The other day there was an article going around showing the top ten NHL players for the 2010s which stirred some controversy as no Blackhawks were named despite having players winning 3 Stanley Cup trophies, a rather difficult feat. We don’t have data models ranking hockey, football, or basketball but we do have one for baseball. Let’s look at the top 25 MLB players for 2010 decade according to this data model and for baseball-reference value system WAR.
A list like this is rather arbitrary. When people reflect on decades they don’t ponder the decade between say 2008-2017. These always occur when the odometer turns on earth like tonight and we go from 2019-2020. Players who started and ended their careers mid decade lose many years to players who came into their prime around 2010 and are still playing like Clayton Kershaw. Mike Trout had his first blow out year in 2012 but is still 30+ WAA behind Kershaw.
In 2019 Miguel Cabrera ranked #20 in the bottom 200, a list no one wants to be #1, which means he’s hemorrhaging value. Robinson Cano also put up sub average numbers in 2019 but still in the top 25 of this decade.
The two highlighted players, Pujols and Ortiz were also in the top 4 players of the 2000-2009 decade.
Top MLB Players 2000-2009
Pujols and Ortiz were #2 and #4 MLB players in the 2000s and made it into the top 25 in the 2010s. Ortiz retired after the 2016 season so he even missed three years. Pujols is the only player still playing of the top 4 above.
It is clear from above that Clayton Kershaw is the baseball player of the decade according to this data model. WAR may not agree but we’ll get to that later. Edwin Encarnacion is listed as #2 in this model and #48 for the decade in WAR which represents the biggest difference between the two systems. Whenever there is a discrepancy like this I check career numbers. Here’s Edwin’s career according to this data model.
Encarnacion had a pretty consistent decade with a relatively mediocre start to his career. His career year was 2015 where he drove in 111 runs and scored 94. In 2016 he drove in 127 and scored 99. The numbers check out. Unfortunately for him he played for Toronto which is home to a hitter friendly park. WAR downgrades or upgrades players based upon the type of parks they play in. The same phenomenon happened with Larry Walker who played much of his career in COL and Montreal.
The numbers above are correct and consistent with how this data model calculates value from Babe Ruth to Neifi Perez. Edwin Encarnacion contributed each year to his team’s total WAA according to Pythagorean Estimation the amount listed above in the WAA column. That he exceeds Mike Trout was surprising but he had two more productive years this decade to rack up numbers. If we do a 10 year split next year Trout will clearly be #2 but it will take years for him to overtake Kershaw unless Kershaw tanks by putting up negative numbers and losing games for LAN.
Let’s see what WAR thinks of this decade.
Yikes! Trout is so far ahead in #1 after only 8 productive years on mostly mediocre teams. On reddit in r/baseball I have seen comments suggesting Trout’s recent contract is worth $600M+ based upon the above. This data model does not have a salary component since finance and contracts are extremely complicated.
After building the TC simulator and running handicapping numbers these last few years it became obvious good baseball teams win based upon the sum of most their players playing well above average. The lineups on winning playoff teams usually consist of 8 players all well above average. Is it wise for a team to spend most their money on a single player then skimp on the rest? How did that $30M/year Manny Machado contract work out for SDN last season?
The numbers above are used by teams to determine salary which means they mean millions of dollars to players . Players learn to game WAR stats because of how important those numbers are to their livelihood. WAR undervalues relievers so relievers want to become starters unless they can close and rack up those valuable saves so important to Draft Kings teams.
Joey Votto is a big fan of wRC+ according to this article. Let’s look at Joey’s 2019 stats according to both models.
Joey Votto made the bottom 100 in 2019. His batting average and OBP look OK though. His run production highlighted in brown is very poor. He is 14th worst in MLB for run production in RISP situations last season. An old, but still accurate, explanation of RISP according to this data model can be read here.
Bottom line: Joey Votto had a bad season. The Reds went 75-87 in 2019 for a real team WAA of -12 . Joey Votto’s contribution was -2.79 of that. Let’s see what WAR thinks.
WAR have him underwater defensively with dWAR. His cumulative WAR is respectable and shows no indication he had much of a bad season other than it’s lower than his usual and he’s unranked. Not sure how he ended up with a 1.6 cumulative WAR when his oWAR is only 1.1 with a negative dWAR.
Joey Votto had his career year in 2010 ranking #8 and he’s ranked #49 for the decade according to this data model . This is a reverse discrepancy from Edwin Encarnacion. WAR rewards players who excel on their Draft Kings teams, this data model rewards players who excel on their real baseball teams; players who score runs or not let up runs. Runs are the currency required for wins.
Jason Heyward somehow made the WAR list as well at #25. There are no Cubbies or players who ever played with the Cubs on the WAA list.
The dWAR column was manually highlighted to show high and low values. Looking at dWAR can be useful to determine who can field, who’s OK, and who should probably be DH. The Cubs hired Jason Heyward for his defense which is second highest among the 25 in the WAR list.
Not much more to say about this last post of the decade. I don’t care what WAR thinks, Clayton Kershaw is the best player between 2010-2019. He may not break top tens much anymore but he’s consistently a good well above average player every year. He is what they call a generational player now. Mike Trout is waiting in the wings and will soon be top dog. He isn’t right now after only 8 years. He is top dog for Draft Kings teams however and probably undisputed MVP of those leagues each season.
Minor leagues coming next year. Happy New Decade. Until then ….