced that Chase Utley is the greatest player of all time…

    Yeah..I guess we are a pretty “simple audience”…..That’s not such a bad thing.

    …but when I feel as though algebra or trigonometry class was actually easier than trying to understand some of these stats…that’s when I have a problem.

  67. Chuck

    January 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    ^ Last two parapraghs should be switched….

    I guess that’s because ….like “peasant” said earlier..Some of us are learning to use the “internet on a daily basis.”

  68. Phylan

    January 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    The Original Chuck P – a team full of replacement level players would have a win% of about .280, or about 45-117. Truly awful. So the Cards are probably an 87 to 89 win team per these projections. The 2010 WAR figures here come from one of many projection models that incorporate factors like age and previous production to predict figures for each player.

    Other Chuck, I really sucked at trig, and simply by reading some stuff (particularly the book I linked above, which I can’t recommend enough) I picked up the most important stats easily.

  69. NEPA

    January 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    After trying to understand this I was” baffled by science” I guess.
    Sure picked a bad day to quit painkillers.

  70. Chuck

    January 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Phylan, I was actually being a wiseass when I compared trig and algebra to these stats…

    I’ll check out the book. Thanks for the link.

  71. The Original Chuck P

    January 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I meant no offense with that “simpler” comment… it’s not that the regulars on this site don’t appreciate stats, they just don’t care for statistical analysis as much as Baumann might be accustomed to at The Phrontiersman. Stats aren’t everything and projections aren’t worth much – that’s why they play the games – but if you’re going to make statements like, “We are the team to beat” it’s nice to have some statistics to back it up.

    I like stats because they serve as a barometer… especially in historic context. For instance, with marginal improvement, the 2010 Phillies could become the 8th team in NL history to end up with four players with 100+ RBI in a season… that tells me something about the historical significance of the team we all root for.

  72. Chuck

    January 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I, for one, took no offense to the “simpler” comment.

    I think all of us here appreciate stats…as long as it isn’t the “all that ends all” of trying to see what you have in a player or a team.

    And you’re right…having at least a few statistics to back up any argument is good.

  73. The Dipsy

    January 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Chuck – Thats “end all and be all”. I correct because I love.

    The Dipsy

  74. Chuck

    January 28, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Oops…yeah you’re right. Sorry….and thanks.

  75. Mike N

    January 29, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I like the advanced analysis – thanks Michael. To the nay-sayers: if you don’t like the article, or the writing, then don’t read it. Srsly. No sense in making a big deal of it.

  76. Brian Sr. of CO

    January 31, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Maybe we should start adding in a BLUF statement for “War and Peace novels” like this one. BLUF Meaning Bottom Line Up Front. In other words, what is the freakin’ point! I couldnt even read the whole thing. The the BLUF should be, “The Cardinals are a formidable threat the Phillies World Series Run” or they arent. The Cardinals start the season far better then they started last season. Holliday will play the who season this season, unlike last season. Granted the Phillies dont hit injuries or someone doesnt have a massive slump, the Cards will be in the running for the top spot. I dont really think the Cards are any weaker at all than last season.

  77. Pingback: The Total WAR Project, Part V: Los Angeles Dodgers | Phillies Nation

  78. Pingback: The Total WAR Project, Part VII: Seattle Mariners | Phillies Nation

  79. Wilford Prophett

    June 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Omg – what a tremendous victory for USA Soccer.

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