Nowadays, with the statistical generation and the people that Jayson Werth likes to call “nerds” taking over the game, we have a whole raft of numbers at our disposal. But one always seems to take the biscuit and is used more than any other to judge players value. Wins Above Replacement.
Some people will use this as gospel to prove one player is more valuable than the other. Yes, I’m looking at you Braves’ fans trying to use it to justify Ronald Acuña Jr. winning Rookie of the Year. While it’s a somewhat flawed statistic, as you only need to look at the fact Baseball Reference and FanGraphs having two different figures to represent this value, it still has a lot of value overall to factor in everything about a player.
But one question that comes up, well it does in my mind at least, is what sort of players are replacement level players? Well, I thought I’d dive into the stats a bit more to find out. Quick note, for this exercise I’ll be using FanGraphs WAR as their Leaderboards are much easier to navigate than Baseball Reference.
So, with WAR, the definition of a replacement player will be someone whose WAR equals 0.0, i.e. they provide no value over a hypothetical replacement. To keep it simple, I’ve based this off of 2018 WAR totals rather than career numbers, so without further ado, here are your replacements who all had a 0.0 WAR last season:
- Dee Gordon, 2B – Seattle Mariners
- Kole Calhoun, RF – LA Angels
- Miguel Sano, 3B – Minnesota Twins
- Evan Gattis, C – Houston Astros
- Gerardo Parra, LF – Colorado Rockies
- Greg Bird, 1B – New York Yankees
- Yairo Munoz, SS – St. Louis Cardinals
- Pitcher’s Spot, because nobody wants the DH
- Greg Allen, CF – Cleveland Indians
This lineup is actually much better than I expected it to be with some nice speed and power in the lineup. Dee Gordon‘s lack of any walks meant he dropped into eligibility for this, while Miguel Sano and Evan Gattis turned into home run merchants with little batting average. I could’ve included a DH here to get an extra player in, but where’s the fun in that.
- Caleb Joseph, C – Baltimore Orioles
- Avisail Garcia, OF – Chicago White Sox
- Lucas Duda, 1B – Atlanta Braves
- Brad Miller, Util – Milwaukee Brewers
The bench also could’ve been a lot worse, but don’t expect too many hits with all of these players having woeful batting averages. There is at least a nice balance of positions here, but it’s very all-or-nothing and we’ll only pinch hit to hit a ball over the fence. How very modern with some nice launch angles and exit velocity.
- Jake Faria – Tampa Bay Rays
- Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers
- David Hess, Baltimore Orioles
- Odrisamer Despaigne – LA Angels
- Yefry Ramirez – Baltimore Orioles
The best word to describe the rotation is yeeeeeeesh. It’s essentially just a cluster of number five starters, at best. With an average-ish batting order that isn’t going to play too much defense, we’re essentially setting ourselves up to get whacked every single game about 10-5. But hey, at least Woodruff can hit dingers.
- Cody Allen, Closer – Cleveland Indians
- Trevor Hildenberger, Setup – Minnesota Twins
- Blake Parker, Setup – LA Angels
- Jorge De La Rosa, LOOGY – Chicago Cubs
- Fernando Salas, Middle Reliever – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Brian Flynn, Middle Reliever – Kansas City Royals
- Matt Andriese, Swingman – Tampa Bay Rays
- Noe Ramirez, Long Reliever – LA Angels
Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom after all! With relievers obviously not pitching as much as starters, it was quite easy to round up a group of semi-decent arms out of the pen. Cody Allen being the face of the franchise is a bit worrying after a poor 2018, but alas, we have a good closer and even some nice swingmen at the back of the bullpen. Very happy with this collection of pitchers.
How would this team fare against the rest of the league?
Now that we’ve assembled our 25-man roster, it begs the question, how would they do if they played a full 162 game schedule? Well, there’s a way to use maths and work this out. Essentially, totaling up each team’s WAR from the season and subtracting it from their actual win-loss record should, in theory, give us their W-L record if they fielded a team of replacements.
Now, there’s going to be variation across the league, likely from other factors than pure performance such as managerial decisions, clutch hitting, and intangibles that WAR doesn’t account for. So what we’ll do, is just average the replacement wins and losses from around the league.
I even used a fancy spreadsheet to calculate this, showing each team’s win-loss total, then their batting (which includes fielding) WAR and pitching WAR before subtracting that from their win total. That gets the rW and rL values as I’ve called them for all teams.
So, if you’re still following me, seeing as I did all the maths, a team of replacements, would’ve finished the season with a 48-114 record in the major leagues. Yes, one more win than the Baltimore Orioles! I’m not sure if that says more about the replacements or whether it just goes to show just how bad the Orioles were in 2018. I’m thinking it’s the latter.
So now when people mention a player’s WAR to you, you can think of this rag-tag group of bad baseball players as a baseline, just to get an idea of how good Mike Trout is compared to them. Maths is fun kids, honest!
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports