I was noodling around the internets and decided to look at the Fan Graphs Red Sox player page. The WAR list is instructive for those of us who don’t want to break things down beyond a single stat, or at least don’t at that time. Just for fun, here are the top five and bottom five Red Sox by WAR. It should be noted that at the writing of this article Fan Graphs had not yet updated their data to include Sunday’s two games. Where possible I’ve added in necessary data myself. (If you want to read more about WAR and how Fan Graphs calculates it you can click here.)
1. Adrian Gonzalez (2.1 WAR) – Gonzalez has been every bit the player Red Sox fans hoped he’d be when the team acquired him this past off-season. His is the highest slugging percentage and OPS on the team, and he’s second to David Ortiz in homers. He’s getting on base, hitting for average, hitting for power, and doing an excellent job at first base. His BABIP is on the high side (.368), but at least anecdotally I haven’t noticed many cheap hits off his bat. The one negative is his base running, but we already knew he was a very slow runner. Considering the whole package, this is a minor quibble.
2. Kevin Youkilis (1.9 WAR) – Youk being Youk. Obscene walk rate coupled with tons of power. Defensively he isn’t the same caliber as he was at first base, but he’s holding his own at third and I’d expect some improvement as the year goes along. Also the fact that he moved allowed the Sox to get the one player above him on this list, so there is that. We should all be able to put up with slightly lesser defense at third for that kind of payout.
3. Josh Beckett (1.9 WAR) – If there has been one huge positive surprise for the Red Sox this season, it’s been 2007 Josh Beckett showing up here in 2011. Beckett is due for some regression (low BABIP, high LOB%) but even with that, he’s been pitching wonderfully. His strikeouts are up, his walks are down, and his xFIP is 3.30. If he has a 3.30 ERA at the end of the year I think we’d all take it, but the first two months of the season, the ones with a 1.80 ERA, are already in the bank. If he throws 3.30 ERA ball the rest of the way he’s going to be in the Cy Young discussion.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury (1.9 WAR) – This is the player I get the sense the Red Sox were counting on having last year before the human bowling ball started breaking ribs indiscriminately. His walk rate isn’t amazing, but it is as good as Adrian Gonzalez, what ever that means. In happier news, Ellsbury is getting on base (mostly via batting average) and perhaps most shockingly, he’s hitting for power. Six homers and fifteen doubles have pumped his slugging percentage up to .462, fifty points above his career number. As always his defense in center isn’t great, but with Crawford in left and Drew in right he’s protected at least somewhat. The power is what stands out for me though. If his batting average drops over the course of the season but he still maintains his power, he’s going to be a very valuable player.
5. Dustin Pedroia (1.6 WAR) – This surprised me. Pedroia is having a tough time at the plate. Although he’s showed some signs of improvement recently, he’s striking out at about twice his career rate (up to 19%). His batting average is down and his slugging percentage is in the toilet. So why is he here? Defense. Pedroia is playing some of the best defense of his career (according to Fan Graphs). He’s a second baseman and defense at second is important, thus here he is. Imagine how good he’d be if he was hitting.
And now the ignominious five. We’ll count down for these…
5. John Lackey (0.0 WAR) – We’re all pretty familiar with Lackey’s struggles. His family life has been quite difficult and sadly distracting for him, but that doesn’t change the fact that his pitching has been awful. He’s on the disabled list with a strain in his elbow which has reportedly improved. Supposedly the elbow problems were making it difficult to follow through and finish his pitches leading to pitches up in the zone and off speed pitches that didn’t break like they were supposed to. If he’s healthy he should go back to being the number four starter we all hope we don’t get stuck with when we get Red Sox tickets. If not, I imagine he’ll be back on the DL in short order.
4. Jason Varitek (-0.1 WAR) -Varitek’s putrid offensive performance is the only thing that saved Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s job in the first month of the year. It’s hard to overcome a month of hitting .111, but to his credit Varitek is trying. He’s been hitting better in May by a long shot, though it’s safe to say a dead moose could improve on Tek’s numbers if you stapled a bat to it’s hooves and dragged it’s carcass to the plate. Catcher defense is as always incredibly difficult to quantify, but pitchers seem to still enjoy throwing to him.
3. Darnell McDonald (-0.2 WAR) - With Mike Cameron‘s healthy return and the advent of the Carl Crawford Era in Boston, McDonald has become an afterthought. He hasn’t made it any better for himself when, on the few occasions he’s been called upon this season, he’s fallen flat. In 23 plate appearances he has three hits and his most memorable moments so far have come from being thrown out on the bases. Getting thrown out after over-running second base against Cleveland in the ninth inning as a pinch runner still sticks in my craw. With McDonald’s role as King Reserve Outfielder assumed by Cameron I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before he’s sent packing.
2. Dan Wheeler (-0.2 WAR) – Wheeler has been either injured or awful. In limited time on the mound he’s given up four homers (and an additional one during his minor league rehab). He still cannot get lefties out, a weakness his previous team, the Rays, did a good job of concealing. Wheeler is basically an effective ROOGY and nothing more so if Terry Francona gets the idea in his head to keep him in against a lefty, my advice is either change the channel or go grab seconds on nachos in the kitchen. It’ll be over soon enough. If used correctly Wheeler can be a solid addition to the pen. He’s not this awful.
1. Mike Cameron (-0.3 WAR) – Better players have fallen off a cliff sooner, but Cameron’s three homers show he can still run into one from time to time. The issue is the rest of his game. He’s not getting on base or hitting for average, though he should keep his roster spot simply by the fact that he’s better than Darnell McDonald. Even at 38 he still has speed and if something happens to one of the Sox starting three outfielders he should still be a good fill in because, well, he can’t really be this bad, can he?