First of all, have you taken a look at The Hardball Times’ stats section lately? We’ve made virtually all of our stats sortable, and they’re updated daily, too. Plus, we’ve added two new sets of stats:
These stats are just what they say they are: your basic batting (singles, doubles, batting average, etc. etc.) and pitching (wins, losses, hits, strikeouts, etc. etc.) statistics, most often used by the “common fan” and Joe Morgan. These stats are also sortable and updated daily, so you can read, sort, staple and collate both basic and advanced stats anytime you feel like it.
By the way, it’s easy to copy and paste the stats into Excel. After you’ve chosen what you want to copy, flip to Excel and choose “Paste Special” then “Text”, and the numbers will insert themselves wherever you’ve placed your cursor.
We’ll probably make some changes to our advanced stats over the next couple of weeks. And we’ve got some other changes coming your way—so please check back often.
As for that “uncommon” stat, Win Shares, we will continue to update those on a weekly basis. I just updated them yesterday as a matter of fact, and the current totals reflect all contributions made through the All-Star break. So this is a natural time to reflect on the numbers, to tackle the best/worst players argument, as well as the divisional MVP’s and some of the offseason signings.
For the rest of the article, I’ll be referring to both Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Win Shares. WSAB, in my humble opinion, is a better stat than straight Win Shares, because it effectively includes playing time. And that’s all I’ll say about that!
To start, here are the top ten leaders in WSAB as of the All-Star game:
Rk Lg Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 NL Lee CHN 1B 25 18 2 NL Pujols STL 1B 22 15 3 NL Clemens HOU SP 18 14 4 AL Roberts BAL 2B 19 13 5 NL Giles SD OF 19 12 5 AL Sheffield NYA OF 19 12 5 NL Willis FLA SP 16 12 5 AL Buehrle CHA SP 16 12 5 NL Johnson WAS 1B 18 12 5 AL Halladay TOR SP 16 12 5 NL Abreu PHI OF 19 12
First of all, there is Derrek Lee, and there is everyone else. Second of all, the two most valuable players in the majors play first base in the NL Central. Third of all, the top three players in the majors play in the National League Central.
This list illustrates why I like WSAB, by the way. In total Win Shares, Roger Clemens ranks seventh (and the next highest ranked pitcher is 14th), but the guy has a 1.48 ERA. He really should be very near the top of any MVP list, and WSAB puts him there. Total Win Shares doesn’t.
The American League MVP picture is muddier. Brian Roberts, Gary Sheffield, Mark Buerhle and Roy Halladay are at the top of the list, followed closely by a swarm of very good players. The AL MVP race will be decided in the second half of the year.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, just who are the worst players so far this year? Here’s the list:
Rk Lg Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 NL Guzman WAS SS -2 -7 2 AL Lima KC SP -2 -6 2 NL Leiter FLA SP -3 -6 4 NL Redding SD SP -4 -5 4 NL Milton CIN SP -1 -5 6 NL Astacio HOU SP -3 -4 6 NL Kennedy COL SP -1 -4 6 NL Dohmann COL RP -3 -4 6 NL Adams PHI RP -3 -4
There are a lot of starting pitchers on this list, which makes Cristian Guzman’s yucky year look even worse. A lot of things have gone well for the Nationals so far—Nick Johnson has stayed relatively healthy, Chad Cordero has been unbeatable, Jose Guillen is only now starting to be himself— but the Guzman signing was just one big mistake. I mean, the guy has eight more fielding Win Shares than batting Win Shares, which is really hard to do.
Speaking of fielding, these are the players who lead the majors in fielding Win Shares:
Rk Lg Player Team POS WSAB Field 1 NL Schneider WAS C 6 5.9 2 NL Gonzalez FLA SS 4 5.4 3 AL Rodriguez DET C 3 5.2 4 NL Furcal ATL SS 5 5.1 5 NL Estrada ATL C 4 4.7 6 NL Molina STL C 2 4.6 6 AL Mauer MIN C 8 4.6 8 NL Grudzielan STL 2B 3 4.5 9 NL Ausmus HOU C 1 4.4 10 NL Matheny SF C 7 4.3 11 AL Hudson TOR 2B 2 4.2 11 AL Uribe CHA SS 2 4.2 11 AL Reed SEA OF 2 4.2 14 NL Wilson PIT SS -2 4.1 14 NL Clark MIL OF 5 4.1
Fielding Win Shares are not the ultimate fielding stat, but they are useful. As you can see, catchers and shortstops receive more fielding Win Shares than players at other positions because the system weights their stats more heavily. Nevertheless, Brian Schneider is one heck of a catcher. He could in fact be the most valuable “fielder” so far this year.
And while I was surprised to find Mark Grudzielanek on this list, he does lead all major league second basemen in Zone Rating. As does Jeremy Reed in center field. So fielding Win Shares seem to be doing a pretty decent job of picking the top fielders at this point.
