With the All-Star break concluding yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to look at the best players in baseball through the first three months of the season.
I decided the best way to do this objectively was to use the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat that is used on many sites, including the one I used (Fangraphs.com).
WAR is a stat that measures how many wins a player is worth over a replacement level player, or a player that any team can plug into a hole whenever is needed (think a AAA player filling in for an injured player).
This stat is calculated in a complicated way, but it has been proven to be a worthwhile.
On the pitching side, WAR doesn't put too much weight into wins and instead looks at peripheral numbers like strikeouts, walks, and home runs per nine innings, ERA, FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, or how a pitcher would perform with an average defense behind them), innings pitched, etc.
Instead of looking at just offensive statistics for position players, it also takes into account what they do on the defensive side of the ball.
Think of it this way. A run saved on defense is just as valuable as a run produced on offense. Even if a player is hitting .220, he can still be valuable to his team if he is playing the best defense in the league at his position.
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is the stat that quantifies defense, taking into account throws, range, and errors that each fielder makes. It's a complicated formula and not extremely reliable in all areas, but it is a good start and gives us a good framework for who is good on defense.
If you want a more in depth look at UZR, go here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-fangraphs-uzr-primer/
A number above zero means that a defender is above average while a number below zero means that a defender is below average. Simple enough.
Just to make sure I have this clear, these rankings are based on the WAR stat on Fangraphs.com and not my personal opinion. Let's check them out.