Players WAR Values that are being plagued by poor defense.

This idea came to me when I thought about how much Adam Dunn used to minimize his value by playing absolutely awful defense in the OF. Dunn is a player who has great on-base skills and is a solid offensive player, but his defensive value negates most of his total WAR value. However, since switching to first base this season, Dunn has been a whole lot more valuable to the Nationals. He is playing about average defense at first base this season and his 2.9 WAR so far this year is already his highest since 2007 (3.1 WAR). It makes you wonder, if Dunn had been a 1B his whole career, would we be looking at Dunn a whole lot differently? I am going to look at some players whose value is being plagued by poor defense. I am going to use their past three seasons (including 2010) of fielding RAA, batting RAA, and WAR data since one season isn’t always reliable for fielding.

Ryan Braun: Past three seasons, 87 batting RAA, -21.8 fielding RAA, 10.7 WAR
It is kind of sad that Braun has only posted 10.7 WAR since 2008 considering how good of a hitter he is. However, he lost about 2 wins worth of value because he is such a poor defender in the OF. In the past three years, he has posted .400+ wOBA seasons twice yet he has not managed a 5+ WAR season. Here is how the Brewers should maximize Brauns value (all of this is dependent on Fielder’s departure). Eventually Braun should be moved to first base. If the Brewers were willing to downgrade him from third to the OF, they should be willing to downgrade him to first, especially if Prince Fielder leaves in the near future. If Braun happened to play AVERAGE defense at 1B instead of LF last season, he would have roughly a 5.7-5.8 WAR. Maybe the Brewers aught to consider moving Braun to first if Fielder departs.

Andre Ethier: Past three seasons, 72.5 batting RAA, -34.7 fielding RAA, 7.6 WAR
Ethier is a solid hitter as you can see, but he gives back almost half of his batting value due to poor corner OF defense. He is being plagued by poor defense more than his OF counterpart Matt Kemp. Ethier is another guy that can be moved to 1B if Loney ever happens to get traded. Just for speculation purposes, if Ethier were moved to 1B last season and played average defense (assuming Loney was traded), he would end up with roughly a WAR of 3.6 instead of his 2009 WAR of 2.8.

Bobby Abreu: Last three seasons, 49.1 batting RAA, -36.1 fielding RAA, 5.2 WAR
Abreu is probably a guy that you want to start DH’ing. He is going downhill defensively and he is 36 years old. If the Angels insist on keeping him, they need to move him to DH because hes been horrendous in the field and its taking away from about three-fourths of his offensive value. If the Texas Rangers lead becomes even larger before the trade deadline, the Angels might want to look into trading Abreu to an AL contender while they still can and get some young prospects in return.

Brad Hawpe: Last three seasons, 39 batting RAA, -58.6 fielding RAA, 1 WAR
You must be thinking, how does Hawpe have a positive WAR over the last three seasons if his fielding RAA exceeds his batting RAA. Well, its because the replacement runs are keeping him afloat. Hawpe is a solid offensive player, but he does not belong in the outfield and should probably be traded to an AL team. Plus, the Rockies should be able to replace him with ease because their OF is pretty crowded at the moment. However, if Hawpe were to move to an AL team and DH, his 2009 WAR would fall approximately around 2.6, which is a significant improvement over his 2009 WAR of 1.5.

Again, these are only four easy examples. Yes, im sure I could have dug deeper, but im sure you get the point. These four players have a couple things in common, they are all OF’ers and they should probably change positions in order to maximize their value. Look at the boost that Dunn has given the Nationals so far this year. Dunn could be a hot commodity on the trade market and it could net the Nats some big time value. Other GM’s and front offices need to take note of this.

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