WAR / Games Played

MLB War Analysis at the 2019 Midway Point

I’m a geek and a sports nut. So, that makes baseball one of my favorite things. Ever since I was in Pony League I was tracking stats. I loved knowing what my batting average and slugging percentage were. This was before advanced analytics, Moneyball, and sabermetrics were commonplace. I would also spend hours every week reading the MLB player stats on the back of their Topps Baseball Cards and in the box scores in the Sports section of the newspaper.

Nowadays it’s much easier to track player stats. Thanks to the free website from Baseball-Reference.com anyone can find just about any stat that they can dream of. Many of the stats provide useful insights while others are just fun to dig into. On top of that, visualization tools like Power BI allows anyone to more easily see data in ways that the numbers alone can’t really do justice to. Let’s take a look at one example: Wins Against Replacement (WAR).

WAR is a relatively new stat that tries to give more insight into how valuable a player truly is to his team. It looks past batting average and tries to determine the full impact a player has had in his team’s wins. The Texas Rangers just played their 81st game of the 2019 season and they have far exceeded my and just about everyone else’s expectations. One player in particular has had a breakthrough season: Joey Gallo.

Gallo hit 40+ HRs in each of his two previous seasons, so you might wonder why this season could possibly be considered a breakthrough season. Well, his highest batting average in any previous season was .209 and he struck out nearly 200 times both of full seasons in 2017 and 2018. This year, however, he’s hitting .279 and has only struck out 80 times, although he has missed about 25 games due to injury.

Gallo’s injuries are quite interesting when you look at the league leaders in WAR. At the midway point only 16 players have a WAR of at least 3.0, and Gallo is one of them. Take a look at the following chart:

WAR Per Games Played

Gallo is one of the outliers. He’s WAAAAYYYYY down at the bottom left. There are no other players in the league that have a WAR of 3.0+ who have played in less than 72 games, but Gallo has accomplished this in only 52 games with a 3.1 WAR. The average number of games played for the players with 3.0+ WAR is 76. If Gallo had played that many games in 2019 his WAR would likely be around 4.5, which would put him behind only Cody Bellinger (6.6) and Mike Trout (5.2). (Note: this article was written before Baseball-Reference had updated their data to include June 27th’s games in which he hit two home runs, so his WAR will likely be higher when the data is updated).

Taking a look at the leaders’ current WAR Per Game and extrapolating that over a full 162 games would make the leaders look like this:

So, where does all this data lead us? First, it’s a little disappointing that Gallo was not voted as a starter in the 2019 All-Star Game. Understandable for sure, as there are still a few Rangers fans who dislike Gallo because he doesn’t bunt to get on base against the shift. But most importantly this data shows that Gallo is a rising star. Looking at his impact on the Rangers season thus far it’s undeniable that he’s the most impactful player on the team’s roster. This doesn’t guarantee that that second half of the season will be as good as the first half. But it sure has been a fun ride so far.

If you’d like to take a look at the interactive report I made in Power BI you can check out it using this link.