Jayson Werth is just 39, but he sure is talking like a cranky old man.
Now retired, the former highly-paid major league outfielder and World Series champion went off on analytics experts in a recent rant.
“They’ve got all these super nerds, as I call them, in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players,” Werth said, according to ESPN. “… I think it’s killing the game. It’s to the point where (they should) just put computers out there. Just put laptops and what have you, just put them out there and let them play. We don’t even need to go out there anymore. It’s a joke.”
We’re not sure that analytics are the be all and end all, but they played a part in Billy Beane’s success as a GM with the Oakland A’s.
And don’t tell Atlanta Braves wunderkind GM Alex Anthopoulos that Sabermetrics has no part in how the game is played and managed now. The Braves have used advanced stats to become surprise contenders this season.
Most often, the stats don’t lie. Here are baseball’s analytics darlings and duds and judging by their stats (including traditional numbers) and teams’ records, the tags are in a most cases appropriate. Starting with duds at every position, with qualified players only (i.e. starters).
OF Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals – Dud
Before he fractured his foot and went on the 10-day DL last Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals were paying Dexter Fowler a king’s ransom for a whole lotta mediocre. Not only is he the worst rated WAR outfielder in baseball at -1.4, he was hitting just .180 with eight homers and 31 RBI. For $16.5 million, which the team will be on the hook for over the next three seasons yet, Fowler’s numbers across the board don’t warrant it. His other analytics stats tell a sad, sad tale too. His Wins Above Average (WAA) is -2.5 and Runs Above Replacement a dismal -11. Defensively, his dWAR is a disappointing -0.9, which is justified by a sub-par .969 fielding percentage (four errors on 130 chances).
OF Aaron Altherr, Philadelphia Phillies – Dud
Just one season ago, Aaron Altherr was looking for all the world like a bonafide major league outfielder. The 6’5″ versatile fielder hit .272 in 107 games (his most in MLB) with 19 homers and 65 RBI. He had a WAR of 1.7 and was looking earlier this season that he might be a long-term part of the Phillies renaissance. But, after a so-so April, he slumped horribly, to the point he was just 7-for-50 in June. By late July, with his batting average at a lousy .171 with six homers and 33 RBI, he was demoted to AAA to get his confidence back. Among all major league outfield starters, before demotion, Altherr’s -1.0 WAR was second worst to Dexter Fowler’s -1.4. Every analytical stat in his line has seen a decrease, including range factor (down to 1.69 from 2.34 in 2017) and RAR (19 to -8 over one year).
OF Jay Bruce, New York Mets – Dud
In the category of “what have you done for me lately?” is the expensive experiment Jay Bruce in the Big Apple. Earlier this year, Bruce signed a three-year, $39 million contract to return to the Mets, who seemed to be a contender. So much for that. Before he was put on the long-term DL in mid June with a hip injury, Bruce’s underwhelming production did nothing to help the team’s malaise, as he was hitting just .212 with three homers and 17 RBI in 62 games. His WAR of -1.0 is third worst among all outfield starters, too and looks even more brutal compared to the 2.6 he put up with the Mets last year before a trade deadline deal sent him to Cleveland. Bruce’s RAR also went from 2 and 27 with Cleveland and the Mets, respectively, in 2017 down to -8 with New York this year.
C Chris Iannetta, Colorado Rockies – Dud
That the Rockies are still in the NL West pennant hunt is not due to the performance of their catchers. Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters. Of the two, veteran Iannetta is having as mediocre season as a starting catcher can. Never a great hitter, his .222 batting average is still below his career average of .230 and his production is way down. In 2017, with Arizona, he had a comeback of sorts, hitting .254 with 17 homers (second most in his career) with 43 RBI. In addition to his MLB worst -0.7 WAR — for a starting catcher not on the DL or sent to the minors — Iannetta’s other analytical numbers tell the tale of a 35-year-old veteran on the decline. His RAR went from 19 in 2017 to -5 this year and his dWAR dipped to -0.5 from 0.3 in 2017. To back up his defensive slide, Iannetta has thrown out just four of 37 prospective base stealers this season, way down from nailing 24 percent last season (8-for-33).
