There have been tons of baseball numbers featured since Bill James created the new industry of sabermetrics in the 1970s. One of the harder to understand but heavily used numbers thrown around has been WAR (Wins Above Replacement). In general terms, this is how much value (how many wins) a major league player is worth to their teams as compared to a minor league call-up. Of course, when the MLB player is Tyler White (-1.3 WAR) and his replacement is Yordan Alvarez (3.7 WAR)….well that is surely a good example of why a player needs replacement.
Note – for simplicity WAR is taken from baseball reference.com. With other sources, your mileage may vary…
There are a lot of arguments about whether WAR is a good representation of players true value, but the nice thing about it is that it allows comparisons between all players and pitchers in one number.
Last season was a particularly top-notch season for the Astros for WAR, especially on the offensive side. Their batters totalled 44.0 WAR over the season. By comparison, the Dodgers were second in the majors at 38.6 and the Yankees were a distant second in the AL at 35.2.
From the upper portion of the list the AL, the Astro hitters are returning #1 Alex Bregman (9.1 WAR), #6 George Springer (6.4), #15 Michael Brantley (4.8), #27 Yuli Gurriel (3.9), #31 Jose Altuve (3.8), #33 Yordan Alvarez (3.7) and #40 Carlos Correa (3.5) That is pretty impressive when you consider there are 135 guys (9 X 15 teams) in the normal AL lineups. When you include former Astros in the top 50, it includes (close your eyes Becky), #26 Jonathan Villar (3.9), #32 Robinson Chirinos (3.8), #37 Ramon Laureano (3.6 – traded to Oakland before making the majors) and #42 J.D. Martinez (3.4).
On the flip side, when we look at the pitching…..the Astros pitching (23.0 WAR) was just a smidgen behind the World Series champs Nats (23.2) for the major league lead and just ahead of the Rangers???? (21.9) for the AL lead.
Unlike the hitting side, the Astros pitching is only returning two pitchers from the top 50 in the AL, #3 Justin Verlander (7.4 WAR) and #47 Roberto Osuna (1.8). Due to his second-half injury, Ryan Pressly (1.7) fell just outside the top 50 at #52 and Lance McCullers Jr. was #44 at 1.7 when he last pitched in 2018. Now former Astros in the top 50 last season include #4 Gerrit Cole (6.6), #7 Charlie Morton (4.9), #14 Anti-Christ, oops Mike Fiers (3.0), #29 Ken Giles (2.5), and #41 Will Harris (1.9).
Note – if Zack Greinke had put up all of his 6.0 WAR in the AL, most of it was in the NL, he would have been #5.
So, the Astros have a lot of talent returning especially on the offensive side when compared to the rest of baseball. How will it show up in a shortened season (again if there is one)? We shall see.