Jim Edmonds–Hall of Fame–Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

The first thing I want to say is that if you think Jim Edmonds is a Hall of Famer, you will enjoy this read.  Next, I want to tell you that I didn’t come up with new statistics to look at baseball objectively, that’s was Bill James.  So, while there are a lot of definitions for Wins Above Replacment(WAR), I think the easiest way to say it is that it means how many wins that a player contributes to his team’s win total above what a replacement level player contributed.  I’ve seen the replacement level player described as a AAAA player, and that makes the most sense in my mind.   

There are a lot of other instances of describing the replacment player.  Another thing about WAR is that it takes offense and defense into consideration, along with the park you play in, the position you play, and uses basic stats like walks, homeruns, doubles, stolen bases, OBP and OPS, among many others. For defense, WAR uses Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), as well as weighing a players defensive position.  Catchers, shortstops and centerfielders are weighted higher than 1st baseman and Designated Hitters.

I’m still getting the hang of trying to add the pieces up, but the good thing is I don’t have to know exactly.  You can find it used on almost every stats page for players through the history of baseball now, and when a final product list Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and Cy Young as the top 5 players in the history of the game, I think it shows it effectiveness and diversiveness.  I am in no way a Barry Bonds fan by the way, but if you leave out steroids and just look at numbers, it hard to argue against.

I really see no easy way to do this article without giving in-depth seasonal and career statistics, with Jim Edmonds referenced against the best players of today and in the past.  I’m going to use the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from Baseball-Reference.com.  This page will be my reference for most statistics in this article.

You’ve seen this question before.  Most people will give you a quick yes or no, and I think most of those same people have Jim Edmonds pegged as a show boat or a great all around player.  It doesn’t seem like many people are ever in the middle on Jimmy Ballgame, so I wanted to look at Edmonds and one of the most used sabermetrics stats out there. 

Before I start comparing Edmonds against the greatest of all time, I wanted to take a look at a season that stuck out in my mind.  The season was 2001.  You remember it as the year Barry Bonds hit 73 HR’s, or that Luis Gonzalez hit 57.  Maybe you remember it because it was Albert Pujols rookie year, or because it was a year that could have been for the Cardinals to win it all if they scored two more runs in Game 5 of the NLDS against Arizona Diamondbacks and Curt Schilling. 

A thing stat stuck out in my mind from 2001 was that Edmonds didn’t factor into the MVP voting. Edmonds had 30 home runs, 110 RBI’s, a .304 average and a .410 OBP, won a gold glove, yet didn’t get one single vote point for MVP. 

I’ve always wondered why Edmonds was overlooked so often in awards.  Considering he was always a force both offensively and defensivly, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Yet guys like David Ortiz, who is a DH, finished 5th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in MVP voting from 2003 to 2007.  And just for kicks, for their careers, Edmonds is ahead in HR’s RBI, BA, OBP, yet I’m pretty sure David Ortiz will get into the HOF as a DH.  The recent induction of Jim Rice will also be ammunition for Edmonds, or should be, if the voters include defense at all. 

So back to 2001.  I’m going back and looking at the numbers and there were 27 other players that got a least 1 vote point.  I’ll use 4 other outfielders and see where Edmonds stacked up against them.

Player–MVP place   BA         OBP          HR        RBI       OPS    SB   GG  WAR

Edmonds-NR                .310       .404             30          110       .974      5     yes    6.4

Berkman-5th                .331       .430             34          126       1.051    7      no     6.2

Alou-14th                        .331       .396             27          108       .949      5      no     2.7

Abreu-16th                     .289       .393             31          110       .936     36     no     4.9

Giles-24th                       .309       .404            37           95         .994     13     no     5.6

Just as I thought, besides for Lance Berkman, I can’t really understand why Jim Edmonds failed to beat out the other outfielders on this list who received a vote point.  As you can see by Edmonds WAR, his defensive skills were greatly unappreciated.  I think the main reason is that Jim Edmonds, even though he has won 8 gold gloves and put up great offensive seasons, has been overshadowed by playing with Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire, and Scott Rolen.  I also think having Tony LaRussa as a manager has taken away from Edmonds in some degree.

The problem here, and why I’m making a fuss, is because when Edmonds comes up for the Hall of Fame, they are going to ask a couple of questions that will hurt him.  One will be how many times he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting, and another will be was he ever the best player on his team.  Well, he only finished in the top 10 twice.  I think he was the best player on the Cardinals for a couple of seasons when you add in his defense, but most writers will say no to that because of Pujols.

