Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nationals WAR--Various 1B Scenarios

In the chatter around my Nationals WAR post (and it was my second most-viewed post ever--thanks to BBTF, BtB, BallBug, and the many others who linked to it), the most common question I got was, "why the heck are you giving so much playing time to Kory Casto? I have him at 50% of the PT at first and 15% at third, backing up Nick and Zimmerman.

For back-up 3B, I really don’t remember what I was thinking, but it makes more sense to assume those ABs go to Belliard, which is what I will do in future posts. (You may be surprised to learn that this actually costs the team a tiny bit in WAR, as Belliard is only projected to be .011 better in wOBA and is almost 9 runs worse in the field.)

For 1B, it’s more complicated. The truth is that I really have no idea how to project playing time for the Nationals at first base in 2009. Nick and Meat can’t stay healthy. Lots of people want to just plug in Josh Willingham, but I’m reluctant to do that because a) the team and the player have both said he’s here to play left field, and b) Willingham has so little track record at first base that it’s basically a stab in the dark to project him defensively. Eldred and Whitney also have no real track record. Belliard’s an extreme emergency option only I think.

Initially, I was going to put in Nick for 50% and “replacement player” for the rest. But since Casto happens to project as almost exactly a replacement level player, I just plugged him in instead.

But let’s look at what some of the other possible scenarios would play out. First, as a reminder, Nick and Casto together would provide 2.46 WAR (as a further reminder
, in lieu of a significant sample size of fielding stats, I’m assuming Casto is an average defender, which I actually think is probably underrating him a bit):

Name PT wOBA FRAA Pos adj WAR
Johnson 50% .392 7.4 -1.25 2.49
Casto 50% .317 0 -1.25 -0.03

First let’s imagine that Dmitri Young is able to fill the other 50% of the playing time. Here’s what you get:

Name PT wOBA FRAA Pos adj WAR
Johnson 50% .392 7.4 -1.25 2.49
Young 50% .353 -7.4 -1.25 0.66

OK so Young gives us about two-thirds of an additional win, which isn't the small amount it might sound like if you aren't used to thinking in terms of WAR. But does it make sense to project Young at 50% of the playing time? I didn't think so. Next let’s split that 50% between Young and Belliard, kinda like a replay of 2008:

Name PT wOBA FRAA Pos adj WAR
Johnson 50% .392 7.4 -1.25 2.49
Young 30% .353 -7.4 -1.25 0.40

OK, so this isn't looking like such a good idea. If you assume that playing Belliard at first forces you to play Anderson Hernandez more at second, that would cost us even more. Now let's look at the scenario fans seem most excited about--the Willingham at first base option. For defense, let's assume that he's not quite as bad as he is in left field, but still below average. We'll assume he's half as much below average at first compared to left. that would put him at -7.5 FRAA.

Name PT wOBA FRAA Pos adj WAR
Johnson 50% .392 7.4 -1.25 2.49
Willingham 50% .373 -7.5 -1.25 1.23

OK, so we've added a full win here. Seems good right? And in fact we gain even more if you give more of his left field playing time to Harris or Kearns (yes, Willingham projects as a bit worse than either of them because of his bad defense).

I'll leave you with one other scenario, the best scenario of all--the Heathy Nick scenario. Since we're really dreaming, we'll back him up with Dmitri Young. Here's what you get:

Name PT wOBA FRAA Pos adj WAR
Johnson 85% .392 7.4 -1.25 4.24
Young 15% .353 -7.4 -1.25 0.20

Almost 4.5 WAR, a full win better than any other option. Clearly this is the one to be rooting for.
  • Finally, while I'm at it, I thought I'd share my raw fielding stats numbers. Again, the idea here is to take the last 3 seasons worth of UZR/150 and Rate2 stats (both of which estimate fielding runs allowed above or below average; UZR is on Fangraphs; Rate2 is on and simply average them out after weighting by the number of innings played in each year. The idea is to try to come up with the most reliable fielding metric by increase the sample size and including a couple different metrics. This way, I was able to come up with what I think are usably reliable numbers for all the non-pitchers and non-catchers except Anderson Hernandez and Kory Casto. You can see the numbers on Google spreadsheets here.

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