WAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
In the minds of some baseball fans, this familiar song refrain will never change when it comes to the sport’s verion of WAR (wins above replacement). Many consider the complicated statistical mean a waste of time when evaluating a player, while others argue it does calculate clear value.
After the Tigers took two out of three games against Cleveland thanks in part to two slick plays by one player, though, it’s looking like Detroit might have baseball’s next up and coming WAR daddy on their roster.
It could be argued that Jose Iglesias won both games with small yet important plays. Friday night, he turned a miraculous double play which saved a run and allowed the Tigers the chance to score more runs later in the game. Saturday, it was Iglesias’s well-placed squeeze bunt which tacked on insurance runs late in the game. Both plays are representative of the premium WAR places on good defense and run manufacturing.
Never mind WAR for a second and consider what each play meant for the Tigers. Friday’s play was pointed to as the vital moment of the game and called “one of the best plays I’ve ever seen” by Indians manager Terry Francona. Saturday’s bunt, meanwhile, was labeled “genius” across media and internet circles, while being lauded by Cleveland’s play by play team due to it’s difficulty. Iglesias poked the pitch high out of the air, still managing to advance it far enough that Austin Jackson would have a chance to score.
When Dave Dombrowski added Iglesias to the Tigers at the end of July, this is precisely the impact he had hoped the new shortstop would make. With Jhonny Peralta in the fold, the Tigers might have a few more home runs to their credit, but it’s unlikely Peralta would have been able to make two such plays that turned each game on a dime. Iglesias has already saved numerous runs with his fantastic defense, and the fact that he can bunt while lashing singles and doubles could easily lead to more run production or manufacturing, especially if the Tigers fall into a late season or playoff slump offensively.
Iglesias does everything well, from fielding to advancing runners, which is represented by his solid 2.2 career WAR for three shortened seasons in the majors. He might not have the home run prowess of others in his lineup, but Detroit doesn’t need that. They need the type of timely contributions Iglesias delivered last week. This past series was vital for Cleveland, who needed to take at least two of three games to consider themselves a September threat. Instead, Iglesias helped Detroit thwart the Indians yet again.
It turns out that WAR might be good for something, after all.
Before all the winning against Cleveland, the Tigers had to salvage a miserable midweek series against the Oakland Athletics. They did so in memorable fashion, winning via walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon. As one fan pointed out in our Facebook feedback of the week, there was something extra special behind Detroit’s stunning 7-6 win.
Rich Nelson: That was so great to see, and it wasn’t even Miggy who had to do it.
With Miguel Cabrera hurting, that was important, Rich. In two weekend wins against Clevleand, the Tigers didn’t nesisarily miss Cabrera either, scoring seven runs on Friday night and 10 on Saturday. They’re getting run production across their lineup, from players like Torii Hunter, Jackson, Prince Fielder, Omar Infante and Iglesias. Should Cabrera continue to hurt, that will be important as the Tigers attempt to give him a rest.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax