Top 10 WAR Players this Year: Counting Down the Dodgers

Most who know the game of baseball well will agree that there’s not one stat or metric alone which should be used solely to judge a player’s overall performance. However, the consensus amongst most is that WAR (Wins Above Replacement) comes the closest. And the Dodgers have some stiff competition there.

WAR aims to determine a player’s value by estimating how many wins they contribute to a team over the course of the year. It takes into account both offense and defense, and although it’s definitely not perfect, WAR is a good gauge on how well a player has helped the team with their overall play.

Below, we count down the Dodgers top ten players in regards to WAR this year.

Of note, both Manny Machado (5.2 WAR) and Brian Dozier (1.6 WAR), who were acquired mid-season, don’t have enough time in a Dodgers uniform to qualify in terms of team WAR.

Also, pitchers WAR is calculated a little differently than position players WAR, so it may not always be an accurate comparison, but the intent of each WAR stat is the same, so we combine them here for continuity.

Before we go down the top ten list, some glaring omissions should be addressed. Both Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig won’t be found on this list, and the reason for that is mostly because of where Fangraphs has their defensive WAR (or Defensive Runs Above Average) calculated. Although Kemp has an offensive WAR of 5.5, his -7.4 Def brings his overall WAR to just 1.2. Likewise, Puig has an offensive WAR of 7.4, but his Def is somehow -9.3, which makes his overall WAR only 1.0.

While Kemp’s below par defensive numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, the negative metrics on Puig likely have many scratching their heads. Puig, who has great speed and a cannon arm, has long been considered a very good defender in right field, and having such a bad rating on defensive, doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Advanced defensive metrics are still a work in progress, and often, they don’t match up with the “eye test.” So, it’s probably wise to take them with a grain of salt. With that said, they are included in Fangraph’s WAR calculation, so both Puig and Kemp fall out of the Dodgers top ten this year.

Despite Rich Hill’s nice second half, his higher than usual FIP keeps his WAR at 1.1 on the season. Walker Buehler may be the Dodgers best pitcher this season, but his delayed call-up, as well as his DL stint earlier this year, limits his WAR to 2.0. And with the way WAR is calculated, relief pitchers tend to have lower numbers, so Kenley Jansen (0.5 WAR) also misses the top ten.

Now, on to this year’s list.

#10. Joc Pederson, 2.1 WAR

Pederson has had a pretty good year offensively, posting a .828 OPS on the year, and a .509 SLG%, which would be the highest of his career. And his 122 wRC+ is good for 4th on the team. He’s still relegated to a platoon player though, as his splits against lefties remain well below average. Still, his 2.1 WAR this year is a significant increase from his 0.6 mark last season.

#9. Alex Wood, 2.2 WAR

Wood has been right about where the pre-season projections had him in regards to WAR. While he hasn’t been the same Alex Wood from the first half of last year, he has been solid this season, and more importantly, healthy. His 132.1 innings pitched this year leads all Dodgers pitchers.

#8. Justin Turner, 2.3 WAR

Undoubtedly, Turner would be higher on this list if he had played the entire year, but injuries, have limited him to just 278 PA this season. But that goes to show how valuable he can be, considering he still has put up a 2.3 WAR. By comparison, Chris Taylor, the next player on the list, also has a 2.3 WAR in almost double the amount of ABs as Turner.

#7. Chris Taylor, 2.3 WAR

After a breakout season last year, Taylor has not been the same player in 2018. His OPS has declined almost 100 pts, from .850 in 2017 to .762 this year. He’s also struck out at an alarming rate this season (28.8%) and his 150 K’s are most in the National League. His versatility and ability to play all around the field still makes him a valuable asset for the Dodgers, but his WAR is more a product of quantity, than quality, as his 520 PA are second on the team.

#6. Kenta Maeda, 2.5 WAR

Falling outside the top ten on Fangraphs pre-season WAR projections, Maeda has been a very solid contributor for the Dodgers this year. He was one of their more consistent starters for a while, before heading to the bullpen once the Dodgers had more than enough options to fill their rotation. That move was less about Maeda’s production and more to do with who the team feels could excel in that relief role.

#5. Ross Stripling, 2.5 WAR

One of the biggest surprises for the Dodgers this year, Stripling was presented an opportunity to fill a spot in the rotation, and he ran with it. He had an excellent first half, which earned him an All-Star selection, and no one could have predicted how valuable he’d be. Currently on the DL with a back injury, Stripling should return this upcoming week. Like Maeda, he’ll be moved to the bullpen with the current influx of starters.

#4. Cody Bellinger, 2.6 WAR

Coming off his N.L Rookie of the Year campaign, there were certainly some high hopes for Cody Bellinger this year. And while he hasn’t exactly lived up to those lofty expectations, Bellinger’s 2.6 WAR is still good for 4th on the club. He’s gone through a few extended slumps during his sophomore year, and some questioned whether or not a trip back down to AAA was needed. Lately though, Bellinger has been on a hot streak, batting .367/.433/.519 with a .952 OPS in August. He’s also been a healthy mainstay in the lineup, leading all Dodger players with 129 games played.

#3. Yasmani Grandal, 3.0 WAR

Surprised? With a 3.0 WAR so far this year, that’s already the highest mark of Grandal’s career, and he still has over a month left in the season. He’s quietly on pace to have his best offensive year in terms of OPS (.823) and wRC+ (126.) Where his value really gets a boost is on the defensive end, where he has a 7.1 Def rating according to Fangraphs.

#2. Clayton Kershaw, 3.3 WAR

For the third straight year, Kershaw missed significant time due to injury. And when he has been on the field, he’s seemed a bit more human this year. His velocity is down a little, and he’s been more hittable too. His 8.9 K/9 would be his second-lowest mark of his career, and his 2.39 ERA and 0.997 WHIP would be his highest marks since 2012. But when those type of numbers are some of your worst, it goes to show how great he’s been. To put Kershaw’s greatness in comparison, his 3.3 WAR this year is good for 16th in baseball, but he’s done it in only 116.1 innings. That’s 23 innings less than any other pitcher with a WAR of 3.0 or higher.

#1. Max Muncy, 4.0 WAR

Just like we all expected… the player leading the Dodgers in WAR this year is Max Muncy. Forget top ten –  you could have put together a list of the top 50 Dodgers players entering 2018 – and those pre-season projections would still not include Max Muncy. Saying his production has been unexpected this year would be an understatement. It’s Chris Taylor’s 2017 year on steroids. He leads the team in HR (30), OBP (.381), Slg (.594), OPS (.975), and wRC+ (160). He’s also hit lefties very well (.996 OPS vs LHP.)

After a blistering hot first half, Muncy cooled off a bit to start the second half, but he seems to have picked it back up again recently. Defensively, however, he hasn’t been very good, and his -3.4 Def doesn’t even illustrate how bad it’s been. First base appears to be the only position he can realistically play, but with the kind of offensive numbers he’s put up so far, it’s hard not to find a place for him in the lineup.

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Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.

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