It’s hard to believe, but the 2015 regular season is already over 15% finished. That means it’s time for an annual post here on 500 Level Fan where we take a few minutes to have fun with early season stats.
We are approaching mid-May, so some teams are establishing themselves as legit (Detroit, KC, the Dodgers), and some look to be already playing for next year (poor, poor Milwaukee). But a large majority of teams have fans scratching their heads, wondering if down is up or if up is down.
Houston and the Mets are in first? Washington, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle, and Pittsburgh are a combined 18 games under .500? The Yankees are actually good???
But the one thing we keep hearing, the one universal caution about assessing performance at this time of year is this: it’s still early.
But it’s never too early to have some fun with stats. Let’s take a look at some early season WAR stats and assess which players may have staying power (both good and bad).
The above tables show the best players in baseball in terms of WAR, and in all of the years that I have been writing this early season post, this looks the most normal. For the most part, the names above seem to make sense, and one would expect to see them at the top in September. Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Anthony Rizzo are all superstars. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer are carrying over their playoff success, and Joc Pederson is a highly touted rookie for the Dodgers. The two truly surprising names are Gordon and Vogt. I wouldn’t expect to see Vogt remain in the top-10, but for a player with Gordon’s speed and baserunning ability, who knows? For Jays fans, the fact that Donaldson, Encarnacion, Reyes, and Bautista are nowhere to be found goes hand-in-hand with the sub-.500 record. Good to see Martin and Pillar up high though.
Offensively, some of the biggest bats in the game are off to great starts. Gonzalez, Cruz, Goldschmidt, Trout, Rizzo, and Cabrera are all over the top-10. If I was a betting man, I would lay a few quarters down on each of them remaining there. In terms of dWAR, it’s great to see Pillar translating some of those incredible catches into a nice overall rating. He might be the real deal, at least in the field.
Most Likely to Stick in Top-10: Goldschmidt, Gonzalez, Trout, Cabrera
Most Likely to Drop Out: Vogt
The first thing any Blue Jays fan will notice is that Edwin Encarnacion is the worst Blue Jay across the board. With a .216 average, .631 OPS, 4 HR, and 24 strikeouts, it’s hard to disagree. Overall, there are some surprising names in the worst list, ones that really make me feel old. It wasn’t long ago that Michael Bourn, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, and Chase Utley were perennial All-Stars. Now? Ugh.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the oWAR list is Victor Martinez, currently one of the 10-worst offensive players in the game. Considering his pedigree and his tremendous season in 2014, I can’t imagine him sticking around that list for long.
Most Likely to Stick in Bottom-10: Morse, Ianneetta, Rivera
Most Likely to Climb Out: Martinez (oWAR), Werth
Dallas Keuchel is for real. He finished 2014 as one of baseball’s best, and is once again topping the list in 2015. Also no surprise to see powerhouses like King Felix, Scherzer, and Greinke up there. Sonny Gray, Shelby Miller, and Jake Odorizzi are all talented youngsters who are starting to harness their immense talent, and Nick Martinez is just 24. But can somebody explain Aaron Harang and Colby Lewis? In terms of Jays, all you need to know about the pitching thus far, is that the best starter in terms of WAR who is still with the team (i.e. not Daniel Norris), is Dickey, the 330th best pitcher in baseball at -0.1. Similarly, our opening day starter, staff ace, and player most likely to take a huge step forward in 2015 is currently tied for the second worst WAR in baseball. I guess that’s what a 7.47 ERA, and 1.60 WHIP will get you.
Most Likely to Stick in Top-10 / Bottom-10: Hernandez, Scherzer / Ramirez, Norris
Most Likely to Drop Out / Climb Out: Harang, Lewis / Walker, Hutchison
As always, we’ll check back on these lists later in the season to see if things become “more normal”. By then, if Hutchison is still in the bottom-10, I’ll be worried.