Jim Edmonds and Wins Above Replacment

Michael Lewis published Moneyball in 2003.  The book was about the GM of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, and Beane’s use of sabermetrics.  The premise of the book was about how smaller market MLB teams like the Oakland A’s were looking at new statistics to give them chance of winning against larger market teams like the Yankees.  Paul DePodesta was also used heavily in the book, as he became the 4th youngest GM when he took over for the Dodgers in 2004.  DePodesta is a Harvard Graduate who spent time as a scout for the Cleveland Indians and later worked with Beane in Oakland.  He now works for the Padres.

10 years ago, most of us had no idea what WAR was, and many today are still questioning the use of sabermetric stats.  Some people don’t like to use them at all.  It also seems that the St. Louis Cardinals, like most other baseball clubs these days, have internal differences between scouts and statistical divisions.  Quite honestly, I’m still learning, and have a hard time believing in some of them, while others seem to fit nicely to make or break an argument. 

I have a little trouble with the game score(GSc) stat that said that Tim Lincecum’s  9IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 14SO game is better than both Roy Halladay’s no hitter against the Reds in the NLDS of 2010 and Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.  Here’s the 10 greatest pitched playoff games ever according to Bill Jame’s GSc.  Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter against a Reds team that lead the league in hitting with a .272 avergae  Tim Lincecum’s game was against the Braves who hit .258, and was missing key pieces such as Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.

It doesn’t seem to pass the common sense test, or does it?  When a pitcher gets a strikeout, the score is weighted heavier than a ground ball out.  An out is an out a lot of us would say, but now I’m starting to see the difference.  Before I come to Edmonds, I want to touch on one thing here.  That is the fact that the San Francisco Giants led the league in strikeouts and ERA, and are up 1-0 in the World Series.  Simply put, if a batter can’t put a ball in play, there’s no room for an error in the field.  I will go back and do an article on strikeouts and playoff teams in the next few days to see how much of an impact it makes.  We do know that dominant pitching usually prevails in the playoffs with the eye test.

Coming back to Edmonds, well, I’m going to use Wins Above Replacement (WAR). 

Here is the list of the top 20 active players in this category WAR:

Rank Player (age) Wins Above Replacement Throws
1. Alex Rodriguez (34) 101.90 R
2. Albert Pujols (30) 83.80 R
3. Chipper Jones (38) 80.10 B
4. Ken Griffey (40) 78.50 L
5. Jim Thome (39) 70.30 L
6. Derek Jeter (36) 70.10 R
7. Jim Edmonds (40) 68.30 L
8. Ivan Rodriguez (38) 67.70 R
9. Manny Ramirez (38) 67.50 R
10. Scott Rolen (35) 66.10 R
11. Andruw Jones (33) 59.90 R
12. Vladimir Guerrero (35) 59.20 R
13. Bobby Abreu (36) 58.20 L
14. Todd Helton (36) 57.90 L
15. Carlos Beltran (33) 56.50 B
16. Ichiro Suzuki (36) 55.20 L
17. Roy Halladay (33) 53.20 R
18. Mariano Rivera (40) 52.90 R
19. Jason Giambi (39) 52.80 L
20. Andy Pettitte (38) 49.70 L

 I think everyone really knows in their bones that the top 6 players on this list belong in the Hall of Fame, as well as spots 8,9 and without a doubt 16,17 and 18.  I can see a case being made against Jason Giambi the most,  however, if you look at Giambi’s career stats, I think it’s pretty impressive, and easily forgotten what a beast he was.  Yes, he took steroids, but let’s deal with that another day.

So if you can look at WAR and say that everyone in the list makes sense except Edmonds (and Rolen who is 10th), what are you basing it on.  Can it be said that WAR works to prove that Derek Jeter and Pudge Rodriguez belong in the HOF and not Jim Edmonds?  I don’t think any true baseball fan can say that either Jeter or Pudge don’t belong in the HOF.  Whether you like Jeter or not, he will have 3,000 hits.  Whether you like Pudge or not, he has 13 gold gloves and considered by many to be the best defensive and/or best all around catcher of all time.

So why do I get the feeling that Jim Edmonds won’t make the Hall of Fame?  I may sound like a complete homer on this one, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I think Edmonds won’t get in because he didn’t play for the Yankees or Red Sox.  Let me elaborate.  If Jim Edmonds had made some of the catches he made, and hit some or all of those 13 postseason home runs to go along with 393 regular season ones for the Yankees, I think there’s no doubt he’s in the HOF. 

