Negative WAR: 2010 Team Data

Each team every year doesn’t make perfect personnel decisions and ends up playing several players that produce at below replacement level. The reasons for playing these players are many (i.e. a player’s talent has degraded since they last played, injuries devastating the team, inability to evaluate talent, etc). Today, I will look at team totals for negative WAR players (I ignored any negative WAR generated by pitchers hitting).

First here is a look at the number of players each team played that contributed negative WAR in 2010.

The real value that sticks out is that of the 6 teams with the lowest number of negative WAR players, 5 of them were playoff teams this past season. The other team was San Diego which exceeded the expectation of many people. These teams were able to correctly evaluate talent in order to not have to utilize below replacement level players.

Besides just looking at the number of negative WAR players, the total negative WAR players contributed is important. A team can quickly determine if one of its players is not playing up to replacement level standards and replace them. Here is how the MLB teams stacked up in 2010:

The difference between the team with the most negative WAR, the Mariners, and the least, the Reds, is over six WAR. It is very tough for teams to make up for that lack in talent in some players by others on a team and still be successful. The Rangers though were able to overcome the most negative WAR of any playoff team and make it to the World Series.

Now with the teams ranked and compared to each other, I will next try to break down the reasons why some teams put below replacement players on the field this past year.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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11 years ago

Shouldn’t the negative WAR be attributed to randomness? A players observed WAR and his true talent WAR are two different things. The observed WAR for a low true talent WAR player can easily dip below 0.0 WAR based on randomness. The teams that should see the most negative observed WAR should be the teams that play the most players with a true talent level WAR close to 0.0

11 years ago
Reply to  xeifrank

I think that’s right. Part of this is skill in finding players with true talents above zero, and part of it is just chance.

The Reds were a deep team this past season, with lots of above-replacement parts in terms of true talent (even if few stars outside of Votto). But they also certainly got lucky, in that very few players who are at or near replacement in talent laid an egg performance-wise. I do think the Reds should do well on this list next year (they should still be pretty deep), but I’d doubt that they’d lead (or trail?) the league again.