WAR

It’s almost enough to make you feel nostalgic for Mike Zagurski

Almost.

The combined WAR for Phillie pitchers as calculated by Baseball-Reference was 10.8 in 2012, way down from the NL-leading WARs the team posted in 2011 and 2010.

The Phillies had a long, long way to fall, though. In 2011, Baseball-Reference calculated the combined WAR for all Phillie pitchers at 35.2. That is enormously high. How high? Well, here is the list of all teams whose pitchers have posted a combined Baseball-Reference WAR of 30 or better since 1900:

Team Year WAR for Pitchers
PHI 2012 35.2
NYY 1997 31.0
CIN 1967 30.8

Not a long list and the ’11 Phillies are at the top.

Looking back to the previous post, the Phillies led the NL in combined WAR for pitchers in 2010 (21.2) and again in 2011 (35.2). 2010 and 2011 are the only two years of the last ten in which the Phillie pitchers have been over 14.8.

The average for the team for the eight of the last ten years that were not 2010 or 2011 is about 8.8. The average for 2010 and 2011 was 28.2.

The point here is that the pitchers for the Phillies aren’t going to post a WAR of 35.2 again any time soon. Or ever. So the Phils are going to need to figure out another way to win (and hopefully one that involves Freddy Galvis never, ever being allowed near third base).

In 2011, Halladay posted a WAR of 8.5 and Cliff Lee put up an 8.3. By comparison, in 2012, there were four pitchers across both leagues with a WAR better than 5.8 — Verlander (7.6), Price (6.4), Harrison (6.2) and Kershaw (6.2).

So having two guys in your rotation at 8.3 or better is a big deal.

Here is the list of pitchers across both leagues who have posted a Baseball-Reference WAR of 8.3 or higher over the last ten years:

Pitcher Year WAR
Zack Greinke 2009 10.1
Roy Halladay 2011 8.5
Johan Santana 2004 8.4
Roy Halladay 2010 8.3
Cliff Lee 2011 8.3
Justin Verlander 2011 8.3

So that’s six seasons for pitchers with a WAR of 8.3 or better over the last ten years, three of which are Halladay or Lee (Halladay did it in 2010 and again in 2011). To compare, Cole Hamels is a great pitcher and has posted a WAR for a season once that was over 5.3 (6.2 in 2011). Roy Oswalt has finished in the top six in Cy Young voting six times, but has had a WAR for the season above 5.6 just twice (6.7 in 2002 and 6.4 in 2007).

So, again, the model for success going forward might have to a lot to do with good pitching, but it can’t rely on the pitching being as good as it was in 2011, because that is never going to happen again.

Looking for potential good news, there’s always the possibility that WAR, or at least WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference, doesn’t matter at all. Sadly, I’m afraid it does, although it does seem worthwhile to point out enormous differences between the combined WAR for pitchers in 2011 as calculated by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. While Baseball-Reference’s calculation of WAR suggests the 2011 Phillies had one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the history of baseball, FanGraph’s calculation of WAR suggests they weren’t even the best pitching staff in 2011. FanGraphs has them second across both leagues at 27.1 and the White Sox first at 27.3.

David Herndon is now a Blue Jay after being claimed by Toronto.

Tyson Brummett was also claimed off of waivers by the Blue Jays last week, then designated for assignment so Toronto could make room for Herndon on their 40-man roster.

Michael Martinez has been removed from the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A.

The 40-man roster is at 36 with three players (Stutes, Contreras and Schneider) on the 60-day DL.


As you were

Phillie pitching has had two spectacular years in the past ten seasons, but 2012 was not one of them.

The table below shows the total WAR for Phillie pitchers over the last ten years, as well as the team’s rank relative to the rest of the NL, as calculated by Baseball-Reference:

Year WAR NL Rank
2012 10.8 9
2011 35.2 1
2010 21.2 1
2009 10.2 8
2008 11.1 9
2007 3.3 14
2006 14.8 4
2005 4.1 13
2004 8.5 12
2003 7.3 11

So things got worse in 2012. After two years of topping the NL in WAR for pitchers, the Phils dropped to ninth in 2012. After finishing ninth in the NL in combined WAR for pitchers, the Phillies have now been in the bottom half of the league in six of the last ten seasons. In one of the other four, 2009, they finished eighth, which just barely put them in the top half.

They had a long way to fall after being first in the category in 2011. Nobody else was close. Atlanta finished second at 16.4, less than half of the 35.2 posted by the Phils. The Phillie pitchers aren’t putting up a Baseball-Reference calculated WAR of 35.2 again in your lifetime, maybe not in anybody’s lifetime. More on that later.

The Phillies went to the World Series in 2008 and again in 2009 and they did it despite middle-of-the pack WARs from their pitchers. They had dominant pitching in 2010 and again in 2011, but wound up disappointing in the post-season.

