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Much has been made of the wins above replacement (WAR) statistic that paints Drew in a favorable light. And I'll be the first to agree that from a sabermetric standpoint, Drew is a quality player. When he's actually on the field. But before we go overboard giving him credit, let's examine the numbers.
It's important to understand that there is not one single WAR calculation. WAR is dependent upon the value assigned to the "replacement player"; how well that imagined player would perform determines an actual player's WAR value.
Case in point, look at Drew's WAR as calculated by three different sites, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference. Below are the numbers for each season 2007-2011 with the total WAR in parentheses:
FG: 1.9/ 4.1/ 5.0/ 2.5/ 0.1 (14.5)
BP: 2.5/ 3.7/ 4.4/ 2.9/ 0.7 (14.2)
BR: 2.7/ 2.7/ 5.6/ 2.5/ 0.1 (13.6)
The differences among the three totals are small, and the truth probably does lie somewhere in that range. But the point is that latching onto only one set of numbers can be risky.
Even so, let's stick with Fangraphs.com, as that's the site that King Kaufman chose to reference in his brief rebuttal of my Drew argument.
Those who know me will tell you that what I'm about to say is out of character, because I'm a big stats guy and a true believer in sabermetrics. But looking at the numbers without context is misleading and irresponsible. And to be perfectly blunt, Fangraphs' valuation is wrong.
Oh, I'm sure that the math itself is correct. But putting the information into a real-world context, it doesn't stand up.
Let's take, for example, Fangraphs' WAR value of 4.1 in 2008. Based on that, the site estimates Drew's monetary value at $18.4 million. Now take a step back for a minute.
In 2008, J.D. Drew played in 109 games. That's only two-thirds of the season. His .408 on-base percentage was admittedly fantastic, but overall he hit .280 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI while scoring 79 times. Can anyone seriously accept that two-thirds of a season with those numbers would be worth $18.4 million?
Common sense should tell you that it just doesn't work. $18.4 million would have made him sixth highest-paid player in baseball that year. For two-thirds of a season.
Similarly, Fangraphs tells us that Drew was "worth" $22.5 million in 2009 despite missing 25 games. At $22.5 million, Drew's salary would have ranked third in the majors. I guarantee that no one, not even Bill James himself would argue that Drew was worth that much.
The problem is that these "values" aren't applicable to the real-world. As a random example, take Mark Teixeira's 2008 season, which Fangraphs pegs as being worth $33.2 million. A $33.2 million salary would be a new record for the highest-paid season in the history of the game. Teixeira is a great player who had a great season in 2008, but not that great. Not even close.
The point is that simply adding up the various dollar amounts of what Drew has allegedly been worth over the years is not a sound way of assessing his real-world value. Look at the economics of baseball during that span.