Let’s turn to the MVP races in each division:
American League East
Only Tampa Bay is truly out of the AL East race at this point, though Roy Halladay’s injury is probably going to hurt the Blue Jays. The divisional MVP race is almost as close:
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Roberts BAL 2B 19 13 2 Sheffield NYA OF 19 12 2 Halladay TOR SP 16 12 4 Tejada BAL SS 18 11 4 Ortiz BOS 1B 16 11 4 Rodriguez NYA 3B 18 11 7 Ramirez BOS OF 16 10 8 Damon BOS OF 15 9 9 Matsui NYA OF 15 8 10 Clement BOS SP 11 7 10 Lugo TB SS 13 7
Please note that David Ortiz is a designated hitter; he’s listed as a first baseman only because that is the position at which he’s accumulated some fielding Win Shares. It is really difficult for a player who doesn’t play in the field very much to lead the league in Win Shares.
American League Central
The no-longer-surprising Chicago White Sox have a big lead in the AL Central, and the Win Shares standings reflect that.
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Buehrle CHA SP 16 12 2 Hafner CLE 1B 16 11 3 Garland CHA SP 14 10 4 Mauer MIN C 12 8 4 Garcia CHA SP 12 8 6 Silva MIN SP 9 6 6 Inge DET 3B 12 6 8 Podsednik CHA OF 11 5 8 Crisp CLE OF 11 5 8 DeJesus KC OF 11 5 8 Sizemore CLE OF 12 5 8 Hunter MIN OF 11 5
I guess Podsednik’s election to the All-Star game isn’t entirely undeserved, though there are a lot of players more deserving. And get a load of how many good young, decent outfielders there are in the lower half of that list: Brandon Inge, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Grady Sizemore, and even Torii Hunter are making their mark.
By the way, who would have guessed that Joe Mauer and Carlos Silva would lead the Twins in Win Shares at this point?
American League West
As of the All-Star break, the Angels have a big lead in the division race, but it’s a camera-pushing pitcher from Texas who leads the Western MVP race:
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Rogers TEX SP 14 11 2 Teixeira TEX 1B 15 8 2 Guerrero LAA OF 13 8 4 Sexson SEA 1B 13 7 4 Colon LAA SP 11 7 6 Kotsay OAK OF 13 6 6 Ibanez SEA OF 11 6 6 Young TEX SS 13 6 6 Washburn LAA SP 9 6
Suspension or not, I don’t expect Kenny Rogers to be at the head of this list come October. It looks to be a race between Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Texeira, two of the harder names to spell in baseball. If Oakland continues their burst into contention, look for Bobby Crosby to join this list.
National League East
The still-surprising Washington Nationals sit atop the NL East, though Atlanta is making headway and no team is truly out of contention.
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Willis FLA SP 16 12 1 Johnson WAS 1B 18 12 1 Abreu PHI OF 19 12 4 Floyd NYN OF 16 10 5 Martinez NYN SP 13 9 5 Wilkerson WAS OF 16 9 7 Guillen WAS OF 15 8 7 Giles ATL 2B 14 8 7 Smoltz ATL SP 12 8 7 Delgado FLA 1B 15 8
Andruw Jones is not on this list primarily because he’s hitting only .202 with runners in scoring position. Another player who probably should be on this list is the Nationals’ Chad Cordero, but relief pitchers are among the hardest types of players to rank. If you’re wondering why John Patterson and Livan Hernandez aren’t listed, don’t forget that RFK has been an extreme pitcher’s park this year, and Win Shares adjusts for park factors.
National League Central
The Cardinals are once again running away with the NL Central, and the Astros have recently fought their way into second place. The Astros and Cubs might be able to contend for a wildcard slot by the end of the season. But the real action in this division is at first base:
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Lee CHN 1B 25 18 2 Pujols STL 1B 22 15 3 Clemens HOU SP 18 14 4 Edmonds STL OF 17 11 4 Oswalt HOU SP 15 11 4 Ensberg HOU 3B 17 11 7 Bay PIT OF 16 9 7 Dunn CIN OF 15 9 7 Lee MIL OF 16 9 10 Griffey Jr CIN OF 14 7 10 Carpenter STL SP 11 7 10 Biggio HOU 2B 13 7
Ken Griffey Jr. is not the Junior of old, but he’s still pretty darn good. He’s batting .287/.358/.521 with almost seven runs created a game.
National League West
The NL West has been the worst division in baseball, with a .411 winning percentage against teams from other divisions. Among the players, there is little depth behind Brian Giles and Jeff Kent.
Rk Player Team POS WS WSAB 1 Giles SD OF 19 12 2 Kent LAN 2B 18 11 3 Counsell ARI 2B 15 8 3 Drew LAN OF 14 8 5 Webb ARI SP 11 7 5 Matheny SF C 11 7 7 Gonzalez ARI OF 13 6
Remember when when Brian Sabean signed Mike Matheny to a 3-year $10.5 million contract this offseason? Believe it or not, Matheny has been the Giants’ Win Shares MVP so far, handling his catching duties well and ranking second on the team in slugging percentage. Crazy.
Speaking of the offseason, you also probably remember that little case of shortstop roulette, in which, St. Louis, LA of Anaheim and Boston swapped shortstops. You probably know that the Cardinals have been leadingthat particular game at this point, but Sabean signed a shortstop who’s played even better so far.
Player Team POS WS WSAB Vizquel SF SS 12 5 Eckstein STL SS 11 4 Cabrera LAA SS 6 1 Renteria BOS SS 5 -1
Omar Vizquel ranks sixth among all major league shortstops in WSAB. Like I said, Crazy.
Enjoy the All-Star game.