The low point of the ten-year stretch was 2007, when the Phillie pitchers combined for a WAR of 3.3. The Phillies had 16 pitchers that season who posted a negative WAR. Adam Eaton was the lowlight, making 30 starts in which he threw to a 6.29 ERA and put up a career-worst WAR of -1.8.

Hamels (3.8) and Kendrick (2.1) were the only pitchers for the team to post a WAR of two or better in 2007. Hamels (4.0), Moyer (2.5) and Lidge (2.3) had good years in 2008 and things got better. Happ (4.0) and Blanton (2.4) were good in 2009. Halladay’s 8.3 WAR led the Phils to the top spot in the NL in ’10 — he was backed by Hamels (5.3) and Oswalt (3.2 in just 12 starts).

In 2011, the combined WAR for Phillie pitchers topped out at 35.2. It’s not going back there, not next year, and, again, probably not ever. Fantastic seasons for Halladay (8.5), Lee (8.3) and Hamels (6.2) topped the group, but the Phillies also got contributions from Worley (3.2), Madson (2.0) and Oswalt (2.0).

It fell off a cliff in 2012 as the Phils dropped back to ninth in the league. Halladay, Lee and Hamels, whose combined 2011 WAR was 23, combined for a WAR of 9.1 (Lee 4.2, Hamels 4.2 and Halladay 0.7). After having just three negative WAR pitchers in 2011, the Phils had 11 in 2012.

Finally, the rank of the combined WAR (9) for all their pitchers was about the same in 2012 for the Phillies as it was in 2008 (9) and 2009 (8). The Phils went to the World Series in each of those seasons. Big difference between those teams and the 2012 Phils is that the offense was not great in 2012 and much better in ’08 and ’09. The Phils were eighth in the NL in runs scored in 2012. They tied for second in ’08 and led the league in runs scored in 2009.


Sprechen sie ut oh?

There are several different ways to calculate WAR, but no matter which language you choose, the non-pitchers for the Phillies were cause for concern in 2012.

The table below shows the WAR by position for the Phillies over the past five seasons as calculated by FanGraphs. Next to each WAR is the NL Rank for the team that year at the position.

Please note: WAR as calculated by FanGraphs differs, often dramatically, from WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference. The WAR values in the table below are from FanGraphs, but the WAR values discussed below the table come primarily from Baseball-Reference. Links to recent interesting articles on the differences between WAR as calculated by the two sites are at the bottom of the post.

Position ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
C 7.1 (2) 2.6 (9) 5.3 (3) 3.3 (3) 2.2 (10)
SS 4.9 (2) 3.9 (4) 2.3 (10) 3.2 (6) 5.7 (4)
2B 3.7 (4) 3.4 (3) 6.7 (2) 7.5 (1) 8.2 (1)
CF 2.7 (10) 8.4 (2) 3.9 (12) 4.3 (8) 4.4 (7)
LF 2.8 (11) 1.2 (15) 2.4 (10) 4.6 (5) 2.8 (10)
3B 2.4 (11) 2.5 (10) 3.3 (7) 1.5 (11) 2.6 (11)
RF 1.2 (15) 2.2 (14) 6.2 (3) 5.9 (1) 5.7 (4)
1B -0.8 (16) 1.1 (13) 2.0 (10) 4.7 (5) 3.0 (7)

So there were three of the eight positions at which the Phillies were better than tenth in the 16-team National League.

Four seasons ago, in 2009, the Phillies were in the top half of the league at every position other than third base.

First the good:

At catcher, the Buster Posey-led Giants are the only team to put up a better overall WAR than the Phillies in 2012. The Phillies have been in the top three at the position in three of the last four years. In 2011, Ruiz recorded his worst dWAR of the five seasons (as calculated by Baseball-Reference) at 0.8. It was also his worst offensive season of the past three as he slugged just .383. In 2008, Ruiz was terrible offensively, hitting .219 in his 373 plate appearances as the Phils were tenth in the league at WAR at the position.

The Phils were also second in the league at FanGraphs-calculated WAR at short in 2012, topped only by the Nationals. There’s really only been one bad year for the team at the position over the last five seasons. In 2010, Rollins got less than 400 plate appearances for the only time in the last 12 seasons. Wilson Valdez fared okay trying to pick up the slack, but Juan Castro was a lot less impressive as he on-based .250 in his 101 plate appearances as a shortstop for the year. FanGraphs calculated WAR for Rollins for 2012 is much higher than Baseball-Reference’s. FanGraphs has him at 4.9, which ties him for 27th among non-pitchers across both leagues. Baseball-Reference calculates his WAR at 2.3, which ties him for 106th. The chart above reflects the FanGraph numbers, which suggest he was an elite player in 2012. Again, this is one of the three positions at which the Phillies were non-terrible in 2012 and there is disagreement about how good their primary player at the position actually was.

