Examining Tex’s 2010 through the lens of WAR

TeixeiraAs I watched last night’s bout between two American League heavyweight favorites, I began pondering how this year’s cast of Yankees compared with the rest of league as individuals in terms of overall value. Obviously, as a team, the Yanks are pretty solid (despite recent frustrations).

I figured it would be interesting to check out each position beginning with those “around the horn,” and then eventually migrate to the outfield players. So for the first post, I’ll start with a quick look at Mark Teixeira. Specifically, in terms of assessing value, I’m going to mostly consider such stats as WAR, oWAR, and dWAR. There is some inherent risk in not contemplating a whole slew of statistics when analyzing a player, but for the sake of discussion, it’ll do.

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As the table indicates, I’ve surveyed 11 different first basemen (most of whom are considered “elite”). Highlighted in yellow is Tex’s 2010 campaign. Highlighted in blue are his 2009 stats as a point of comparison. I’ve also included Kevin Youkilis in the mix despite his season being riddled with injuries (admittedly, I was tempted to take a page from Girardi’s play book).

Of the 11 first baseman listed Teixeira ranks 8th in overall WAR (9th in oWAR). If his offensive production hadn’t experienced such a devastating landslide during the first few months of baseball, he’d probably be higher up on the proverbial food chain. Finally, as July and August rolled around, Tex regained his form. Unfortunately for Tex’s oWAR (and the Yankees’ overall offensive production), September brought about injury and a cold bat. Be it as it may, he’s still surrounded with excellent company in terms of WAR. Players like Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, and Youkilis* are all quite good and reflect similar values.

Albert Pujols (unsurprisingly), Joey Votto (definitely surprising), and (a sober) Miguel Cabrera are all having outstanding seasons this year. The 2009 rendition of Tex is certainly comparable with these top-ranking first basemen. The great news here is 2009 wasn’t an aberration. Although Tex’s 2010 stats haven’t been quite as consistent as one might expect, he is the type of player who could definitely produce that type of offense in future seasons — especially if he doesn’t have such a dramatic season opening slump. The one sobering point involves money. The only other first baseman making $20 million-plus is Miguel Cabrera, although Pujols will probably be joining those ranks this offseason. In other words, anything less than superior play is arguably overvalued. Frangraphs’ suggested value for Tex based on this year’s overall performance is $12.1M. In all fairness, by the same line of thinking, technically the Yankees had a discount last year with his MVP-caliber season.

When considering dWAR, Teixeira trails only Adrian Gonzalez. This is partially gratifying for many of us who enjoy baseball stats, as usually Tex is under-represented in terms of defensive metrics (most often in terms of UZR). It’s good to know that his defensive value is at least somewhat accounted for here. Anecdotally speaking, any Yankees fan can attest to a point in the game where Teixeira makes an impacting play with his glove. I absolutely believe that he has made the rest of the defense better as they are collectively more confident throwing to him (as opposed to Jason Giambi). It’s also comforting to know that if his bat does cool down, he won’t be an utterly useless entity out on the field because of his glove (see Adam Dunn). His added fielding ability is what differentiates him from most offensively prolific first basemen.

Personally, I’m huge fan of Tex. Sure, I wish he didn’t have the cold start every single season. To his credit, he does typically represent a model of consistency. Eventually, we all know he’ll bounce back to form, and that metamorphosis usually occurs in a blaze of glory. The conclusion: not too shabby!