1B Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles – Dud
Hands down, Chris Davis wins the award for baseball’s MDP, or “Most Disappointing Player.” In every major statistical category, traditional to analytical, Davis is more than a dud. The man with the untradeable $17 million contract is hitting an eye-popping .158, with 14 homers and 39 RBI in 99 games. He’s also well on his way to striking out over 200 times, which he did when he was home run champion just three short years ago. The 32-year-old Texan still has four seasons left on a monster seven-year, $161 million contract, too. Davis owns not only the worst WAR (-2.3) among first baseman, but of all major league players and pitchers, period. His Runs Better Than Average (RAA) is -37, after being +27 in 2015 and his RAR has sunk to -22 from 0 in 2017. There isn’t anything about his game to like, from any standpoint.
2B Eduardo Nunez, Boston Red Sox – Dud
Dustin Pedroia’s shoes may be too big to fill, if you’re Eduardo Nunez. Good thing the Red Sox are 50 games above .500 and going to the post-season, because their success certainly masks the second sacker’s deficiencies. Pressed into service after Dustin Pedroia suffered a season ending injury, the Bosox have been so thrilled with veteran Nunez’s performance that they traded for fellow vet and second baseman Ian Kinsler at the deadline (he too has been hamstrung by an injury of late). Of all second basemen who are regulars, Nunez owns the worst WAR at -1.2. Pretty sad stat when one considers the success Boston is having this year, in our opinion. In addition to his traditional stats all taking a nosedive (i.e. .313 batting average in 2017 to .264 this year), Nunez has seen his RAR go from 9 in 2017 to -12 this season and his dWAR go from -0.2 to -1.3.
3B Luis Valbuena, Los Angeles Angels – Dud
Anything anyone needs to know about how far down the major league roster of third basemen that Luis Valbuena has fallen need only look at his batting average. The veteran infielder and most-of-the-time third sacker is in his second straight season below the Mendoza line, batting just .199 for the Halos. That was exactly what the now released veteran hit for Los Angeles last year. He was designated for assignment last week and not a moment too soon. Valbuena had struck out 100 times in 288 plate appearances and had a lousy OBP of .253. Defensively, five of his eight errors on the season came in 57 games at third, where he had a .953 fielding percentage. No wonder, then, that his overall WAR of -0.9 was third worst among all third basemen (he gets the nod because he has been a starter most of the year). The most telling decline was his dip in Offensive Wins Against Replacement (oWAR), where he logged a 2.5 in 2016 and a -0.8 in 2018.
SS Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals – Dud
Oh how the once mighty have fallen. After being an All-Star and a World Series champion in 2015, shortstop Alcides Escobar owns the worst WAR among all players at his position in 2018 at -1.5. Not only that, but his RAA (-30), RAR (-15) and dWAR (-0.7) are also among the most deplorable marks in the major leagues. The veteran Venezualan shortstop has suffered a steep drop in play in 2018, including a terrible .204 batting average, with is 52 points below his career .256 mark. Little wonder that the Royals, who have shed many big money players, are the second worst team in baseball at 35-82. Everything about Escobar’s once decent statistical numbers make him a candidate to be replaced, from his OBP (.257) to his horrid OPS (.539). It’s a good thing the Royals are only paying him $3.5 million.
DH Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers – Dud
Designated hitter is a niche position, but when a player has one job to do, and one only, owning a -1.3 WAR is just bad. Paid $18 million this season to pound balls into oblivion, the 39-year-old Martinez is instead providing just pop-gun offence. As recently as 2014, the five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger recipient hit .335 with 32 home runs, 103 RBI and MLB best on base percentage (.409) and OPS (.974). Just four years later, Martinez is batting nearly 100 points worse at .239, with six dingers and 36 RBI. His OBP is down to .290 and his OPS is .612. To illustrate just how much Martinez’s worth has sunk, compare his oWAR in 2014 of 5.9 to -1.4 now, or a superb RAR in 2014 of 51 to -13 today. He’s a free agent at year’s end and it’s not inconceivable he may retire.
SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – Dud
From Cy Young to “Sigh” Young. That is pretty much how Hernandez’s recent troubles could be described. In 2010, King Felix was on top of the AL pitching heap, winning his first Cy Young after finishing second in 2009. Since then he has finished top 10 in Cy voting four times and has been an All-Star five times. But, the chinks in the armor started showing in 2016, when his ERA nearly topped out at 4.00 (it was 3.82) and his WHIP crept up to 1.324. This year, in addition to having the second worst WAR among all qualified starters at -1.4, Hernandez also owns the second worst ERA at 5.73 and seventh worst WHIP of 1.435. Numbers like those would earn a younger or lesser player a demotion, but in his case, he was sent to the M’s bullpen for the first time in his lengthy career. As recently as 2015 Hernandez’s WAR was 4.5, which makes his 2018 mark even more appalling.
SP Jason Hammel, Kansas City Royals – Dud
A relative stud during the 2016 season with the Chicago Cubs, when he went 15-10 with a .383 ERA and a 1.3 WAR, Hammel is now bullpen fodder after posting some of the most God-awful numbers in major league baseball. On the traditional side, Hammel was 2-10 (now 2-12) with a 5.56 ERA before he was sent to the Royals bullpen in early July. After 10 appearances as a set-up man, Hammel now has a 6.15 ERA and 1.642 WHIP. We put him as our second starting pitching dud, based on a terrible -1.5 WAR and -2.5 WAA (Wins Above Average). The only saving grace for the horrible Royals is the fact that after wasting $9 million on Hammel’s now sub-par arm, they can walk away from the mutual $12 million 2019 option year they agreed to in 2017.
RP Brian Duensing, Chicago Cubs – Dud
Not that we ever advocate a player going on the disabled list, but it probably wasn’t the worst thing for the NL Central leading Cubs when reliever Duensing went on the 10-day DL not long ago with shoulder inflammation. Before he went down, Duensing was the worst still-employed reliever, in terms of not just WAR (-1.4) but also ERA (7.34) and WHIP (1.835). The veteran of 10 big league seasons has seen his ERA balloon from a very respectable 2.74 in 2017, along with his 1.219 WHIP and 1.4 WAR. In 43 appearances this season, Duensing has logged a save, but has also blown two. In the last three outings before he was placed on the shelf, the 35-year-old veteran surrendered seven hits, two walks and five earned runs in just 3.1 innings pitched, which shot his already horrible ERA up nearly a half point. He still has one year left on a two-year, $7 million contract, too.
RP Bryan Shaw, Colorado Rockies – Dud
To his credit, veteran bullpen arm Shaw has come around of late, earning manager Bud Black’s confidence again. But it all starts with baby steps. Tasked with protecting leads this season, Shaw instead coughed up far too many, logging four blown saves in 51 appearances, a terrible WAR of -1.1 and a WHIP of 1.818. There were a couple of worse relievers, in the WAR category, but they are no longer employed, including Bruce Rondon of the White Sox and Greg Holland of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Rockies, still fighting for a post-season berth, need more out of Shaw and the $7.5 million they are paying him than mopping up in games where the outcome isn’t in doubt. He’s done a lot of that lately, like an inning of scoreless relief in a 10-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Aug. 7.
Rookie INF/OF Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies – Dud
We decided this piece needed a couple of rookies to balance things out. In his case, Phillies freshman infielder Scott Kingery actually has the worst WAR among rookies at -1.3. The blue chip prospect started the year off slowly, then picked it up in June, hitting .250, with two homers and 10 RBI. However, he has cooled off in the dog days with just a homer and six RBI since July 1, with three sit downs mixed in during August. Overall, Kingery is batting .223, with five homers and 30 RBI. As a shortstop (he’s also played third, second and all three outfield positions), Kingery own a .982 fielding percentage and a dWAR of -0.3. His RAR of -9 and RAA of -22 are nothing to be impressed with, even though he is a first year player.
OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels – Darling
Unfortunately for the Halos, two-time AL MVP Trout is riding the pine with a wrist injury, as he was finally placed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday after being missing in action since Aug. 1. Before that, he was his usual monster self, logging a second best MLB WAR of 7.8. Trout’s oWAR of 7.2 is highest among all players and his dWAR at 0.8 in the top 40. Traditional stats-wise, Trout was pounding the ball to the tune of a .309 average, with 21 doubles, three triples, 30 homers and 60 RBI. He had 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts and MLB bests in walks (99) and on-base percentage (.459). Defensively, he has zero errors in 198 chances and three outfield assists to his credit. We can only imagine where the 59-60 Angels would be without him in the line-up for most of this sub-par season.