At second base, the Phillies have been in the top four for each of the past five years. Utley’s WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference topped out at 8.8 in 2008. He’s likely never going back up there again, but his work at the position has been enough to keep the Phils in the top quarter of the NL over the last several years. Also, as a side note — in 2008, Utley and his 8.8 WAR (second-best in baseball) finished 14th in NL MVP voting. Howard’s WAR that year was 1.5 and he finished second. Pujols won it, and should have, but Utley should have been a lot higher than 14th.

After catcher, second and short, things get real ugly, real fast.

Center field was the next best position for the Phils in 2012 and they were tenth in the league there. Victorino was a monster in 2011, putting up a (Baseball-Reference) overall WAR of 5.2 in the best year of his career. He was way off that pace in 2012, though, and Mayberry was pretty bad after he left. The Phillies seem to have no in-house solution to what is now a big problem in center field.

Eleventh in left. Tenth or worse for the third straight year. 2009 is the only year of the last five that the Phillies have been non-terrible overall at the position. In ’09, Ibanez put up the best WAR (Baseball-Reference) of his last six seasons at 2.7. It was the only year of the last six where his dWAR has been better than -1 (it was -0.8). In 2010 he was bad for the Phillies and in 2011 he was terrible — a dWAR of -3.1 and an oWAR of just 0.1. Juan Pierre was the guy who got most of the time in left in 2012, the first year after Ibanez left. His overall WAR for the year was 1.9, good enough for fourth-best on the team among the non-pitchers, but not enough to lead the Phils anywhere better than eleventh.

They were also eleventh at third base, the fourth year of the last five in which they have been tenth or worse. Polanco was very solid in 2010, putting up a (Baseball-Reference) WAR of 3.1. In 2011, his dWAR stayed about the same as 2010 (1.2 in ’11, 1.4 in ’10), but his oWAR dropped from 1.9 to 0.7 as he hit 277/335/339 with just 19 extra-base hits in 523 plate appearances. Polanco got significant time at third in ’12, putting up an oWAR of 0, a dWAR of 0.4 and losing significant time to Kevin Frandsen. Frandsen’s WAR of 1.5 (in just 210 plate appearances) was good enough for fifth-best among the team’s non-pitchers, but not good enough to get the Phillies any higher than eleventh relative to the rest of the NL for the season at the position. Feliz got most of the time at third in ’08 and ’09, with some help from Greg Dobbs. Neither did a whole lot and the Phillies were eleventh at the position both years, although Feliz had a good year defensively in ’09, putting up a dWAR of 1.2. Feliz on-based .306 over 1,088 plate appearances for the Phils between 2008 and ’09.

You don’t have to study the right field numbers too carefully to see that the Phillies have struggled to replace Jayson Werth. Led by Werth, the Phils topped the NL in WAR at the position in 2009 and were third in 2010. He signed with the Nationals for the 2011 season and the numbers took a dive. Francisco got the gig to start ’11 and bombed in spectacular fashion, putting up an oWAR of 0.0 and a dWAR of -1.3 and losing the job. Hunter Pence played part of ’11 with the Phils and part of ’12. He posted negative dWARs in both years with better luck offensively. 2.2 (oWAR)/-0.3 (dWAR) in 2011 and 1.2/-1.1 in 2012. Domonic Brown hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence yet he can get the job done in right, either. So far for his career he has an UZR/150 of -21.7 in 871 innings in right to go with his overall batting line of 236/315/388.

First base may be the single biggest problem for the Phillies, where they have committed an enormous amount of money to Ryan Howard. They were 16th of 16 in the NL in 2012 and FanGraphs has them no better than tenth over the last three seasons. Howard was hurt in 2012, but he got 644 plate appearances in 2011 and 620 in 2010 and the Phils didn’t do better than tenth in either year. He has always been terrible at defense, over the last seven seasons his dWARs have ranged from -1 to -2.8, and thanks largely to that he has put an overall WAR better than three just twice in his career. In 2006 he hit 58 home runs with a WAR of 5.0. In 2009 he hit 45 with a WAR of 3.5. In 2012, his oWAR joined his dWAR in negative territory at -0.6. Wigginton was also miserable trying to pick up the slack at the position with Howard missing much of the season, hitting just 235/314/375 for the year with a UZR/150 at first of -8.5 (which is 30th among the 36 players across both leagues who played at least 450 innings at first in 2012).

This article talks about differences in the calculation of WAR by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. More on that subject here, as Jimmy Rollins appears on a list of the players whose WAR as calculated by FanGraphs differs dramatically from their WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference.


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