Tagged: Victor Martinez

The All Currently-On-The-DL Boston Red Sox & an Introduction to WAR


(Photo Cred: boston.com)

As the Red Sox take the field against the Orioles tonight, they do so with their 69th unique lineup in their 80th game of the season.  Without further ado, I bring you the July 2nd, 2010 edition of the All Currently-On-The-DL Boston Red Sox.  As a side note, I will explain what WAR means after the roster.  Also, I will dip into the minor leagues when necessary to fill the gaps (there aren’t many).

Jason Varitek; 23.4 Career WAR, 0.8 2010 WAR, DL since 7/2/10
We start off with the captain and the newest member of the All-DL team, Jason Varitek.  With a broken left foot, he is expected to miss up to 6 weeks.  He has exceeded the expectations of most this year and has performed more than admirably in the role he has been assigned.  
First Base
Mike Lowell; 29.3 Career WAR, 0.1 2010 WAR, DL since 6/23/10
Lowell has been the odd man out on the team from the get go, and even with all these injuries there really is no place for him.  Lowell’s injury is listed as a strained right hip, but you better believe that if the Sox needed him he would be playing through it.  The sad truth is, we need the roster spot more.  You may think it is a bit of a stretch to put him at first base, but he has actually played 6/10 games there this year (not including when he was the DH).
Second Base
Dustin Pedroia; 17.6 Career WAR, 3.6 2010 WAR, DL since 6/26/10
Pedroia has been the best player on this team this season by most metrics.  For this reason his injury is probably the most widely known.  He was recently joined by Jason Varitek on the All-Broken-Left-Foot team, but we’ll list those guys another time.  This list is starting to look like an All-Decade team…
Third Base
Jed Lowrie; 1.5 Career WAR, has not played in 2010, DL since 3/26/10
Remember him?  Lowrie is one of the longer-tenured members of this team, and has been forgotten by most fans.  He is out with mononucleosis right now, but has been ailed by several aches and pains over his short career.  The once highly regarded prospect sure is missed by the Sox right about now.
Jose Iglesias; hasn’t played in ML- WAR unavailable for minor leagues, DL since 5/29/10
I had to reach a little for this one, down to AA, but Iglesias is one of the team’s top prospects.  He has a broken right index finger.  Although he would almost certainly not have been called up to the Sox to help out at this point anyway, the injury is not helping his development into our first consistent shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra.  Not that we have high expectations for him, no pressure Jose.
Left Field
Jeremy Hermida; 3.5 Career WAR, 0.0 2010 WAR, DL since 6/10/10
Hermida makes the list by virtue of his broken ribs.  He, like Varitek, played better than a lot of people were expecting and was a great role player.  Speaking of outfielders with broken ribs…
Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury; 6.5 Career WAR, -0.2 2010 WAR, DL since 5/25/10
The date here is a little deceiving as that is just the start of Ellsbury’s latest stint on the DL.  In reality, he has collected just 45 plate appearances this season.  It’s pretty amazing when you take one of the best players and the spark plug out of this team and they are still one of the best teams in baseball.
Right Field
Zach Daeges; hasn’t played in ML, DL since 2009