As it is, Edmonds didn’t play for a big team on the east coast.  I mean, do you really think that a season of a .304 BA, a .410 OBP, 30 HR and 110 RBI and a gold glove doesn’t make the top 27 in MVP voting in any year if they play for the Yankees?  How many Jim Edmonds highlight reels would we have seen?  How many more AB’s would Edmonds have gotten in his career if he was the CF for the Yankees in the last 10 years?

Can WAR be a hit and miss statistic?  I don’t really think so and here’s why.  When you look at the career leaders for WAR, the top 20 names are:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Barry Bonds
  3. Ty Cobb
  4. Willie Mays
  5. Cy Young
  6. Hank Aaron
  7. Walter Johnson
  8. Honus Wagner
  9. Tris Speaker
  10. Roger Clemens
  11. Rogers Hornsby
  12. Stan Musial
  13. Eddie Collins
  14. Ted Williams
  15. Mickey Mantle
  16. Lou Gehrig
  17. Rickey Henderson
  18. Mel Ott
  19. Mike Schmidt
  20. Frank Robinson

I don’t know how many stats you could use to come up with this list, but I know you could do a lot worse.  And again, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens shot steroids in their asses, but that’s another article, another day. 

So where does Jim Edmonds rank?  Edmonds ranks 92nd all-time, which is pretty impressive if you look at other notable names around him, which I put below.

Alex Rodriguez is 26th, Bob Gibson is 33rd, Roberto Clemente and Albert Pujols are tied at 47th, Joe Dimaggio is 49th, Ken Griffey Jr. is 60th, Reggie Jackson is 71st, Derek Jeter is 82nd, Brooks Robinson is 89th

…..Tony Gwynn is 91st, Jim Edmonds is 92nd, Pudge Rodriguez is 93rd…..

Manny Ramirez and Duke Snider are tied at 96th, Eddie Murray is 103rd, Willie McCovey is 115th, Ozzie Smith is tied with Tim Raines at 117th, and so on.

Jim Edmonds WAR rank among CF’s

The MLB network did “Prime Nine” for center fielders in 2009.  Here is the list they gave below.  I am going to put their career WAR next to their name.

9) Kirby Puckett–44.80–325th place all-time

8) Jim Edmonds–68.30–92nd place all-time

7) Duke Snider–67.50–tied for 96th all-time (Manny Ramirez)

6) Ken Griffey Jr.–78.50–60th place all-time

5) Joe Dimaggio–83.60–49th place all-time

4) Tris Speaker–132.90–9th place all-time

3) Mickey Mantle–120.20–15th place all-time

2) Ty Cobb–159.50–3rd place all-time

1) Willie Mays–154.70–4th place all-time

The second similarity score on Jim Edmonds Baseball-Reference.com page is Duke Snider.  If you look at WAR, the MLB TV ranking, along with most of their power stats, Edmonds and Snider rank pretty close across the board:

Player              BA     OBP     OPS     HR     RBI       WAR     dWAR     oWAR

Edmonds        .284     .376     .903     393     1199     68.3     8.8(93rd)  59.5(89th)

Snider             .295     .380     .919     407     1333     67.5     NR             69.6(54th)

I can’t find Duke Snider’s defensive WAR statistics for his career.  Only the top 1000 players are listed by defense on BRef.  It does show that his best season was a 1.3 in 1956, with Edmonds best season a 2.4 in 2005.  So it appears that Snider was a little better offensive player across the board, while Edmonds was a better defender.  Jim Edmonds is in the top 100 for oWAR and dWAR in the history of MLB, which is impressive.

You can find quite a few HOFer’s in the career WAR list before and after Jim Edmonds.  I don’t know if using WAR holds as much water as I’m claiming here, but I see it used all the time to make or break the case for players by every sportswriter in America.  Since it uses offense, defense, position played, and weighs them all together, I think it has more value than any other stat I’ve seen to date, and finally give a player like Edmonds credit for doing it on offense and defense.  I hope Jimmy comes back for one more year, and gets his 2000 hits and 400 home runs, as he is only 7 HR and 51 hits away from those milestones.   If he doesn’t, it might be enough ammunition for a case against him in the Hall of Fame.

I think we see the true value of what Jim Edmonds was in his career, and in my mind, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  The good thing about Edmonds was that, at least to me, was a player who you could have said he belonged in the Hall of Fame with the eye test.  Now, we can say Jim Edmonds belongs in the Hall of Fame with Wins Above Replacement.  If sports writers are indeed taking more notice of sabermetrics and WAR and taking it into account for awards and entry into the Hall of Fame, then they can’t pick and choose when it suits them and leave it out when it doesn’t.

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