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Stat of the Day: Matt Kemp is winning the WAR

Sep 23, 2011, 1:50 PM EDT

St Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers Getty Images

Calcaterra wrote this morning about how Matt Kemp’s run at the Triple Crown has somehow flown under the radar and should make him the NL MVP favorite assuming voters don’t penalize him for having bad (non-Clayton Kershaw) teammates.

I’m in complete agreement, but wanted to note that Kemp also fares extremely well in less traditional numbers like Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which attempts to quantify his overall contributions to the Dodgers offensively and defensively.

First of all, Kemp leads baseball in WAR (the version) this season:

MATT KEMP           9.6
Jose Bautista       8.5
Justin Verlander    8.5
Clayton Kershaw     7.4
Cliff Lee           7.3
Ryan Braun          7.2
Jacoby Ellsbury     7.1
Roy Halladay        7.0

Beyond that, Kemp has a chance to become the first player to reach 10.0 Wins Above Replacement in a season since Barry Bonds had 12.4 WAR in 2004. In fact, Albert Pujols (2008, 2009) and Alex Rodriguez (2007) are the only players to top 9.0 WAR since then.

Incidentally, from 2001-2004 Bonds had the following WAR totals: 12.5, 12.2, 10.3, 12.4.

  1. cup0pizza - Sep 23, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    This Bison is a beast and the obvious choice for NL MVP.

  2. Ben - Sep 23, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    fWAR is much less generous to Kemp. He trails Ellsbury by .5 WAR by fWAR. And I trust fWAR a bit more.

    • paperlions - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:00 PM


    • Bill - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      Why, though? The difference (to within .1) between Kemp’s fWAR and rWAR is almost entirely defense, and I don’t think there’s anyone on earth that can convincingly tell you whether UZR (-4) or Total Zone (+9) is more accurate for Kemp’s 2011 and why.

      • Ben - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:10 PM

        I agree that that we can’t probably convinced of the merits of UZR vs. TZ, that’s for sure. But given his consistently terrible defense for years I tend to suspect UZR less on this one. But defense stats sure are a bugaboo.

      • Bill - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        I don’t see “consistently terrible data for years.” All the metrics (I glanced at TZ, UZR, FRAA) seem to have him slightly below average for a few years, above average in 2009, then below (truly terrible, according to some, but for the first time) in 2010.

      • Bill - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        *defense, not data. Oops

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:30 PM

        From what I have heard (since I don’t watch Dodger games with regularity) the consensus is that Kemp takes good routes and has a good arm, but not great range (as one might suspect from a big guy playing CF). It seems that the range component of UZR is the most suspect with the low rankings of Granderson this season (UZR can’t handle pre-pitch positioning) & the waffling on Jason Bay 2 years ago (‘he’s the worst LF in baseball’ followed by ‘OK wait, he’s slightly above average’) as recent examples.

        If the most flawed component of the flawed defensive metric is the only thing holding Kemp back, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt since his numbers on offense are so much better than anyone else who plays a premium position.

      • Mark - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        UZR is better than TZ.

        I trust the fWAR a lot more. Kemp`s having a hell of a season, but I wouldn`t argue he`s a full win over Bautista.

    • cup0pizza - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      His consistently terrible defense like 2009 when he won the Gold Glove?

      • paperlions - Sep 23, 2011 at 7:29 PM

        GG awards are more correlated with offensive performance than defensive performance….so…yeah, like that year.

        Over the long-term every defensive metric shows Kemp to be a bad defender, with one year (2009, actually) grading out as slightly above average by both metrics. The statisticians that have studied and developed these metrics trust UZR more than TZ and have explained why (mostly because of the finer grain of the data). Unless you have a reason to over-ride those that know more than you about it…there really isn’t a justifiable reason to choose the inferior metric.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:19 PM

      You are right, Kemp sucks. #sarcasm

      Honestly though, if the point of the article is to compare apples to apples, or bWARs to bWARs, those are some pretty remarkable stats.

    • Lukehart80 - Sep 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM

      Yet even in fWAR, which is “less generous” to Kemp, he still leads the National League and has a comfortable margin over Braun.

    • Ace - Sep 23, 2011 at 3:29 PM

      I’m still not entirely sure which WAR I prefer. So just for fun, here’s how the leaders shake out if you average the two. (This get into serious hair-splitting territory, but I think it’s intersting all the same.)

      Kemp: 8.9
      Bautista: 8.4
      Ellsbury: 7.9
      Verlander: 7.75
      Halladay: 7.45
      Kershaw: 7.1
      Braun: 7.05
      Lee: 7

  3. Max Power - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    I’m all for not penalizing an MVP or Cy Young candidate for being on a bad team.

    But I’m not sure I’m okay with both the MVP and the Cy Young coming from the same .500, third place team.

    I know the numbers are infallible (other than the numbers that are unreliable), but if the Dodgers have the best offensive and defensive players in the NL, maybe that pesky team-wins number should be higher.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      You probably need more than 2 guys to have a winning season, and the Dodgers do not have more than 2 guys this year…

    • cup0pizza - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      Maybe their GM shouldn’t be Ned Colletti. Can’t penalize Kemp/Kershaw for that.

      • bigleagues - Sep 23, 2011 at 6:36 PM

        Ned Colletti is a good dude and a better GM than he has been allowed to be in LA.

    • Bill - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      It’s actually amazing that the Dodgers are at .500, given the futility of 92% of the roster. No other position player is above 2.0 WAR (the benchmark for an average regular), and only one other pitcher is. If you’ve got the best hitter and best pitcher on the same team (and I don’t think Kershaw is that, but close enough), and literally everyone else on the team kind of sucks, .500 almost seems a touch high.

    • Max Power - Sep 23, 2011 at 3:32 PM

      Fair points all. Still, just doesn’t feel right to me.

    • davidpom50 - Sep 23, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      Kemp hits in one out of the 9 positions in the batting order. Kershaw pitches every fifth game. Mystery solved.

  4. bigleagues - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    I guess it could be said that, as it pertains to Matt Kemp, that many people have been . . .

    • Bill - Sep 23, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      I had this song in my head for several minutes before I saw this comment. Weird.

      • bigleagues - Sep 23, 2011 at 6:49 PM

        That is weird!

        For literally what must have been several months during a period in my life Ben Folds discs would, on a daily basis, go from the disc player in my living room to the one in my car to the CD tray on my work PC and then back to the car to restart the cycle.

        Dude’s a genius song writer. When i finally got to see him live on Horde Tour one year . . . literally I saw at least a dozen different chicks throw extended boob flashes at him. Been to hundreds of concerts and seen lots of crazy stuff . . . but a dude who plays piano and looks like he walked off of the Happy Days set had the highest bare chest rate I’d ever seen.

        So I was depressed to see he’s a judge on some American Idol knock-off. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

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