Wednesday, November 28, 2007

150 WARP3 Guys

I've been blogging less about sports recently, but the Raines post got my creative juices flowing. It's the off-season and there's nothing going on (well except the A-Rod saga, Santana being traded to NY for the entire farm system and Cano and the Bonds' indictment), so now is a good time to continue my "Derek Jeter for the Hall" series. Yes, I know, awesome.

As the season stands, Jeter has a WARP3 of 99.8. Remember WARP3 measures wins over replacement player and adjusts for position, ballpark, and era. So basically it's a very comprehensive stat.

Now 99.8 isn't that good. If Jeter retired today, I'd say he would be a borderline HOFer. But let's assume he plays 7 more seasons, or until he's 40. Right now he has played 1835 games. So his WARP3 per game is .0543 (which, by the way, is higher than every single player on the list I provided yesterday). Jeter has been a pretty healthy guy, and has only played less than 148 games once. So let's assume he plays 145 games per year over the next 7 seasons, which is 1015 games. If he plays at the same rate he's played until now, he would add 55.2 WARP to his total, which would leave him with a clean 155 wins above replacement player for his career. If he played only 140 games per year he'd only add another 53.3 WARPs, and he'd end up with 153.1.

The question now is how many players in the history of baseball have accumulated a 150 WARP3. 150 is a pretty high threshold, and there are a number of guys who are in the HOF who never came close. Sadly, I can't find a list of 150 WARP3 players, and I don't have the patience to go through every single player in the Hall to see their WARP3.

So let's look at the guys from this list. The list contains the top 40 Win Shares Above Bench players in history. Obviously Jeter doesn't compare to anyone in the top ten. The only player who didn't finish with a WARP3 over 150 is Mickey Mantle (149.1) but he only played 2401 games and has a .062 WARP3 per game, which is substantially better than Jeter. 8 of the next ten also topped the 150 mark, with only Gehrig (148.9) and Eddie Mathews (145.4) coming very close.

Certainly there is something to be said for finishing one's career with a WARP3 higher than Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig. While those players' careers were shorter and they were certainly better than Jeter, the very fact that he is in the conversation is meaningful.

The third group begins to drop a bit. Jimmie Foxx's WARP3 was 132.6. Pete Rose is over 150 (158.7), but Joe DiMaggio (122.4) is not. None of the other 7 players between 20-30 or any of the players from 30-40 even come close. So from the top 40 players in history based on WASB, only 18 passed the 150 mark. When we look at the players from 40-80, we don't find many more players who topped 150. Wade Boggs is close at 148.5. The only guy who beat the 150 mark was Cal Ripken.

So that's 19 players. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that WSAB is similar enough to WARP3 that someone who finished in the top 80 in WSAB probably finished in the top 20 in WARP3.

Now certainly there are a few players on the list who are active and either will top the mark, or have a shot. There are seven active players in the top 80 in WSAB: Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza, and Frank Thomas. Bonds is already in the group of 19. I think we can safely say that A-Rod (138.1) will make the list. Mike Piazza (96.2) and Frank Thomas (127.7) have no shot because of age and frailty. So that leaves Manny, Sheffield, and Griffey. Manny, despite his ridiculous numbers, has practically no chance since he's at 106.2 right now and has already seemingly begun his decline. It's hard to imagine him picking up the requisite 44 points. Even if he plays 5 more seasons (until 40) at his career average, he'll only end up with 141.6. Not gonna happen.

Sheffield seems ageless, but he's only at 116.9 and is 38. He'll need a Bonds-like revival to have any chance. Griffey is therefore the best bet. He's at 134.1 and if he can stay healthy and play three more seasons at 7.0 (his mark in 2007), he could do it. The problem is that's a huge assumption for a player who has only played more than 140 games twice this century. And he's not getting any younger.

So even if we are charitable to Griffey, that would make Jeter the 22nd player in the history of Major League Baseball to top the 150 WARP3 mark.

Obviously there are other players who were better over the course of their career who didn't make it, like Mantle and Gehrig. But there is something to be said for playing long enough to pass that threshold. It's not absurd to argue that when everything is said and done Jeter will be one of the top 40 players in baseball history. Not bad for someone who is overrated, huh?

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