May 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton blows a bubble on the bench against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves bench should NOT go to WAR

The Atlanta Braves are NOT at war, they’re playing baseball…

The word WAR is tossed around in all professional sports as one might here a commentator use the word war when discussing a hard fought game, or a player on a comeback victory might say, “We fought hard, went to battle, and won the war”. So dang cliche’ comparing a game where people get paid millions and millions of dollars to “play” to actual war where people are paid pennies on the dollar to risk their lives. However, if sports analysts that use sabermetrics throw around the term WAR, that’s a whole different ballgame (another poorly used cliche’, I must be going to the school of P.U.C. founded by Chip Caray!) as that refers to the acronym: Wins Above Replacement. Most of us ’round here are in the know about this most commonly used statistic, but some are not.  Here’s what Fangraphs has to say about WAR, a measurement that’s really become the coup de grace that put batting average out of it’s misery:

What is WAR?

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.

Calculating WAR is simpler than you’d think. If you want the detailed (yet very understandable) version, check out the links at the bottom of the page; Dave Cameron does a good job of walking through the process step-by-step. The short answer, though, is that as follows:

● Offensive players – Take wRAAUBR & wSB, and UZR (which express offensive, base running, and defensive value in runs above average) and add them together. Add in a positional adjustment, since some positions are tougher to play than others, and then convert the numbers so that they’re not based on league average, but on replacement level (which is the value a team would lose if they had to replace that player with a “replacement” player – a minor leaguer or someone from the waiver wire). Convert the run value to wins (10 runs = 1 win) and voila, finished!

● Pitchers – Where offensive WAR used wRAA and UZR, pitching WAR uses FIP. Based on how many innings a pitcher threw, FIP is turned into runs form, converted to represent value above replacement level, and is then converted from runs to wins.

WAR is available in two places: FanGraphs (fWAR) and Baseball-Reference (rWAR). Both statistics use the same framework and calculate replacement level the same, but use different ways of calculating offensive, defensive, and pitching value, so their results differ slightly. All the information provided on these pages refers to fWAR, unless otherwise specified.

If you’d like more info, I’d suggest browsing both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs to study up on this wonderful, all-inclusive stat, one in which makes it OK to use the terms WAR and baseball in the same sentence.  The bench is bad.  Yes, I know that was sudden and quite a quick change of subject, but that’s how bad it’s been that it makes me forget all rational, streamlined thought and dominates my tiny brain.  We know they’ve been bad, but just how bad?  Terrible…according to WAR.  Last year, overall, we had a very good bench as Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird, Ramiro Pena, and Jordan Schafer all provided positive WAR value.  Our bench last year, overall was worth about 2.5 WAR. This year? Aye…

Gerald Laird: 0.6 WAR- batting terribly, but essentially above average due to defense and game-calling

Jordan Schafer:  0.0 WAR- batting terribly, but essentially evened out by the ability to steal bases at a high clip.

Ramiro Pena: 0.0 WAR- batting terribly, but essentially evened out by the ability to play above average defense

Tyler Pastornicky: -0.2 WAR- batting terribly, not providing value on bases or fielding

Ryan Doumit: -0.4 WAR- batting terribly, fielding terribly, running terribly

*Dan Uggla: -0.6 WAR- dead horse beaten, you get the picture

Conclusion: Our bench is costing us games, not winning games.  This is BAD.

So, what can the Atlanta Braves do to improve their ballclub?

There has been much talk about how the Braves could improve the ballclub and the general consensus is that the starting lineup is what it is.  While I tend to agree with the general consensus, the fact that B.J. Upton is now a 0.0 WAR player concerns me as now it means his defensive contributions are no longer providing the value to outweigh his offensive stench.  However, in regards to B.J., like last year, a good bench can be used to compliment a struggling player, or players. The Braves have to be ballsy enough to cut ties with some of their out of options bench players and either trade for upgrades or try in-house options.

If trades are the route they’d like to take, I still think the Cubs are the way to go. The Cubs have money and would be willing to pay current players’ salaries if it meant better prospects in return.  There are many players that could provide value to this team, such as Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Coghlan, Nate Schierholtz, James Russell, and Wesley Wright, and those players have little to no team control left.

If it were me trying to fix this team, whether it be internal or via trade, here’s where I’d start, in order of importance:

1. Find an OF that can compliment B.J. Upton (Chris Coghlan?)

2. Find a bench bat that can replace struggling Ryan Doumit

3. Find a LOOGY

Regardless if the Braves stay quiet on the trade market or not, these next few weeks will be interesting indeed.


Tags: Dan Uggla Gerald Laird Jordan Schafer Ramiro Pena Ryan Doumit Tyler Pastornicky

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