January 12, 2012

Stat: Brett Gardner and Albert Pujols had equal value in 2011

I'm not sure if Brett Gardner and Albert Pujols have ever been mentioned in the same breath by anyone until now. And I've determined that they still shouldn't unless one hits the ball to the other (very possible in 2012).

According to WAR (wins above replacement), the leading advanced metric to determine a player's value, Gardner and Pujols were worth the same last season.

Long pause

You heard me (to all the non-believers, click here). The 5-foot-10, 185-pound nine-hitter and the man known as The Machine both had a 5.1 WAR last season. So, how on earth is this possible?  
Obviously, the standard batting statistics indicate otherwise.

Gardner .259 .345 .369 7 36 87 49
Pujols .299 .366 .541 37 99 105 9

For those unfamiliar with WAR, the statistic factors in defense, too, using UZR (ultimate zone rating): "The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined," according to FanGraphs. Unsurprisingly, UZR accounted for Gardner's great spike in WAR. Gardner (25.2 UZR) led all of baseball last season and ranked far greater than Pujols (2.4).

The primary offensive statistic used to calculate WAR is wRAA (weighted runs above average), in which Pujols (36.0) leads Gardner (6.4) by a significant margin.

For the record, I was sparked to write this by a post over at Yankee Analysts that posited whether it was time to trade Gardner. The author listed Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Mike Stanton, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Gonzalez as players who ranked lower than Gardner in WAR. I'm going to assume he didn't include Pujols (an exact match) because the comparison is, of course, laughable. 

(I'd suggest following FanGraphs' advice when it comes to using WAR: "You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players.")

However, to credit the author he makes a good point about Gardner's trade value. With the Yankees, he's stuck in left with Curtis Granderson occupying center field. His excellent glove could be more valuable to another team in need of a center fielder. Trading him would create a hole in the Yankees' outfield, though, and Chris Dickerson is currently the fourth outfielder. But if the Yankees can find a team willing to part with a quality starting pitcher it might be a good move. Good luck convincing teams he's worth as much as Pujols.

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