The 2022 Team Leader Leavers

Juan Soto
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Who was the Nationals’ best player in 2022? Before you try to answer, I should acknowledge that this is not a fair question to ask. For starters, it’s a trick question. More importantly, you haven’t been watching the Nationals. You’ve been doing the best you can to avoid even thinking about the Nationals. That’s called self-care, and I commend you for it. Even the Nationals’ general manager called it “a daily grind to come here and lose baseball games.” He also called trading Juan Soto a “courageous move by ownership,” so maybe don’t listen to him.

Regardless, go ahead and give it a shot! Keibert Ruiz would be a reasonable guess. The promising young catcher posted 1.7 WAR this season. You could also be forgiven for going with Joey Meneses, who put up 1.5 WAR in just 228 plate appearances since his promotion in August.

A look at the Combined WAR Leaderboards, however, reveals the true answer:

Washington Nationals WAR Leaders – 2022
# Name PA IP Bat WAR Pit WAR Total WAR
1 Juan Soto 436 2.7 2.7
2 Josh Bell 437 2.5 2.5
3 Keibert Ruiz 433 1.7 1.7
4 Joey Meneses 228 1.5 1.5
5 Ildemaro Vargas 185 1 1.3 0 1.3

Soto, who got traded to San Diego midway through the least Juan Soto year of his career, has still been the most valuable contributor to the withered husk of the 2022 Nationals. Bell, who also got sent to the Padres, is second at 2.5 WAR, well above both Ruiz and Meneses, though his struggles in San Diego have brought his WAR back down to an even 2.0 for the season. On the pitching side, the Nationals’ most valuable arm is still on the team, but that’s mostly because they didn’t have anyone worth trading. Reliever Hunter Harvey led the staff with 1.0 WAR in 37.1 innings; there isn’t a single starter on the roster with an ERA under 4.25 or a FIP under 4.5.

Look too closely at the Washington leaderboard and you start asking existential questions: Why am I doing this to myself? Where are the Andrew Stevensons of yesteryear? What is an Alex Call?

I’m not saying all this to just pick on the Nationals. Plenty of teams find themselves in this situation; they just happen to be the best example by virtue of being the worst team in the league. But which other teams are flying into the offseason in the missing man formation?

Cincinnati Reds WAR Leaders – 2022
# Name PA IP Bat WAR Pit WAR Total WAR
1 Brandon Drury 385 2.6 2.6
2 Tyler Mahle 104.1 0 2.2 2.2
3 Luis Castillo 85 0 2.2 2.2
4 Nick Lodolo 103.1 0 1.8 1.8
5 Hunter Greene 125.2 0 1.6 1.6

The Reds are five games ahead of the Nationals in the standings, and they’ve been putting Joey Votto into the broadcast booth to give fans a (sometimes pretty weird) reason to tune in. All the same, you have to go down to the fourth name on their combined WAR leaderboard to find someone who still plays in Cincinnati. Drury, who signed a one-year deal in March, got traded to San Diego in the summer and, like so many players featured in this article, immediately started playing worse. He posted a 131 wRC+ in 91 games with the Reds and is currently at a 111 wRC+ with the Padres. Mahle found himself in Minnesota (and on the injured list). At least Castillo gets to pitch in the postseason with the Mariners.

José Quintana was Pittsburgh’s best pitcher this year, leading the staff with 2.2 WAR over 103 innings. Then he got traded the Cardinals and found out what devil magic can do to for your ERA.

José Quintana Team Splits – 2022
Pirates 103 0.6 20.6% 7.2% .307 3.50 3.23 3.78
Cardinals 62.2 0.1 19.4% 6.5% .293 2.01 2.6 3.62
Total 165.2 0.43 20.2% 6.90% .302 2.93 2.99 3.72

Quintana’s strong finish in St. Louis means that he’ll head into the postseason, and into free agency, with his first 4-win season since 2017.

The A’s traded Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the Yankees on August 1. The former finishes the season as Oakland’s best pitcher but logged a 6.35 ERA with the Yankees before ending up on the IL. Trivino, on the other hand, went from a 6.47 ERA with the A’s to a 1.74 ERA with the Yankees and figures to see some important innings in the playoffs.

Andrew Benintendi was worth 10 runs on offense for the Royals, edging out Vinnie Pasquantino for the team lead. Kansas City turned his expiring contract and career-best 124 wRC+ into three young pitchers, and he cooled off some with the Yankees before breaking his stupid hamate bone, but with 2.8 WAR and a 122 wRC+, he put in the second-most productive season of his career.

