Evaluating the Pirates’ Offseason with WAR

With the Pirates’ pitchers and catchers reporting to Bradenton, Florida for Spring Training on Saturday, the Pirates’ offseason is effectively over.  With the so-called “key” acquisitions of AJ Burnett, Clint Barmes, and Rod Barajas, it is interesting to see if the Pirates actually improved on their 90-loss 2011 team.  To analyze the Pirates’ offseason, I will be using a stat called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement.  WAR is a statistic that compares a player’s performance to that of a replacement-level player.  A replacement-level player is a player that is readily available on waivers or a AAA All-Star — think a quad-A player or someone like John Bowker.  The MLB-average WAR has been hovering around 2 for the past few years, while a superstar would have a WAR at or above 7. This article was inspired by an article by The View from Section 134 entitled “The Replacements.”  It describes a Moneyball-esque approach to the offensive  replacements the Pirates have brought in for Ryan Doumit, Xavier Paul, and Ronny Cedeno using on-base percentage.  I found the result pretty interesting and you can find the link after the jump.

Bu on-base percentage won’t apply to pitchers and doesn’t account for fielding.  WAR is for both batters and pitchers, as well as accounting for fielding, which is why it is a perfect statistic for evaluating an offseason: players come and players go.  Here is a list of players who have left Baseball Purgatory for greener pastures, as well as players the Pirates have found off the scrap pile: Acquired: Rod Barajas (Free Agency), Clint Barmes (Free Agency), Brandon Boggs (Free Agency), Yamaico Navarro (Trade with Kansas City), Erik Bedard (Free Agency), Nick Evans (Free Agency), Casey McGehee (Trade with Milwaukee), Nate McLouth (Free Agency), A.J. Burnett (Trade with New York Yankees), Gustavo Nunez (Rule 5 Draft) Lost:  Ronny Cedeno (Free Agency), Paul Maholm (Free Agency), Xavier Pal (Free Agency), Ryan Doumit (Free Agency), Derrek Lee (Free Agency/Retirement), Jose Veras (Trade with Milwaukee), Chris Snyder (Free Agency), Ryan Ludwick (Free Agency), Ross Ohlendorf (Free Agency) For the WAR figure, I will be using Fangraphs’ calculation.  Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs have different calculations for WAR, but I’m going to use Fangraphs because I like their figure better and find it more accurate to how well they contributed.  Here is a table of the WAR of our offseason acquisitions:

Player WAR
Rod Barajas 1.3
Clint Barmes 3.1
Brandon Boggs 0.1
Yamaico Navarro 0.1
Erik Bedard 2.4
Nick Evans 0.7
Casey McGehee 0.3
Nate McLouth 0.2
A.J. Burnett 1.5
Gustavo Nunez 0.0
10 Players 9.7

In theory, the Pirates would have added approximately 10 wins had they kept all of their players from last year and added those 10 players. Bud that is not the case, due to the WAR of the players they had lost:

Player WAR
Ronny Cedeno 1.4
Paul Maholm 2.1
Xavier Paul -0.1
Jose Veras 0.5
Chris Snyder 0.7
Ryan Ludwick -0.4
Ross Ohlendorf -0.6
Ryan Doumit 1.8
Derrek Lee 0.9
9 Players 6.3

So, with the 6.3 wins lost due to players leaving, the Pirates effectively gain 3.4 wins. Minuscule, but the players general manager Neal Huntington has added will gain the Pirates 3-4 wins, in theory.

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