Evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies Lineup Using Sabermetrics

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Sabermetrics have become a main stream way of thinking in baseball, when evaluating players and their worth. But is it the end all, be all, when it comes to determining a player’s value? Let’s take a look  by comparing  how the Phillies lineup compares to the rest of the league using this unique tool.

I don’t want to get too involved in the history of sabermetrics, especially since just about everyone has seen Moneyball, and I really don’t want to go to deep into all the calculations and advanced statistics mixed into sabermetrics. If did that then this would be a book, not an article.  What we can look at is the final results, and what is now taking over as the most serviced stat in baseball, WAR.

For all those that are not up to date with WAR, it is short for Wins Against Replacement. A “replacement” is a below average player on the bench or in the minors (Freddy Glavis comes to mind). In short, WAR is a stat that takes into account not only a players offense when evaluating them, but it also adds in defense and defensive responsibility to the equation. WAR also assigns a value to a player, in terms of added “wins” to his team, compared to that of the replacement. Every position on the baseball field gets a different defensive difficulty rating with catcher, shortstop, and center-fielder, getting the nod as the toughest positions. WAR at it’s basic, tallies up the players runs created and runs prevented, which is added together and divided by around 10 to come to the final total. A three to six rating for a player is very good, while players who are over seven are the faces of the league. Making sense? If not, fangraphs.com is a great site to get all the info you need on sabermetrics.

Now let’s take a look at the Phillies 2013 lineup, comparing them to the elite players in the MLB.

PHILLIES

C Calos Ruiz-2.7
1B Ryan Howard-0.7
2B Chase Utley-3.1
SS Jimmy Rollins-1.8
3B Cody Asche-0.0
LF Dominic Brown-2.0
CF Ben Revere-1.3
RF Marlon Byrd-0.6

Top Position Players

C Buster Posey-5.8
1B Miguel Cabrera-5.3
2B Robinson Cano-5.1
SS Troy Tulowitzki-5.4
3B Evan Longoria-6.1
LF Ryan Braun-3.9
CF Mike Trout-8.3
RF Yasiel Puig-4.7

Free Agents

C Taylor Teagarden-1.0
1B Kendrys Morales-1.1
2B Scott Sizemore-0.9
SS Stephen Drew-1.9
3B Micheal Young-1.4
LF Matt Diaz-0.2
CF Sam Fuld=0.2
RF Shin-Soo Choo-2.9

As you can see by the charts above, the Phillies have some big holes in their starting lineup. Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Dominic Brown, are the only players holding an average WAR rank for their position. If you look at the dwindled free-agent chart (the best free-agents according to WAR, have already signed), the Phillies relate more to that then to the top players in the league. Looking at the free agent pool, it also may make sense for the Phillies to take a look at Shin-Soo Choo. Last week, our own Tim Kelly, took a look at what it would take for the Phillies to sign Choo.

But can things be that bad? Maybe it isn’t fair to compare a real lineup, with what is essentially an all-star team. Conventional thinking would lead you to think that if you compare the Phillies lineup, to the rest of the league, they would be at least in the middle of the pack at most positions. And in that case, conventional thinking would be wrong.

Here is where the Phillies rank in WAR by position, out of the 30 teams in the league.

Overall by Position

Catcher-#15
1B-#26
2B-#7
SS-#22
3B-#26
LF-#13
CF-#28
RF-#29

That’s a WAR average ranking of 20.87 by position, and 29th in overall WAR. It is important to remember, unlike the NFL, the MLB league has only 30 teams. But here’s the catch to any stat; the Phillies 2013 season was a terrible one, riddled with injuries and underachieving play.  All stats will look bad based off of last year. WAR is just like any other stat, if you’re playing bad, then your rating will be low. Let’s take a look at career years for the Phillies starters, using WAR as a guideline.

Phillies

C Carlos Ruiz-5.2
1B Ryan Howard-5.8
2B Chase Utley-8.0

SS Jimmy Rollins-6.4
3B Cody Asche-0.0

LF Dominic Brown-2.0
CF Ben Revere-3.0

RF Marlon Byrd-4.1

Wow, what a difference! Cody Asche is the only player below average, but consider that he only played a 1/4 of the season. They’d be leading the league at a couple positions, and way above average in others. If they could all just repeat these years, we’d be sipping champagne at the end of next season. That probably won’t happen, but a substantial increase from last year’s production is possible. Most of Phillies starters for next season had down years in 2013, and if the baseball gods are on our side, they will stay healthy enough to improve on those numbers in 2014.

In summary, sabermetrics and their golden child WAR, are just more tools for fans, coaches, and scouts, to use to measure players. It is relatively new to the public and in, and it does a good job of condensing a player’s worth into a couple of numbers. Is it perfect? No. No stat is. However, with other measures, it can hold value and help you come to a better conclusion when analyzing a player. The more statistics you take into account, the better.

 

Topics: Philadelphia Phillies

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