Let’s Play WAR

I assume everyone out there has played the card game War, in which “The deck is divided evenly between the as many players face-down. Each player reveals his top card, and the player with the higher card puts both the cards on the bottom of his deck. If the cards are of equal value, each player plays two face-down cards and a third face-up card, and the higher-valued card wins all the cards on the table. This is known as a war. In the case of another tie, the process is repeated until there is no tie. A player wins when the other player runs out of cards.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Well what if we turned all of the players in MLB into cards, and used them to play the game? And even further than that, what if you would be so kind as to allow me to combine multiple cards against your one? Say, your Albert Pujols against my entire Baltimore Orioles infield? (See? This was all going somewhere, eventually.) Pujols has been the most valuable position player in baseball this year, totaling 5.4 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs. Surely the Orioles infield could total 5.4 WAR? Well Brian Roberts has had a solid season so far (2.0 WAR). Gregg Zaun has more than done his job behind the plate (1.1 WAR). After that it gets kind of bleak with no Orioles above 0.5 WAR: Melvin Mora (0.4), Cesar Izturis (0.4), Matt Wieters (0.3), Ty Wigginton (0.2 – including any time he spent at DH), Oscar Salazar (0.2 – including pinch-hitting duties), Chad Moeller (0), Robert Andino (0), and Aubrey Huff (-0.2). That’s a total of only 4.4 WAR, which is not only less than Pujols’ 5.4, but also Chase Utley’s 4.9. I was honestly curious to see how things would shake out, but this is some clear domination by the best player in the game. How about for outfielders? The leader is Matt Kemp with his 4.5 WAR (really it’s Ben Zobrist’s 4.9, but he’s played all over the field). Adam Jones was an All-Star (and Kemp wasn’t, which was kind of absurd), Nick Markakis is one of the best young players in the game, and Nolan Reimold is pushing for a Rookie of the Year award – so, do how they stack up? Well, it’s 1.7 (Jones) + 0.9 (Markakis) + 0.2 (Reimold) + 0.2 (Pie) + (-0.1) (Freel) + (-0.2) (Montanez) + 1.7 (for Luke Scott, as a sometimes member of the OF, though we;ll give him full credit for it) – that’s a total of 4.4 WAR. We had to fudge it with Scott just to make it close, but the O’s outfield still loses. I know the starting rotation is traditionally bad, but Koji was very good in limited time and Bergesen is having a great rookie season so maybe they can edge out Zach Greinke’s 6.2 WAR. We have 1.8 (Bergy) + 1.7 (Koji) + 0.6 (Berken – really) + 0.5 (Hill) + 0.4 (Hernandez) + 0.3 (Guthrie) + 0 (Eaton) + (-0.1) (Hendrickson, for his starting) + (-0.4) (Simon, in his one disastrous start), for a total of 4.8 WAR. So Greinke beats them pretty thoroughly, but he’s also having a ridiculous season. Tim Lincecum (5.5 WAR) also outpaces the O’s rotation, though the Birds have a slight lead on Dan Haren (4.7) and Roy Halladay (4.6). The bullpen has to be the place though. It’s hard for any reliever to put up crazy WAR totals just due to the small number of innings, so the O’s have to be able to pull out a win here. The top reliever thus far has been Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers, with his 2.0 WAR. For the O’s pen it’s 0.8 (Sherrill) + 0.5 (Albers) + 0.5 (Johnson) + 0.4 (Hendrickson out of the pen) + 0 (Mickolio, McCrory, Baez, Castillo) + (-0.1) (Ray) + (-0.2) (Bass) + (-0.2) (Liz) + (-0.2) (Sarfate) + (-0.3) (Walker), for a total of only 1.2 WAR. That’s not very good, but even the top 3 O’s relievers only get to 1.8 WAR. The full pen is beaten not only by Broxton, but by Rafael Soriano, JP Howell, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey, Mike Wuertz, David Aardsma, Heath Bell, Brain Wilson, and, of course, Mariano Rivera. So that means a team of Albert Pujols (and 4 more replacement level infielders), Matt Kemp (and 2 more replacement level outfielders), Zach Greinke (and 4 replacement level starters), and Jonathan Broxton (and how ever many replacement level relievers) would have been more valuable than the team the Orioles put on the field so far this year. [Note: This has all been just a silly exercise that I was curious about on my way home from work. Obviously it doesn’t make you all warm and fuzzy about the prospects of the O’s pulling out a winning season this year, but keep in mind this isn’t really representative of the player’s talent levels.]