OF Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox – Darling
With Mike Trout shelved for an extended period of time, the odds-on favorite for AL MVP has to be Betts. The three-time All-Star has the best overall WAR of 8.1 and is Mr. Everything for the surging Bosox, who are a crazy 50 games above .500. What’s even crazier is the fact that his WAR is actually 1.6 points below his 2016 mark of 9.7. So far, he leads all major league hitters with a .350 average, along with highs in runs (99) and OPS (1.106). Betts has stolen 23 bases in 26 tries, hit 34 doubles, five triples, 27 homers and knocked in 63 runs. He has done all this, despite the fact he also missed 20 games due to various ailments. Defensively, the fifth-year player has a dWAR of 0.9 and has made just one error in 100 games (93 in right field and seven in center) with three assists.
OF Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers – Darling
Boston’s J.D. Martinez may have better stats and a higher WAR than Cain (5.6 to 5.2), but the latter gets the nod here for outfielders with a 2.1 dWAR which is tied for fourth best overall among all players. A move to the National League has been very good for former world champion and Kansas City Royal Cain. Good for him and good for the Brewers, who own one of two wild card spots as of Aug. 13. In 102 games, the nine-year veteran has a .302 average, 21 stolen bases, 28 extra base hits and 30 RBI. His on base percentage of .391 and .810 OPS both represent career bests, too. His strong analytical defensive standing is due in no small part to the 10 assists he has logged in 2018, which are tied for the MLB lead among all outfielders. So far, the Brewers look like geniuses for inking him to a five-year, $80 million contract.
C Wilson Contreras, Chicago Cubs – Darling
Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto is the analytical offensive leader with a 3.4 WAR, but he isn’t near the top defensively, so all around honors go to Cubs catcher Contreras. The Cubs star is second among all catchers with a 3.1 WAR and first at his position in dWAR at 1.4. In just his third year, Contreras is establishing himself as one of the best at a tough position and was an All-Star for the first time too. His power numbers are down slightly from 2017, however, Contreras is as consistent at the plate as they come, hitting .273, with 35 extra base hits and 41 RBI. His dWAR of 1.4 is right in line with last season and his numbers bear it out. Contreras has a .988 fielding percentage and has tossed out 16 of 54 would-be base stealers for an admirable 30 percent efficiency rate.
1B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals – Darling
Officially listed as a first baseman where WAR is concerned, there is more to Carpenter than meets the eye. He is very versatile, also logging time this season at third and second. He tops out in both overall WAR (5.1, best among first basemen) and dWAR, where he is second overall at 0.3 (for anyone playing over 50 games at that position). Now in his seventh big league campaign, Carpenter is enjoying one of his best offensive seasons ever. He leads the senior circuit in homers with 32 (a personal best, already) and is also no. 1 in slugging percentage (.591) and OPS (.980). In addition to those numbers he has 33 doubles, 65 RBI and 74 walks. A three-time All-Star, Carpenter has an outstanding RAR of 52 and RAA of 37. In the field, he has made six errors at third, but only three at first in 349 chances.
2B Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs – Darling
The amount of good, young talent at Wrigley Field is stunning. They are set at no less than seven positions with players who area all under the age of 27, including first time All-Star second baseman and fifth-year player Baez, who is just 25. He is a masher at the plate and slick in the field, owning a major league best WAR at his position of 4.7 and a dWAR of 1.0 (tied for sixth best). No mean feat, those analytical numbers, considering he’s bested Jose Altuve in both. For our money, then, he is the analytical darling second baseman, hands down. He has come to play for the NL Central leading Cubs, leading the senior circuit in RBI with 89 and in total bases with 245. Baez already has career highs in doubles (31), triples (7), homers (25), RBI and OPS (.898). A plug-and-play infielder with a sterling 4.75 range factor, Baez has logged time at not only second, but shortstop and third base, making just 10 errors in 470 total chances (.979 fielding percentage).
3B Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics – Darling
There is no player in major league baseball with a better dWAR than Chapman’s 3.0. Not by a long shot as the second best belongs to Andrelton Simmons at 2.4. And in just his second season, the 25-year-old Californian also has the second highest WAR at his position, posting a 6.5. At the hot corner, Chapman has also registered the highest range factor, beating out Mike Moustakas 3.36 to 2.99 so far. In his first full campaign, the A’s budding superstar has been great at the plate, batting .273, with 23 doubles, six triples, 16 homers and 41 RBI. He has been a huge part of why the A’s are just 2.5 games back of Houston in the AL West and firmly in possession of the second wild card spot with a 70-48 record. He will be a player for years to come and may have already made A’s fans forget about Josh Donaldson.
SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians – Darling
The Tribe have several candidates for analytical darlings, but they haven’t registered stats like fourth-year shortstop Lindor. He is the straw that stirs the Indians’ drink, both at the plate and in the field. He is the complete package, recording a WAR of 6.9 (fourth best in baseball) and 2.1 dWAR, also tied for fourth best in MLB. Other analytics goodies see a RAA of 49 (fifth best overall) and Wins Above Average (WAA) at 5.2, tied for seventh. Statistically speaking, Lindor is having yet another superior season. He is co-leader with Mookie Betts in runs scored with 99 and second in the major leagues (first in the AL) in doubles with 39. Otherwise, Lindor has a triple, 29 homers, 74 RBI and a solid gold OPS of .932. About the only place he isn’t top 10 is in range factor, where his number is 3.79 (15th overall). However, that 2.1 dWAR certainly evens things out.
DH Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners – Darling
Where his confrere Victor Martinez is a dud at designated hitter, veteran Cruz is an absolute darling, leading all DH’s in WAR at 2.6. Just a year younger than Martinez at 38, Cruz is showing no sign of slowing down at the plate. In that regard, the fate of the M’s post-season hopes rest partly on his big shoulders. For the fifth straight season, Cruz has topped the 30-homer plateau (he had 30 as of Monday) and could conceivably beat his personal best 44 recorded in 2015. He has also knocked in 75 runs and has a .550 slugging percentage and .901 OPS. What’s weird is that some of his Sabermetric stats like WAA and RAR are well down from previous seasons, even though his traditional numbers haven’t wavered that much. A six-time All-Star, Cruz is the best designated hitter in baseball right now.
SP Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies – Darling
There is no more exciting young pitcher in baseball than Philly’s Aaron Nola. The 25-year-old former first round pick has lived up to his advanced billing and as of Monday sported a 13-3 record, 1.000 WHIP, 2.28 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 154 innings. What really makes him special though, and a possible Cy Young candidate, is the fact he is third overall in the bigs with a 7.4 WAR. Nola is also tied for second with Mike Trout in WAA at 6.2 and fourth in RAA at 51.8. Everything about the native of Baton Rouge screams all-timer, considering what he has done in the last two seasons (25-14 overall in 51 starts). Getting into the nitty-gritty, Nola has given up just eight homers this season, which translate to a MLB best 0.5 per nine innings.
RP Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics – Darling
The A’s, like the Cubs were — and still remain — are on the cusp of greater things. With a young-ish roster counting superb young guys like Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea, this team may contend for years to come. Among the not so young, but not too old, either, is lights out 30-year-old closer Treinen. He has the highest WAR for any closer in the game at 2.9, which is a half point higher than the next contender, Edwin Diaz over in Seattle. Treinen has registered saves in 30 of 34 opportunities and has 79 strikeouts in just 59 innings, along with a stellar 0.92 ERA, which is a full point lower than saves leader Diaz’s 1.98 mark. Treinen’s ascent to the top of the closer heap was not foretold, but the fact he is doing what he is doing — analytics wise — should come as no surprise, considering the A’s penchant for finding diamonds in the rough.
Rookie RF/3B Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins – Darling
There are only four qualified rookies, when it comes to statistical relevance. Where Scott Kingery is still working out the kinks in Philadelphia, though, Marlins utility man Brian Anderson is having a breakout year. He is first in WAR for the four qualified guys at 2.8, which looks even better among all rookies, where Anderson is second to just the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader, who has just 236 at bats to Anderson’s 458. A third rounder in 2014, Anderson has risen fast to the big league level, partly due to top shelf talent as well as the necessity to fill a hole after Miami’s most recent talent purge. After playing 25 games in 2017, Anderson has taken the bull by the horns in 2018, recording that good WAR and hitting .282 with 38 extra base hits and 53 RBI. Defensively, he’s been better in right field than third base, making just one error in 87 games in right and four errors in 31 games at third.