Another bit of a reach, Daeges is probably one of the lesser known Sox prospects.  This is because he has not played yet this season and missed most of 2009 as well with a severe ankle injury.  When he has played though, he has shown some signs of promise, so here’s hoping he can overcome the injury bug and return as soon as possible.
Designated Hitter
Victor Martinez; 23.4 Career WAR, 1.2 2010 WAR, DL since 6/28/10
Martinez gets the nod at DH, since sadly he is not the best defensive catcher on this list.  He was just heating up before he broke his left thumb.  Hopefully he will back sooner rather than later to spare us Sox fans from the offensive efforts of a Kevin Cash/ Gustavo Molina platoon.
Starting Pitcher
Josh Beckett; 22.8 Career WAR, -0.9 2010 WAR, DL since 5/19/10
Beckett is out with a lower back strain.  He obviously was expected to be at least an above average pitcher this season, and it just hasn’t happened.  Remarkably, the rotation has been a strong point for the Red Sox, even with their ace on the mend.  
Manny Delcarmen; 3.5 Career WAR, 0.2 2010 WAR, D
L since 7/1/10
Delcarmen is a new member of the team as well, having just gone down with a strained right forearm.  Bullpen depth is always crucial, but Manny hasn’t provided an irreplaceable service thus far.  A triple-A replacement will do just fine.
This list will mean a lot more if you understand what WAR means, so I’ll try to explain it here for those who are unfamiliar with it.  It is one of my favorite statistics and I plan on using it frequently on this blog in the future.  WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement and was created by Sean Smith of baseballprojection.com, is defined on Baseball-Reference as “A single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add.”  Pretty powerful concept, right?  All these other stats we have mean nothing if your team doesn’t win games, so why not put a player’s performance in those terms?  A replacement player is defined as someone on the cusp of the Major Leagues, a “AAAA” player if you will (between AAA and the majors).  Essentially, the replacement level player will have a WAR of 0.0 and neither hurt nor help the team.  It is important to note that these are not the worst players, many players have accumulated negative WAR totals with poor play.
I love this stat for a few reasons.  Not only does it put everything in terms of wins, which just makes sense to me, but it also incorporates EVERY part of the game.  Offense, defense, baserunning, pitching, even an adjustment for high leverage situations.  I’m not going to post all the actual calculations because there are a couple different methods, I don’t fully understand them, and I don’t think you need to in order to appreciate and understand the stat.  The other reason I love WAR is because it is used for both hitters and pitchers.  There really has never been a way to compare Ted Williams to Roger Clemens before, but we now can see that by this method at least, Roger Clemens contributed just a hair more (128.4 to 125.3 Career WAR).  All of the WAR numbers in this post and for all players can be found on www.baseball-reference.com.  
Finally, to put the single season numbers into perspective a little (keep in mind that the 2010 numbers are for a partial season, through 7/1/10), Baseball-Reference provides this handy dandy scale.  A 0-2 WAR season is typical of a reserve/bench player, 2+ is a starter, 5+ is an all-star, and 8+ is an MVP.  There’s a lot I could say about WAR, but I’ll leave it at this for now and talk about it more in future posts as it becomes relevant.

