There was a very interesting article posted today on SI.com by one of my favourite sports writers Joe Posnanski. In it, he asks a basic question: is one very, very, very good season enough to get a player into the Hall of Fame? In my opinion the answer is no, but that is a different story and something that I don’t care about today.
What I do care about is how he defines “very good season”. In his article, he bases his opnions around a stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Basically, WAR is a stat that attempts to combine offense, defense, position, and the context and year of the league into one number. That number represents the number of wins that player gives the team over a replacement level player (a minor leaguer). So a WAR of 8 means that that player gives his team 8 more wins than a AAA level player. Simple enough.
I like this stat because it combines everything that a player brings to the table, not just offense. I also like it because it uses the context of the league as an input, meaning a 30 HR season from the heart of the steroid era (1998 – 2001) is worth less than a 30 HR season from the dead ball era. That rewards a player more for standing out in a particular season.
The whole point of this is that Jose Bautista is having a damn good year this year. Using the stats calculated by baseball-reference.com, his 2010 WAR is currently 5.2 (Robinson Cano is tops in the league at 6.5). What I was curious to find out was where that sits in Blue Jays history, and using Posnanski’s premise, if J-Bau’s one very good season is enough to put him not in the Hall of Fame, but high up on the list of Blue Jays top seasons.
Using data from baseball-reference (since I am definitely not smart enough to calculate it myself), the top-25 WARs in Blue Jays history are below. Note that this is for players only and excludes pitchers.
There are many surprises on that list to me, the biggest two are ranked sixth and eighth. Off the top of my head I would have put Delgado’s 2000 and 2003 seasons as the greatest ever by a Blue Jay. In ’03 he lead the AL in RBI and OPS, was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger and finished second in MVP voting. He hit .302, with a .426 OBP, 1.019 OPS, 42 HR, and 145 RBI. In 2000 he hit .344 with 41 HR and 137 RBI to fnish 4th in MVP voting. But there are five seasons better than those?
A similar statement can be made about George Bell in 1987. He slugged 47 HR, 134 RBI, hit .308, had a .957 OPS, and won the AL MVP award. But 23 seasons in Blue Jays history were better. Kind of shocking.
There are several other surprises on the list. Vernon Wells had the second best season ever for a Jay in 2006, even though his numbers were better in 2003. Marco Scutaro is on the list from his 2009 campaign and Aaron Hill is on twice. Devon White has three consecutive seasons in the top-25 (1991 – 1993) but Joe Carter has zero. But when you include defense and speed, I guess it makes sense.
In the end I want to circle this back to Bautista, the main point of this article. He will likely break George Bell’s single season HR record, but when you include his baserunning, his defense, his multi-position capabilities, and the fact that he is vastly outslugging the rest of baseball, we are witnessing a season for the ages.
If the season ended today, his WAR of 5.2 would rank as the 20th best season in the history of Blue Jay players. But – the season doesn’t end today. The season doesn’t end until October 3, meaning Jose still has 30 games left to add to his total. I’m not sure if that is enough to pass John Olerud on Toronto’s all-time WAR list, but it’s definitely enough to further announce his presence to the rest of baseball.