05 November 2012

Best Replacement Level Players Since 1983

Replacement level players are considered to be players that are easy to obtain, such as a non-roster invitees, or six year minor league free agents. WAR is an often used acronym these days which stands for Wins Above Replacement and is determined by a formula that includes runs above average run through a win-loss estimator. What makes the situation more muddled is that there are multiple forms of WAR right now, with Fangraphs using their own fWAR, which includes FIP for pitching and UZR for defense. Baseball Reference has rWAR which includes defensive runs saved for pitching, TotalZone for defense and base running for their calculations and WARP which is Baseball Prospectus' own calculation. For this post, we will be using the form of WAR published by Baseball Reference, which on their scale a 0.0 rating means a replacement level player, 2.0 would be a regular starter, 5.0 is all-star level, and 8.0 is an MVP candidate for each given year. 

We are going to be examining the players with the longest playing careers at near replacement level. There is something to be said for a player that averages being an easily replaceable player, yet that still manages to hang around the major leagues long enough to amass at least 4500 at bats.

#10 - Pedro Feliz - 3B/1B/OF - 11 years MLB - 1302 Games played with 4544 plate appearances. Pedro has primarily been a 3B for most of his career, he played as a starter for the majority of it averaging 118 games per season. Pedro owns 140 HR to only 13 SB and a slash line of .250/.288/.410 to go with a fairly solid glove during his career. Feliz spent most of his career with the Giants before playing his final 4 seasons with 3 different teams. Career rWAR: 3.8.

#9(tie) - Mariano Duncan - 2B/SS/LF - 12 years MLB - 1279 Games played with 4998 plate appearances. Duncan has career numbers of 87 HR, 174 SB and a slash line of .267/.300/.388 along with 1 all-star appearance. Playing a career high 142 games twice in his career, he played more than 100 games in a year 7 out of 12 years averaging 106 games per season. Career rWAR: 3.6.

#9(tie) - Joe Orsulak - OF - 14 years MLB - 1494 Games played with 4714 plate appearances. Orsulak could be considered one of the best 4th OF of the past 30 years, he only had 57 career HR and 93 career SB in 14 years averaging 107 games played per season in his career. He's never had an all-star season and he has a career stat line of .273/.324/.374 while playing all 3 OF positions regularly. Career rWAR: 3.6.

#9(tie) - Joe Girardi - C- 15 years MLB - 1277 Games played with 4535 plate appearances. Girardi may be the best back up catcher in the past 30 years, his intelligence in the game can be seen by his quick ascent to MLB manager, now with the Yankees. Always considered a capable defender who calls a good game, he had 36 career HR and 44 SB in his 15 years, while averaging 85 games played per year. Girardi also appeared as an all-star one time towards the end of his career. Career rWAR: 3.6.

#8 - Jose Guillen - OF - 14 years MLB - 1650 Games played with 6418 plate appearances. Guillen was known throughout his career as having one of the best OF arms in MLB and had 107 OF assists in his career. He was primarily a RF starter through his career where he averaged 118 games per year. Jose had some pop with 214 career HR to his 31 SB and a slash line of .270/.321/.440 in his well traveled career spending 14 years with 10 different teams. Career rWAR: 3.4.

#7 - Ed Sprague - 3B/1B - 11 years MLB - 1203 Games played with 4587 plate appearances. Sprague was a starter on some of those great Blue Jays teams of the mid 90's before becoming a part time player during the final few years of his career, he averaged 109 games per season overall. Sprague had one all-star season and ended with 152 HR, 6 SB and a line of .247/.318/.419. Career rWAR: 3.1.

#6 - Dante Bichette - OF - 14 years MLB - 1704 Games played with 6856 plate appearances. This is by far the biggest surprise for me on this list. We aren't talking about a UTL player or a guy with some power and little else, Bichette was a 4-time all-star and runner up for league MVP one year. In 14 years, Dante hit 274 HR, 401 doubles, had 152 SB and a slash line of .299/.336/.499 which are pretty terrific offensive numbers for a career. His Fangraphs WAR number was an 11.5 which means that his defensive and base running values were bad enough to wipe out a major amount of his offensive contributions. Career rWAR: 3.0.

#5 - Billy Hatcher - OF - 12 years MLB - 1233 Games played with 4752 plate appearances. Hatcher averaged 103 games played over 12 years but those numbers are skewed by 2 seasons of 11 games total, aside from those years he was a starter that played a large majority of his team's games. Billy had 54 HR to go with 218 SB and a line of .264/.312/.364. Career rWAR: 2.0.

#4 - Ty Wigginton - 3B/2B/1B/OF - 11 years MLB - 1315 Games played with 4886 plate appearances. Ty is well known in this time period for being almost the definition of utility player, playing all over the infield as well as some time in the OF. Wigginton has 169 career HR and 42 SB in his 11 seasons of MLB baseball, but he is also still active playing 2012 with PHI, so he still has a chance to move up higher on this list. His slash line reads .263/.324/.438 from his 7 teams in 11 years. Career rWAR: 1.3.

#3 - Tony Womack - 2B/SS/OF - 13 years MLB - 1303 Games played with 5389 plate appearances. Tony averaged 100 games per season, and had 36 HR in his career, but his real contributions came with his legs as he had 363 career SB. An all-star bid in his rookie year was never duplicated, and his career slash line ended up at .273/.317/.356, but he was an average defensive player who could play three up the middle positions , middle infield and center field, as well as providing speed at the top of the order. Career rWAR: 0.9.

#2 - Neifi Perez - SS/2B - 12 years MLB - 1403 Games played with 5510 plate appearances. Perez was a middle infield starter a few years and a textbook UTL player for others while racking up a .267/.297/.375 line to go with 64 HR and 57 SB. Perez was never a huge commodity with the bat, but was fairly well regarded with his glove, even winning a gold glove one of his seasons as a starter. Career rWAR: 0.7.

...and your number one player on the list, drumroll please...

#1 - Chris Gomez - SS/2B/1B - 16 years MLB - 1515 Games played with 5148 plate appearances. Gomez was a well regarded SS early in his career and was more solid than spectacular but made for a very solid UTL guy in the latter half of his career. His career stats featured 60 HR and 35 SB with a .262/.325/.360 line. Career rWAR: -3.7.


Philip said...

Can you explain how to calculate WAR?
It is terribly annoying to see a star an have no idea how it is calculated.
I feel like I'm voting for president without knowing a thing about politics beyond what the stat guys say...oh wait...

Jeremy Strain said...

I am far from a stat guy myself but that link I put in there is to a page where they show you how to calculate it. Jon is much better with stats than I am so he might be able to explain some too.

Jon Shepherd said...

Although a little dated (methodology always improves), this is one of the better explanations of WAR:

Even shorter hand...events are converted into the number of runs expected from any event. These runs are then scaled to a replacement level benchmark (considered 'available' offense at AAA and average defense) and converted to wins. A replacement level team would basically be considered worth about 47 or so wins depending on what system you use.