Biggest WAR Fallers from 2009

With September fast approaching, it’s incredible to think the season is almost over. I say the same thing every year, but it really does seem like Opening Day was yesterday. As we get closer to the big 1-6-2, I wanted to take a look at some of the biggest decliners in WAR (not primarily due to injury) from 2009 to 2010 and do a little analysis as to why the drop occured.

UT Ben Zobrist
2009 WAR: 8.3
2010 WAR: 2.7

Zobrist was the name around sabermetric circles last year, putting up awesome offensive numbers while playing a variety of positions. Unfortunately for Ben and Rays fans alike, that prowess at the plate has not carried over to 2010. The 29-year-old’s wOBA dropped from .406 last year to just .330 this year, a combination of an 11.9% drop in home runs per fly ball and concurrent drops in BABIP and BB%. Meanwhile, here’s Zobrist’s defensive games started in 2009 versus 2010:

1B: 2/7
2B: 81/27
3B: 1/0
SS: 6/0
LF: 2/0
CF: 5/8
RF: 37/71

Due to Tampa Bay’s roster construction, Zobrist is playing a lot more of right field and less of premium positions that require a lower offensive performance to beat replacement level standards.

SS Derek Jeter
2009 WAR: 7.4
2010 WAR: 2.2

Jeter’s 2009 was truly remarkable, putting up the fourth highest wOBA of his career (and best since 2006) while also accumulating the most fielding runs of his career. In 2010, everything has come apart for the captain from the Bronx. Jeter’s on pace to have the worst offensive year of his career by a pretty decent margin with a .323 wOBA (102 wRC+); he’s walking 2.3% less of the time while also hitting grounders at a Tim Hudson-esque 65.8% rate. With a BABIP .63 lower than last year, there isn’t much saving Derek at the plate. On defense, UZR has him for -4.3 runs with DRS saying he’s been at -11. Either way, Jeter has disappointed given his 2009 and contract.

INF Chone Figgins
2009 WAR: 6.1
2010 WAR: 0.2

The most dramatic decrease of all, Figgins has gone from one of the best third basemen in baseball last year to one of the worst second basemen this year. In his first year in Seattle, Figgins has hit a measly .248/.336/.292 despite a modest .306 BABIP; after a .358 wOBA with the Angels last season, Figgins is at .298 this year, well below league average. Despite moving to second base, the positional advantage hasn’t mitigated enough to put Figgins where he should be. After a UZR/150 of 17.9 at third base in 2009, Chone is at -13.8 at second this season. Simply put, Jack Z can’t be pleased.

OF Matt Kemp
2009 WAR: 5.1
2010 WAR: 0.6

At the start of the season, Kemp was the big name throughout baseball. He was dating Rihanna and coming off of a stellar 2009 in which he put up a .367 wOBA while playing solid defense in center field. But everything has fallen apart since then. Kemp just hasn’t been the same player he once was with a UZR/150 of -15.6, nowhere near where he was last year. Moreover, Kemp’s .323 wOBA has been due primarily to a BABIP .49 points below his career average. Here are his peripherals for the the past two seasons:

BB%: 7.8/7.9
K%: 22.9/27.9
LD%: 21.3/20.2
GB%: 40.4/40.9
FB%: 38.3/39

Not much different. Still, Kemp’s production has been seriously disappointing, but at twenty five years old he has a lot of time to go back to his better days.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

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Adam
Guest
Adam

Re: Kemp

I’d say going from a K% of 23 to 28 is a big difference, and coupled with a BABIP drop from .345 to .303, that pretty much sums up the reason for his decrease in offense this year.

Adam
Guest
Adam

I somehow missed that Pat pointed out Kemp’s BABIP drop, my bad. Still though, an increase in K% by 5 points is no small difference, right?

Dusto
Guest
Dusto

Gotta blame Kemps struggles on coaching. It looks like he has had mechanical problems all year and nothing has been done about it. The same could be said of any Dodger regular minus Manny and Furcal. At one point in time or another Loney, Blake, Ethier, and even Kemp have had serious problems at the plate only to have the coaching staff verbally abuse Kemp instead of actually work with him. Nothing has been done for Loney, Blake, or Ethier. Lets not forget the struggles Russel Martin has had for 2+ years now… Can a new coaching staff be make the difference in a talented ball club? I think so.

Z2
Guest
Z2

How do you know the coaching staff isn’t working with Kemp? Maybe that’s why they verbally said stuff because he’s too busy worrying about a trade than playing better.

Is coaching to blame for his sucky defense this year too?

Wally
Guest
Wally

A big part of Kemp’s drop in value is thanks to his UZR marks. If you look at B-R.com Kemp comes in at a respectable 2 WAR, and pretty much the entire difference between FG and B-R WAR is the defensive mark.

Nat
Guest
Nat

It’s also worth noting that his DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) is -15, which is basically the same as his UZR. BBRef uses Total Zone for its WAR calculations, and while the jury is still certainly out on defensive stats, Total Zone seems to be the sketchiest of them all.

TZ has Kemp at 1 run above average, while UZR and DRS are both -15! That’s a huge difference, almost two wins worth. In this situation, I’d put more stock in those two stats.

dutchbrowncoat
Member
dutchbrowncoat

besides, his drop from 5.1 to .6/2 wins isn’t all on his fielding. he isn’t hitting all that well, and his season value would be rough if it weren’t for the cf adjustment.

Wally
Guest
Wally

Nat,

That’s true about DRS, and I honestly don’t know about which defensive stats are really the best, but UZR and DRS also has him at roughly 0 over the last 2 years. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of each of these metrics (including total zone), but it seems likely to me that this 4 month sample from UZR and DRS is not a very good representation of Kemp’s fielding. When for the previous nearly 3 full season’s all three metrics have Kemp at roughly average, then in this season 2 of them have him as one of worse defensive CFers in the game, I just have a hard time swallowing that as the truth. He may be worse this year than his previous years, but I think we need to be regressing this season’s UZR/DRS against his previous mean. And if we’re going by the 3 season rule for UZR, then we should do so by about 2/3, which would put him at just -5. Still a huge drop from last season, but when at least 1 win of it is coming from fielding metrics, and much of it is also coming from a lower than normal BABIP without much change in his LD/GB/FB rates, I think we need to mention that much of this drop is likely a combination of bad luck (BABIP) and a fabrication of our inaccurate measurements (UZR).