WAR shows Cubs, White Sox need help at almost every position
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media September 30, 2013 8:59PM
Wellington Castillo scores from second on a double by Luis Valbuena in the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers Thursday April 18, 2013 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:24AM
The 2013 season is over for Chicago baseball teams. It marks the fifth consecutive season neither the Cubs nor the White Sox qualified for postseason play.
But even bad teams have good players, just not enough of them. A look at Baseball-Reference.com tells us that, in terms of wins above replacement, the best position player in Chicago was Cubs catcher Welington Castillo at 4.4 and the best pitcher was White Sox left-hander Chris Sale at 6.9.
Baseball-Reference.com tells us a full season with
0 to 2 WAR indicates a bench-quality major-league player. A WAR of 2-plus indicates a starter, 5-plus is an All-Star and 8-plus is in Most Valuable Player range.
Neither team was exactly overloaded with players of starting caliber, let alone All-Stars. Castillo, with a 2.8 defensive WAR making up much of his value, ranked third among National League catchers behind the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina (5.7) and the Giants’ Buster Posey (5.3).
That was by far the highest position ranking for any Cubs or Sox non-pitchers. In fact, only three other Cubs or Sox non-pitchers had WARs better than the 2.0 that indicates starter quality, and one of them was Castillo’s backup, Dioner Navarro, at 2.0. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo finished at 2.6, sixth among NL first basemen. (The Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt led at 7.1.)
The only South Sider to break 2.0 was Alexei Ramirez, who was sixth among American League shortstops at 2.6. (The leader was the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus at 4.2.)
How does that compare with the lineups of the division winners? The Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers, Tigers, Red Sox and Athletics each had at least five position players performing at 2.0 WAR or better, compared with the Cubs’ three and the Sox’ one. All had at least one at the All-Star level of 5.0 or better, with the Red Sox having three and the Braves and Cardinals two each. The Cubs and Sox had none between them.
There are only two positions at which any of the Cubs had higher WARs than any of the division-winner regulars. Castillo topped the Braves’ Brian McCann (2.1) and Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis (2.2) at catcher. Luis Valbuena (1.6) didn’t play every day, but when he did, he contributed more than Cardinals third baseman David Freese (minus-0.3).
That’s a similar scenario to third base in the AL. The Sox’ Conor Gillaspie (0.4) wasn’t good, but he was better than the Red Sox’ Will Middlebrooks (minus-0.1). At shortstop, Ramirez’s 2.6 was a shade better than the A’s Jed Lowrie (2.4).
If you’re keeping score, that’s 51 positions (including AL designated hitters) among the six division winners and only five at which a Cubs or Sox player had a stronger season than the incumbent.
The Sox’ 99 losses and the Cubs’ 96 are enough to tell you significant upgrades are needed on both sides of town. WAR tells us that, whether by acquisition or young players’ progress, the upgrades are needed at nearly every position.