Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/20/14
By Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli
What does a team with a high WAR for hitters look like?  Why does it seem like the Pirates can just never measure up with the rest of the National League in terms of WAR for batters?
Steve DiMiceli and I sifted through the WAR data from 2008 to 2012 (using Fangraphs’ WAR) for all the NL Teams.  The five years of data makes for a good representative sample and also dovetails with the full tenure of Neal Huntington as GM.  We used the 8 guys shown on Baseball Reference as the nominal starters at their position to determine each team’s starting 8 hitters.  Once all the data was collected, we tiered the WAR’s into the following 5 categories:
Elite — greater than or equal to 5 WAR
Strong — between 3.5 and 4.9 WAR
Good — between 2.0 and 3.4 WAR
Sub-Par — between 0.5 and 1.9 WAR
Detrimental — less than or equal to 0.4 WAR
Keeping in mind that WAR encompasses both batting and fielding contributions, the chart below shows the top 3 and bottom 3 teams for each year in terms of hitters’ WAR.  Also within the chart is the team’s record that year and the breakdown of how many of each type of hitter they had for that year.












Year
Team
Total WAR
Record
# Elite
# Strong
# Good
# Sub-Par
# Detrimental


2008
PHI
31.8
92-70
3
1
2
2
0


 
STL
30.4
86-76
3
0
2
3
0


 
NYM
29
89-73
3
0
1
4
0


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
SF
12.6
72-90
1
0
2
2
3


 
WAS
9.7
59-103
0
0
3
2
3


 
CIN
8.5
74-88
0
1
2
1
4


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
PIT
15.6
67-95
0
1
2
4
1


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


2009
PHI
32.4
93-69
2
3
2
1
0


 
STL
26.1
91-71
1
1
4
2
0


 
LAD
24.5
95-67
1
2
3
2
0


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
ATL
13.3
86-76
0
2
1
3
2


 
PIT
13.3
62-99
0
1
2
4
1


 
SF
13.2
88-74
1
0
1
4
2


 
NYM
12
70-92
0
1
1
5
1


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


2010
CIN
30
91-71
2
3
1
1
1


 
PHI
28.3
97-65
2
3
1
2
0


 
SF
28.1
92-70
2
1
3
2
0


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
LAD
15.3
80-82
0
1
3
3
1


 
HOU
12.6
76-86
0
1
3
2
2


 
PIT
12.4
57-105
0
1
2
4
1


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


2011
MIL
27
96-66
2
3
0
1
2


 
ARI
25.2
94-68
1
3
1
2
1


 
STL
25.1
90-72
3
1
1
3
0


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
PIT
11.3
72-90
1
0
1
3
3


 
HOU
11.2
56-106
0
0
4
1
3


 
SF
10.9
86-76
1
0
1
4
2


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


2012
ATL
29.3
94-68
3
1
3
0
1


 
MIL
29.2
83-79
2
2
2
1
1


 
STL
28.2
88-74
2
3
1
2
0


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
NYM
13.1
74-88
1
0
1
3
3


 
COL
10.5
64-98
0
0
2
4
2


 
HOU
6.3
55-107
0
0
1
3
4


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
PIT
16.3
79-83
1
0
2
3
2



We included Pittsburgh’s team WAR for each year during the 2 occasions that they were not already in the bottom 3 of the league.  Some interesting conclusions can be extrapolated from this year, both obvious and more sublime.  The first is that good hitting teams win.  Not exactly a stop-the-press moment, but of the 15 teams in the Top 3 all had at least 83 wins.  However, the corollary of that is not always true — not all of the bottom 3 teams were comprised of losing teams.  Three of the 16 bottom teams (there was a tie in 2009) had winning records, indicating that their pitching staffs must have been fantastic that year.
The top hitting teams all had multiple players combined in the Elite and Strong categories.  In fact, only 1 team out of the 15 top WAR teams had less than 3 combined players in these categories (St. Louis in 2009 — thanks Albert!).  As you can see in the chart above, Pittsburgh has not had more than 1 player between these two categories in the past 5 years.  Had Walker not been dealing with finger and back issues for the last 1/3 of the season, he surely would have raised his 3.3 WAR up to the Strong category of 3.5, but he didn’t.  The Pirates don’t necessarily need to be a top 3 hitting WAR team to be successful, but this chart shows how short they have been falling to those types of teams in the past 5 years.  At a minimum, McCutchen will need two teammates (most likely Walker and Alvarez) to step up into the Elite and/or Strong categories for the Pirates to have a legitimate lineup of quality players.
