Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2008 vs. 2009: It's a WAR

Last night, the always brilliant Beyond the Boxscore, in light of the announcement of the Comeback Player of the Year award, took a look at who (among the top 10 vote-getters) had the biggest swings in Wins Above Replacement. I'll refrain from saying "who deserved the award" because I think Comeback Player of the Year is one that should be somewhat subjective and context-heavy because players can "comeback" from a variety of things and that should probably be taken into consideration. That and no one really cares that much about who gets the award anyway.

Chris Carpenter won in the National League and looking at WAR backed that up along with the top four finishes in the voting.

However, the numbers did not match the voting in the American League. Aaron Hill was given the award, but he was actually had the 4th biggest comeback in WAR behind Juan Rivera, Victor Martinez and our own Jorge Posada who had the largest. However, Jorge finished 4th in the voting behind Martinez and Michael Cuddyer probably because he missed time to injury and was relatively productive in his time with the club.

It seems like this year, there have been a ton of Yankees who have improved on last year's campaign, not to mention the three marquee free agents and Nick Swisher who weren't on the team last year. Below, you can find two charts displaying the differences in WAR from 2008 to 2009. BtB measures the dip between the last good year they had and 2009 but I'm only looking at the last two years. (All data via FanGraphs)

First, the position players:

Some interesting stuff here...
  • Pretty cosmic shift in run production there, 15.6 wins. The Yanks won 89 games last year and 103 this year. You do the math.

  • I didn't use the more complicated method that BtB did, but those measurements show that Posada wasn't even the most improved player on the Yankees in relation to last year.

  • Jeter made some major strides defensively but his OPS also ended up exactly 100 points higher than in 2008.

  • Obviously, Teixeira represents a vast improvement over the 'stache, taking absolutely no one by surprise.

  • Even with the great year Bobby Abreu is having out in L.A., he's only been worth 2.7 WAR. Still a great pick-up by the Angels for the money ($5M) but the Yanks have been better off with Swish, even though his defense isn't exactly sparkling either.

  • Who would have guessed that Johnny Damon was more valuable in 2008? Hands, please. He's been better with the bat but his fielding has declined by almost 10 runs.

  • If you extrapolate A-Rod's production to a full season he comes awfully close to replicating his 2008 value.

And the pitchers:
  • How about the fact that this slice of the 2008 staff was actually worth more in 2008 than in 2009? Not a complete measurement but it's obvious which side of the ball had the most impact in taking the team from third in the AL East to first in all of baseball.

  • I chose Sabathia to replace Mussina since they were the best pitcher in each year. I paired Burnett with Darrel Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano since those combined had about the same number of innings and they would have needed to find similar scrubs to fill in had Burnett not been acquired.

  • Phil Hughes proves that point that if you can be a great reliever, you're more valuable than a bad starter, but I think we already knew that.

  • Before looking, I thought Andy Pettitte would have been more valuable this year than last, but apparently not. I'm honestly not sure what's causing the variance there.

  • Mo saved 39 games last year and blew only 1, while this year he converted 44 and blew 2. His W/L record last year was 6-5 and this year it was 3-3. Wins and saves are bad stats but we are talking about Wins Above Replacement here.

  • Joba derived a good amount of value pitching out of the bullpen last year, which accounts for a lot of the difference.
  • Our poor Wang got beaten pretty severely this year. He alone makes up for the difference between '08 and '09.

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