Win Shares at the All-Star Break

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.

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