For those who do not know, WAR is an acronym that means Wins Above Replacement. In a nutshell, if a player has a WAR of 1.0 that means that the player brings in one more win than a possible replacement in the minor leagues. It is the kind of stat that encompasses every offensive and defensive metric for a player just to see how many wins this player can bring with him on a season.
For the last few years, the WAR stat has been used as the main argument for electing Mike Trout as the American League MVP instead of Miguel Cabrera. Last year, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown and was a beast in the batters box, so it wasn’t a shock that the rookie Trout was ‘snubbed’ by the voters. Advanced Metrics and stat keeping gurus love Mike Trout for his insane stat chart that reads a plus in every area of his game. I would have voted for Miggy just because he was nearly unstoppable from the plate and because Mike Trout was a rookie playing on a bad team. However this year, there is another debate on whether Miguel or Mike was better this year. I had a feeling at the beginning of the year that we would be in this situation again in November so I tried watching more Angels and Tigers games (thank you MLB tv.). At the same time, I would always try to go watch as many Marlins games in Miami during the summer. Throughout the entire season, whether it was live on TV, I watched over a 100 Marlins games. It was a baseball summer and I noticed something that made me feel stupid when it comes to players and stats.
Stats are very good at finding player weaknesses and finding players to invest in. However, there is a reason that the old school mentality of watching a player while in the heat of the moment is still alive today. Adeiny Hechavarria came to the Marlins in the massive Blue Jays trade from last year and he was thought as a defensive upgrade to Jose Reyes. By the end of the season, he had a negative WAR of -2.1 which came in dead last amongst all shortstops. Analysts, bloggers, and even esteemed baseball writers from this excellent website began to call out this young player and say that we need an upgrade. Look, I know he is underdeveloped with the bat, I saw that. He definitely needs work, a stat line of .227/.267/.298 is unacceptable, but to say that we need to get rid of a great defensive player like him is a little extreme. Apparently his stats on the defensive side were below average and this is where I have to say that the stats don’t paint the whole picture.
I saw this kid play day in and day out. Every game he played his heart out trying to get every ball that came anywhere near him. He made spectacular web gems almost on a daily basis. Hechavarria is a dynamo defensive shortstop who had one, and I repeat, one bad run where he committed six errors. That is not good at all, but he is only 24. There is so much room to improve and make his game better that give up on what could be a great shortstop would be insane. He showed the potential to hit the ball consistently during the run in July where he was able to bring his average from .230 to .250 in just a few weeks. Adeiny Hechavarria is not a bad player, he just had a sub-par year that included amazing highlights and terrible lowlights.
After watching the Angels and Tigers play this year I noticed that Mike Trout was a superior baseball player to Miguel Cabrera in 2013. He makes excellent defensive plays, his bat speed is out of control, he knows how to get on base, he knows how to the little things, and he knows how to change the game with one swing of his bat. Stats will probably give him the edge but by just watching him I could see that he brings more to the game than just a masterstroke with the bat. Miguel Cabrera is an amazing hitter but he doesn’t run that well and he doesn’t field that well. He is a great player in terms of presence and batting but some of his game is lacking compared to Trout. I don’t need stats to tell me Trout had a better year when I saw him have a great year. I don’t need stats to tell me that Adeiny Hechavarria was a terrible player when I saw him play well in most games.
The stats are great, they’re a unique element to the sport and they’re fun to play around with. Baseball teams know that they should use advanced metrics to take the players that fit best in their system. Oakland and Tampa are prime examples of playoff teams making the playoffs because they used stats as the backbone to their money-saving ways. However, they do have eyes and they know that some players are just really good even if the stats don’t necessarily tell the whole picture. Yoenis Cespedes is a great middle of the order player but he played in the Cuban League before Oakland so they didn’t have the extremely reliable stats to pick him with. My point is that there needs to be a balance between stats and actual watching baseball. Adeiny didn’t have a great year but I saw what he can do with more seasoning and development.
We can’t just look at the stats of a player and say he is bad and we need an upgrade. No, let’s be patient and watch the player first and figure out what kind of player he is before crucifying him. He could blossom into a gold glove winning shortstop or a bust, but the stats aren’t going to tell us this. It comes from watching the player and seeing if he plays the game how it’s supposed to be played.
I believe in you, Adeiny. I saw you play and you were fun to watch.
In 2014, I expect some good things from you.