Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a measurement of player production that is gaining ground as a way to evaluate performance. It attempts to express the total number of wins a player - pitcher or hitter - adds to his team over the course of a season, by comparing his performance with that of a fictitious "replacement player" called up from Triple-A. If you want more specific information on how it's calculated, here is a good place to start. But you really don't need to know much more than, as the link says, "If you had to pick one statistic – and only one statistic – to use in evaluating players’ value to their teams, Wins Above Replacement should be it, end of story."
The great and glorious baseball-reference.com has recently started including WAR numbers in its already encyclopedic statistics. While we've covered the topic of Greatest Diamondbacks before, this now allows us to come up with a truly objective list, using the ten Diamondbacks players who have produced the highest WAR in their time with the team. The numbers can be broken down into areas like fielding and base-running, to provide sub-lists of those who excelled in those particular facets of the game.
All-time Fielding Team
C. Damian Miller [1.3 WAR]
Chris Snyder's errorless streak doesn't count for much, as he comes in at only 0.7 WAR, with Kelly Stinnett [1.1 WAR], Miller's closest rival.
1B. Lyle Overbay [1.2 WAR]
Bit of a shock here, I think. Overbay was never really renowned for his glove, but just pips Mark Grace [1.1 WAR], though he played only one-third as many games
2B. Matt Kata [0.6 WAR]
WAR really does not rate our Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson very highly at all. In fact, he comes in at a fielding WAR of -0.7.
3B. Matt Williams [2.1 WAR]
Not really much of a surprise here. Mark Reynolds has got some way to go to catch up with his mentor at the hot-corner.
SS. Tony Batista [0.9 WAR]
You are no doubt going, "Who? He was a mainstay of the team in 1998-1999, a utility guy who appeared in 150 games: A decent line of .268/.324/.478, but his glove was his strength.
LF. Eric Byrnes [3.1 WAR]
Say what you like about his time with the Diamondbacks, what is often overlooked in the flips and TV shows, is that he was actually a good fielder.
CF. Steve Finley [2.8 WAR]
Again, you should probably have guessed this one.
RF. Justin Upton [1.8 WAR]
Carlos Quentin [1.5 WAR] was close, but Upton's range seems to have won the day. Imagine how good he'd be, if he used two hands... :-)
However, it's worth noting that the "best" Diamondback fielder of all time doesn't make it onto the list, because he was a super-utility guy who never stayed at one position for the 50% of time needed to qualify there. I refer to Craig Counsell, who accumulated an insane 8.6 total Fielding WAR during his time with the Diamondbacks, over two spells from 2000 to 2006.
All-time Pitching Roster
Because of the way it works, WAR does tend to undervalue relievers - it doesn't care about the pressures of pitching in the ninth, it just looks at a closer throwing maybe 70 innings and snorts derisively. Less than a handful of relievers in the history of the game have mustered more than 30 WAR, which is about the level of a Jimmy Rollins, Mike Lowell or Carlos Zambrano. Thus, to given them their due here, we've assembled an all-time Diamondbacks pitching staff: five starters and seven relievers.
SP1. Randy Johnson [45.1 WAR]
SP2. Brandon Webb [29.2 WAR]
SP3. Curt Schilling [20.9 WAR]
SP4. Dan Haren [11.0 WAR]
SP5. Miguel Batista [10.4 WAR]
CL. Byung-Hyun Kim [7.2 WAR]
SU1. Jose Valverde [5.1 WAR]
LOOGY. Greg Swindell [3.3 WAR]
SU2. Juan Cruz [3.2 WAR]
MR1. Mike Koplove [2.9 WAR]
MR2. Matt Mantei [2.7 WAR]
MR3. Greg Olson [2.2 WAR]
No real surprises at the top of the starting pitcher list, but you might be surprised to see Webb splitting our dynamic duo from 2001. That's largely a function on longevity - Webb has 198 starts, Schilling only 107. If you look at the individual seasons, Curt was better in both 2001 and 2002 than Webb's best year (2007). It's worth noting that Kim's 2002 was the 4th-best season by an NL reliever in the past decade.
Swindell, to some extent, also benefits from longevity too: only Brandon Lyon, Kim and Valverde have appeared in more games for the franchise, but that's still a surprisingly good-showing. Qualls would have been in the list, at 2.5 WAR, but recent performances have driven a stake through his numbers - he was at 2.5 WAR, but has now dropped all the way to 1.4, being at -0.9 for the season. And that was before his latest monumental meltdown in the ninth inning of this afternoon's contest against the Giants.
Top 5 Diamondbacks Base-runners
- Tony Womack [2.0 WAR]
- Eric Byrnes [0.7 WAR]
- Orlando Hudson [0.7 WAR]
- Steve Finley [0.5 WAR]
- Matt Williams [0.5 WAR]
The top two names are often derided for various reasons, but proved their worth on the base-paths. Womack stole 72 bases in his first season with the team, a number surpassed only once in the majors since, and Byrnes joined the 50-SB club in 2007. The last name on the list might be a bit of an eye-opener: you don't really think "speedster" when you look at Williams, and he only stole 12 bases in six seasons here, but seems to have been very good at taking extra-bases etc.
Top 10 Diamondbacks Hitting Seasons [by someone not named Luis Gonzalez]
Yeah, if we included Gonzo in the list of single-season WAR batting records, it would make for a pretty dull list, because he owns five of the top six in franchise history, culminating in the 6.3 WAR posted in the 2001 season. Between 1999-2003, he accumulated a total of 18.4 WAR, putting him in among the top ten hitters in the National League over that time. Those five seasons rank, respectively, #2, 3, 1, 5 and 6 on the list. Here are the ten best efforts by anyone else wearing a Diamondbacks uniform.
- Jay Bell, 1999 [3.2 WAR]
- Junior Spivey, 2002 [2.1 WAR]
- Tony Clark, 2005 [2.0 WAR]
- Greg Colbrunn, 2000 [1.7 WAR]
- Steve Finley, 2000 [1.7 WAR]
- Justin Upton, 2009 [1.6 WAR]
- Mark Reynolds, 2009 [1.6 WAR]
- Steve Finley, 2002 [1.6 WAR]
- Matt Williams, 1999 [1.6 WAR]
- Erubiel Durazo, 1999 [1.5 WAR]
Just for amusement - who are the worst Diamondbacks of all time? In reverse order, it starts at #5 with Brent Brede (-1.8 WAR), who posted an OPS+ of 68 for the team in their inaugural season. Coming in at #4 is Karim Garcia: (-1.8 WAR) - the trade which swapped him for Luis Gonzalez plus cash, is still the best ever for the franchise. Two years and a 6.21 ERA put Lance Cormier ( -1.9 WAR) at #3; he's now much improved in the Rays bullpen. Our second-worst player is Eddie Oropesa, who cropped up not long ago as our worst reliever ever. And #1? Take a wild stab in the dark - which is exactly what we should have done to Russ Ortiz and his -2.7 WAR.
And now, putting all these factors together - hitting, pitching, fielding and baserunning - who are the greatest Diamondbacks of all time? The envelope, please...
ALL-TIME GREATEST DIAMONDBACKS