Four teams traded their closers at the deadline, ensuring that they’d be led in saves by a lost soul. For Raisel Iglesias, salvation came the moment he shed his Angel wings.

Raisel Iglesias Team Splits – 2022
Angels 35.2 1.30 32.9% 6.2% .216 .293 66.7% 4.04 3.17 3.04
Braves 26.1 0.00 30.0% 5.0% .185 .266 91.3% 0.34 1.51 2.92
Total 62.0 0.73 31.7% 5.7% .201 .281 76.8% 2.47 2.46 2.99

Iglesias’ transfiguration coincides with increased use of his changeup and decreased use of his slider, but his underlying numbers are otherwise about the same. It seems like the real miracle was deciding to stop giving up home runs altogether.

Other closers were not so lucky. David Robertson watched his ERA climb from 2.23 with the Cubs to a still very good 2.70 with the Phillies. Then there is the strange, welldocumented case of Josh Hader and Taylor Rogers. Since Jay Jaffe went to all the trouble of making this table back in August, I’ll just give it a quick update:

Josh Hader and Taylor Rogers: Two Bad Months (Continued)
Hader IP K% BB% HR/9 BABIP xwOBA ERA FIP Sv Blown
Thru June 24.2 45.1% 7.7% 0.73 .195 .201 1.09 1.7 24 1
July 9.1 36.0% 10.0% 4.82 .524 .436 12.54 8.16 5 1
August 5.2 23.1% 17.9% 1.59 .600 .390 23.14 6.99 1 1
Sept/Oct 10.1 33.3% 5.1% 0.00 .174 .220 0.87 1.46 6 1
Total 50 37.0% 9.6% 1.86 .333 .292 5.22 3.45 36 4
Rogers IP K% BB% HR/9 BABIP xwOBA ERA FIP Sv Blown
Thru June 31.2 29.8% 5.6% 0.28 .260 .283 2.84 2.43 22 4
July 9.2 22.0% 4.0% 0.00 .486 .372 9.31 2.09 6 3
August 11.1 37.0% 4.3% 1.59 .292 .274 3.97 3.2 1 0
Sept/Oct 11.2 35.2% 13.0% 3.09 .333 .365 6.94 6.88 2 3
Total 64.1 30.7% 6.6% 0.98 .327 .314 4.76 3.31 31 10

It looks like Hader is finally on the right track, but Rogers has struggled even more in the past month. The 31-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the season; hopefully his performance early in the year and Padres-best 28 saves will be enough to attract some suitors.

Aside from the take-a-closer, leave-a-closer exchange between the Brewers and Padres, the theme running through these trades is that more teams than ever are in everything must go mode. The restructuring of the draft under the new CBA hasn’t yet deterred anyone from racing to the bottom; teams seem happy to stockpile prospects and save a whole lot of money. Trading Soto may be courageous, but it’s also very cold, and a leaderboard full of ghosts is the end result of that process.

The good news is that fans of these teams have at least something to enjoy right now. Reds fans have Votto in the booth and Greene on the mound, Pirates fans can marvel at the exploits of Oneil Cruz, and Nationals fans have Meneses in all of his resplendent glory. Still, I imagine that they’d all rather have a decent team instead of a constant reminder of better days and better players.

Davy Andrews is a Brooklyn-based musician and a contributing writer for FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @davyandrewsdavy.

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4 months ago

The Braves new they were picking up a high quality pitcher in Raisel Iglesias. But, I think it safe to say, he has exceeded everyone’s regular season expectations during his stay in Atlanta.

4 months ago
Reply to  v2micca

Makes you wonder where the switch in pitch usage came from. Iglesias, the new coach, or the new catcher(s)?
That is one *big* change.

Smiling Politely
4 months ago
Reply to  fjtorres

Reminds me of Chris Martin in LA (speaking of which, ppl panning the LAD bullpen have perhaps not been watching the LAD bullpen)

4 months ago
Reply to  v2micca

A conventional takeaway (SSS caveats, etc) from his peripherals would be he’s taking a little off (fewer K and BB), pitching lower in the zone, getting a lot more GB, and enjoying a fair amount of luck given how few (ie no) FB turned into HR w the Braves—but even with ordinary luck he’d still have had a superb stretch with Atlanta. In any case, in getting him the Braves FO showed once again how just spending more money is unlikely to win the Mets anything except obscure routes to the postseason. They’ll have to spend more *and* find a front office worthy of the name.