The 1928 AL MVP Race

A few days ago, on April 29th, John Buck of the Toronto Blue Jays hit 3 home runs in one game, which is a pretty impressive feat.  It is even more impressive that Buck did it while playing catcher.  Since 1920, no catcher has ever homered 4 (or more) times in one game, and Buck marks the 27th time a catcher has homered thrice.  It should be noted that with searches made on Baseball-Reference such as this one, the years 1940-1951 are not covered.  So these 27 games cover the years 1920-1939 and 1952-2010.  The last to do it was Victor Martinez for the Indians in 2004.  His current teammate Jason Varitek is in the club as well, having completed the feat in 2001.  

The second of these 27 games was recorded in 1925 by Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane, who I am proud to introduce to this blog as a Boston University alum.  The conversation of BU alums in the majors really starts and ends with this guy, but I guess I can’t complain.  His 13 year career includes 2 MVP awards, 2 All-Star games (the first All-Star Game was played when he was 30 years old), and 3 World Series Championships.  Cochrane’s career is an interesting one for a multitude of reasons, so don’t be surprised if you hear his name on this blog again.
The most intriguing part for me is the quality of competition that he managed to beat out both times he came away with the American League MVP Award.  First let’s look at the leading vote-getters the first time he won in 1928:
Voting Results Batting Stats Pitching Stats
Rank ▴ Tm Vote Pts Share G AB R H HR RBI SB BB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Mickey Cochrane PHA 53.0 83% 131 468 92 137 10 57 7 76 .293 .395 .464 .859
2 Heinie Manush SLB 51.0 80% 154 638 104 241 13 108 16 39 .378 .414 .575 .989
3 Joe Judge WSH 27.0 42% 153 542 78 166 3 93 16 80 .306 .396 .417 .813
3 Tony Lazzeri NYY 27.0 42% 116 404 62 134 10 82 15 43 .332 .397 .535 .932
5 Willie Kamm CHW 15.0 23% 155 552 70 170 1 84 17 73 .308 .391 .411 .802
6 Goose Goslin WSH 13.0 20% 135 456 80 173 17 102 16 48 .379 .442 .614 1.056
6 Earle Combs NYY 13.0 20% 149 626 118 194 7 56 11 77 .310 .387 .463 .850
8 Charlie Gehringer DET 12.0 19% 154 603 108 193 6 74 15 69 .320 .395 .451 .846
9 Buddy Myer BOS 11.0 17% 147 536 78 168 1 44 30 53 .313 .379 .390 .769
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/2/2010.

I’ve included the top 9 leading vote-getters, who were all hitters. As you can see, Cochrane barely eked out the victory over Manush- but how did he? Manush dwarfs him in nearly every relevant category, including a batting average that was 85 points higher despite collecting an extra 170 at-bats. I looked to defense for an explanation, and found that Manush posted a .992 fielding percentage in the outfield compared to a league average .966, while Cochrane posted a .966 fielding percentage behind the dish compared to a league average .976. Cochrane’s Athletics finished second in the American League while Manush’s Browns finished 3rd. But is that really enough to justify all his other “shortcomings?” Of course not.

In 1928, the AL MVP award had certain restrictions that are no longer in effect. The award was given to “the baseball player who is of the greatest all-around service to his club” and was voted on by a committee of just eight baseball writers. The three major differences from today were that you could not win if you were a player-manager (which was common then), you could not win if you had won before (this took Lou Gehrig, the 1927 winner among others out of the equation), and each of the eight writers had to vote for one player from each team. The first two rules have no effect on Manush, as he was eligible to win that year. The last sounds promising, but even that offers no help. Manush had no St. Louis Browns worthy of the title to compete with, while Cochrane played with a 41-year old Ty Cobb and a 20-year old Jimmie Foxx among other future Hall of Famers. Foxx even finished 11th in the voting, while none of Manush’s teammates finished in the top 25.

All this, and still no mention of Goose Goslin, who finished 6th in the voting. A quick glance at the table above, and it appears that he finished just 6 RBI short of the Triple Crown. This was not actually the case, since some ineligible players had him beat in home runs and RBI, although he did lead the league in batting average. He also finished the season with a Ruthian OPS of 1.056 (actually, Ruth’s OPS that year was 1.172, but he was ineligible to be MVP by virtue of winning the award in 1923). How did Goslin get overlooked? Maybe the teammate argument actually holds some weight here, since his fellow Washington Senator Joe Judge finished ahead of him at 3rd place.

I apologize if this post is unsatisfying, because I really have no answer to the question I have raised. I can’t find any justification for Cochrane winning this award over Manush or Goslin, unless the voters thought that he brought enough intangibles to the table to make up for his lack of statistical clout. Nevertheless, the 1928 AL MVP was the first awarded to a BU alum, and the second would come in 1934, also to Cochrane. This post is longer than I thought it would be so I’ll wrap up, but I would like to take a look at that MVP race eventually as well. And in case you are a particularly astute reader and you just noticed that Cochrane won twice despite there being a rule against it, the rules for the award were restructured in 1931 and have remained virtually the same since then. In conclusion, you can ask your friends and family the trivia question, “Who won the AL MVP Award in 1929 and 1930?” and then mock them as they attempt to answer before you inform them that no one did, because they discontinued it after 1928 due to the ridiculous rules and didn’t get it going again until 1931. Thanks for reading, and if you like the blog or if you have anything at all to say, I love comments and e-mails.