Tourtellotte: Losing the WAR, part one

From Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on August 6, 2014:

The concept of Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, has wrought a far-reaching change in how analytical fans view baseball. It’s created a baseline by which to judge both historical and contemporary performance. It’s provided a holistic view of players’ worth balanced between the offensive and the defensive (even if the defensive side may still be a work in progress). It’s given fans an objective standard with which they can gauge when a struggling player on their favorite team may be doing more harm than good and should clear the way for an eager rookie or an unattached veteran looking for another chance.

That latter species of second-guessing has always been the fans’ prerogative, but having figures to put behind it gives it a sharper edge. If there’s this objective, pitiless number saying some player ought to get off the field, and the fans can see what it says, then surely the front office can, too. If they’re so smart, they’ll act, soon.

They usually do, but sometimes it takes a while—and sometimes much longer than a while. The existence of WAR as a statistic has made it more obvious, but there have always been players who have hurt their teams and kept getting the opportunity to hurt them. I decided to learn who those escapees from their own under-performance were.

I’ve gathered together the players with the most accumulated seasons at levels below replacement, pitchers and position players separated, going back to 1901 and the emergence of the American League. In a future installment, I will track down players who had the worst seasons for teams that survived those individual struggles and succeeded, from wild cards all the way to winning the World Series. Between the two, we may learn what can lead a team to over-estimate a player’s worth, or put up with someone they know is a hole in the lineup.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 6, 2014. Last Updated: August 6, 2014.