The other issue at hand is that the top 3 teams each year also minimized their Sub-Par and Detrimental players.  Only 1 of the 15 teams had 4 players in these combined categories.  An additional 4 teams had 3 players either Sub-Par and/or Detrimental, leaving the other 10 teams to have either 2 or fewer players in these categories.  For comparison, the Pirates have had at least 5 players each year since 2008, with 2011′s team having 6 combined players in the Sub-Par and/or Detrimental category.  With only 8 starters, you can start to see why the Pirates have had so many woes with batters.  However, it is also worth noting that every team had at least 1 player that could be classified as at least Sub-Par.
The two weakest offensive positions this year for the Pirates were at catcher and shortstop.  Barmes did contribute 1.7 WAR to the Pirates in 2012, but that was nearly all the result of his defensive work.  Over the past 5 years, there have been 39 (out of 80) player-seasons where the shortstop contributed 2.0 WAR or better to his team, making him at least a Good-level player.  The Pirates have not had any of those seasons over the past 5 years.  At the catcher position there have been 40 player-seasons, or 50% occurrence, in the past 5 years where the catcher has contributed at least 2.0 WAR.  The Pirates did have 1 of these seasons with Ryan Doumit in 2008.  It would be more difficult to upgrade these spots, as there has been only a 50% rate of achieving Good-level, that it would be to upgrade a corner OF bat (54% occurrence of 2.0 WAR).
Whether the improvement will come from internal upgrades (Walker and Alvarez top this list), full time status for players like Marte (1.2 WAR in just over a quarter-season), or free agents, the Pirates will need to get 2-3 additional players into the Elite or Strong categories to have a well-balanced hitter WAR in 2013.  If not, more sub-standard performance from highly-valued offensive positions may follow.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Governor donates $10K to UNM hoops star’s cancer charity

U.S. Soccer: Hope Solo needs to do 'number of things' to return

K.J. Wright: Targeting injured players 'unacceptable'

Five reasons the Patriots will win the Super Bowl

Five reasons the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Bill Simmons fires a shot at ESPN colleague Ray Lewis

Which teams are most squarely on the bubble?

Tiger Woods: 'There was blood everywhere' after tooth incident

Jerry Rice: Asterisk needed if Patriots win Super Bowl

Pete Carroll ok with Robert Kraft despite Patriots firing

Winners and losers of the Senior Bowl

Brodeur to retire immediately and join Blues front office

Michael Bennett talks about sex superstition, calls reporter gay

As Patriots prepare, it's easy to forget about Hernandez

Marcus Mariota's younger brother will play at Oregon

Marshawn Lynch on Media Day: 'I'm here so I won't get fined'

Ranking all 48 Super Bowls

'Goodell Must Go' mobile banners heading to Phoenix

NFL pushing College Football Playoff to change its schedule

Can the Yankees avoid paying A-Rod's milestone bonuses?

Tom Brady once got locked in a high school locker

Fire alarm at Patriots' hotel goes off early Tuesday morning

Petition to remove Pats from Super Bowl has 40K+ signatures

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Super Bowl XLIX: Players to watch

Ranking all 48 Super Bowls

Bill Simmons fires a shot at Ray Lewis

NFL pushing CFP to change schedule

Can Yanks not pay A-Rod his bonuses?

Petition started to remove Pats from SB

On John Wall's adidas J Wall 1 NYC All-Star Edition

NFL approved Pats' under-inflated balls?

Six best Super Bowl coaches of all-time

Five key matchups for Super Bowl XLIX

Early Big Ten predictions for 2015

Remembering Ernie Banks

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.