Using WAR to Value the 2015 Padres


Last week we took a look at the “clutch” status of Justin Upton, so this week I thought I would use the common “WAR” or Wins Above Replacement as defined by the sabermetric community. So who led the Padres and who might be poised to help replace player losses in 2016?

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Let’s start again with the simple definition from

"WAR is trying to answer the time-honored question: How valuable is each player to his team? Baseball is the sum of many different parts and players can help their teams win through hitting, base running, defensive play, or pitching. Comparing two players offensively is useful, but it discounts the potential contribution a player can make by saving runs on defense. WAR is a simple attempt to combine a player’s total contribution into a single value."

Sounds simple enough, right? The stat of course isn’t exact – but it can at least give you an idea of who is valuable and who is not. For example, on the Padres in 2015 Jedd Gyorko had a WAR of 0.7. To balance both sides, Jon Jay who was traded for Gyorko only had a WAR of 0.3 last season but was at 2.4 in 2014 and up to a 3.5 WAR in 2013. Of course, the Padres had Cory Spangenberg in the wings and wanted to move Wil Myers to first base – so sometimes trades aren’t all just about sabermetrics but also real team needs.

To this end, it was indeed Justin Upton who led the Padres last season with a WAR of 3.6 with catcher Derek Norris second at 2.4 and Cory Spangenberg at 2.1. Matt Kemp – considered by many to be the Padres MVP – had a WAR of over 0.4.

On the pitching side for the Padres, Tyson Ross led the team with a WAR of 4.4. Rotation-mate Andrew Cashner was right behind him in the standings but only half of his WAR at 2.3. Ouch. It is important to note according to Fangraphs for pitchers the formula is slightly more confusing but they do attempt to scale to how many innings a pitcher throws too. They adjust to the park as well as try to isolate the defense behind a pitcher as well. James Shields posted just a 1.1 WAR in 2015. He had been in the 3’s and 4’s his whole career, so many expect him to make adjustments to reduce the long ball and come back to form in 2016.

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The Padres clearly have some room for improvement – and clutch or not – have some making up to do when it comes to losing Justin Upton. The club’s decision to DFA Rymer Liriano is curious, but might also be more of an organizational move to give Hunter Renfroe more space to play in AAA and pave his way towards a San Diego debut for the promising prospect. Whether or not the Padres will be able to replace Justin Upton in left field this season may be a huge part in when that time comes for Renfroe.