Fun with fWAR graphs: Revisiting the Fern

In 2008, Jon Daniels performed very, very poorly. Bad enough that Bob Sturm decided to write a lengthy article detailing how (if you just leave out all of that stuff that's hard for an intern to figure out, like payroll and prospects) JD had performed much, much worse than a fern would have (in this simulation, the fern put together a team that was worth 30 WARP more than the actual team).

Since then, he has been good.

Fangraphs has also been good, probably for a longer time. One of the fun things you can do is create WAR grids for pretty much any criteria you'd like, providing that it's positional player's you're comparing. 

So I made one for the Rangers from 2008 to 2011.

If it isn't easy to read, it breaks down as this: for the range (in this case, 2008-2011), each player is listed in order of their cumulative WAR. Each year is broken down, shown by their ages. For instance, you can see David Murphy has four entries; his age 26-29 years (2008-2011). Only time spent with the team is shown; that's why Beltre only has one entry. The darker green it is, the better. In case you are colorblind or just in case green kind of sucks (it does), they also outlay the number on each season. They seem to round up conservatively; Kinsler's 4.9 2009 is marked down as a 5 while his 3.5 2010 is marked as a 3.

There's some cheap conclusions to be drawn; Adam's MVP claim for Kinsler is justified not only this year, but would have been in '08 and '09 as well. Mikey Young has been remarkably stable.  Marlon Byrd was really, really good here. There are lots of guys the fern wouldn't have been able to get that are good at baseball.

The conclusion I'm drawing is that via trades, signings, and draftings, JD has added 73 positional fWAR to this team over the past four years. I think that's good. But it's only fair to compare that to his competitors, yes? In the interest of simplicity, I'm paring that list down to the main competitive teams in the AL- New York, Boston, Tampa, Detroit,  Minnesota, and LA. Because they are not ferns.

New York:

Brian Cashman has a lot of resources in hand. He's used them to acquire 101 fWAR since 2008 in positional players. That's a very, very lot. 34 of them are between A-Rod and Cano (signed in 2001.) It also includes fantastic showings from Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixera (acquired via draft, trade, and free agent signing, respectively.)  The Yankees might not be getting their money worth, but they're not spending it stupidly (outside maybe of AJ Burnette, but, hey FG doesn't let you put pitchers in WAR grids.)


128 fWAR. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are disgustingly good at baseball. The single best year on the list comes from Adrian Beltre though, so, neh. Theo Epstein is very, very smart at baseball.

Well, ok, it's tied with a couple of Pedroia's years. Seriously, it's ok to hate Dustin Pedroia right?


123 fWAR. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist contribute 44 of those wins and the other part of the top half is filled in with Carl Crawford's 16. Longo and Crawford were drafted, while Zobrist cost them Aubrey Huff. I think the Astros would redo that trade but I have a feeling they don't know who Ben Zobrist is. Still, that this team has acquired that much value with that little resources is shocking. I don't want to do the math because math is hard and unsexy but I feel that it's likely Tampa has paid less for their 123 fWAR than NYY has paid for Alex Rodriguez and his 19.


81 fWAR in positional value (although one is contributed by Adam Everett, so I think we can all just agree to call it 80 to avoid having to pretend Adam Everett is an adult human baseball professional player.) The spread is interesting, here: Cabrera contributes 19, and Granderson is at 7 (which is less than he contributed to the Yankees in the same time frame) but then no one else contributes more than 5 (although there are a LOT of fives and fours).


Bill Smith is the closest analogue with regard to service time we have so far for Daniels, having been promoted in 2007. As a result, he doesn't get credit for drafting Joe Mauer, which means for this exercise he gets dinged by 21 fWAR (cue 'wah, wah, waaHHHH' noise.) or Justin Morneua's 12 (cue Debbie Downer face.)  Or Micheal Cuddyer's 7 (cue kicking Micheal Cuddyer in the groin). Or Denard Span (I'm out of parenthetical asides.) That leaves him with 38. That's... not a lot of fWAR positional value. Let's leave him alone, though, because picking on someone from Minnesota feels like picking on kids for not having two parents.

That leaves LA:

Like the Twins before, Reagins has only been in power since 2007. This kind of hurts him: although he doesn't lose out on any one superstar like Mauer, he does miss credit for the following: Figgins, Kendrick, Aybar, Napoli, Izturis, Morales, Guerrero. These are the #'s 2-5, 7, and 8 players who have attributed fWAR to the Angels in that time span. This leaves him with 28 fWAR added in this timespan (12 of which come from Torrii Hunter.)

... wait, that's not right. What's that at the bottom of the graph? That's -5 fWAR. The Angels are the only of the above teams to have negative fWAR players on their list of 'Top' 50. To be fair, using the above methods, we can't 'add' that to his total. Well, we can add Alexi Amarista. And that is what I am doing. 27 fWAR. 

In conclusion, I'm not drawing a conclusion.  The above methods don't count in dollars paid per win, or talent paid out. As noted several times, it doesn't account for pitchers (although we ought to mention that to Dave Cameron at some point, when he's, like, better. Love you, Dave.). It doesn't account for where teams were on the cost of a win spectrum. It allows for overvaluing managers who have been in one place longer than others (as it requires removing all those Twins players and Angelseses, as well as Kinsler, Young, and...ummm... Gerald Laird?). It ignores the NL because fuck the NL. And fuck ferns, as well.

If anyone has any suggestions to sharpen the selection criteria, I'm more than willing to listen. If you notice any glaring errors, I'm willing to listen and maybe say a dirty word under my breath as I decide whether to fix it or not.

But, all that said: Jon Daniels has acquired nearly three times as much value in positional players over the last three years than Tony Reagins. Now, comparing Tony Reagins to a fern? That might be a worthwhile exercise...

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