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2020 Final Value Survey: Hitters

Longtime leader Tim Anderson is supplanted by another star teammate as White Sox surplus value champion

Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game One
This sweet pairing of players happen to be the two best hitting values on the White Sox for 2020.
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

It’s been quite a while since I published a Value Survey here at South Side Sox (and frankly, I don’t remember whether I did any during the season in South Side Hit Pen exile). And as you all know, 2020 has been a really weird season year. So, a refresher is due.

I know how all of you are just enthralled with my fake stats (hello, managerial WAR!). And the concept of player “value” is also conjecture — although FanGraphs does include dollar value among its tables and tables of stats. But my version is, natch, far more involved than FanGraphs — but ultimately, more accurate.

Simply take the salary a player makes and compare it to the WAR value he provided on the field. I average the three public WAR values (Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus get combined into something I’ll call aWAR), and then determine what the true value of a WAR is.

FanGraphs measures their WAR value in the free-agent market, which is instructive, of course. But it’s artificially high, somewhere north of $7 million per WAR last I checked. But to get actual value, you need to divide the total WAR in a season into the total MLB salary. When you do that, the figure cuts just about in half (in other words, the free agent market roughly doubles the true value of a win). In 2020, that WAR value is $4,646,185.

Because the season was just 60 games, and not 162, salary payouts were reduced dramatically. But, then, so were WAR totals for players, with only 60 games to accumulate value. But the value of a win retains its full value, shortened season or no.

Make sense? I didn’t think so. Well, here are some numbers that might help. Or not.

(Pitching values come out on Saturday.)

With high production and low salary, Tim Anderson ruled the value roost at the end of the 2010s. But in this strange, shortened season, it was fellow MVP candidate José Abreu who paid off best for the White Sox.

Even for an MVP in a short season, this is fairly astounding for a highly-paid player. Abreu was paid the second-most on the offense, yet managed $6.6 million in surplus value. Obviously, that Abreu’s aWAR was 0.7 better than anyone else on the team helped, but to outpace his heady $12.7 million salary (prorated for 60 games) is extremely impressive.

Don’t feel bad for TA, though, as the second-most valuable player on the White Sox clocked in with the second-best surplus value on the club — a scant $42,330 behind Abreu, in fact.

Other observations:

  • The offense had a fairly even split between good and bad values, with 11 plus-value, 10 minus. But the key to a splendid surplus value overall (nearly $21 million) overall was how huge some of the surpluses were (Abreu and Anderson leading a list of six values in excess of $2.5 million). Just two players, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara, clocked in with negative surplus values of more than $2.5 million.
  • Because Baseball Prospectus presumes a replacement player holds more value than the other two WAR calculations (essentially raising the basement value for a replacement), WARP figures tend to be very stingy. So it’s instructive to note players who measure up very well per WARP: Nick Madrigal, Danny Mendick, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal. Grandal benefits from his framing, and presumably Robert for his defense. Solid WARP from Madrigal and Mendick could be a harbinger of much stronger play to come from them.
  • Five players (Abreu, Anderson, Grandal, Robert, McCann) had more than 1.0 aWAR for the short 2020 season. By contrast, just four White Sox — Anderson, Omar Narváez, Yoán Moncada and Yolmer Sánchez — averaged more than 1.0 WAR in 2018 in a 162-game season.
  • If WARP didn’t downright hate Anderson and Moncada in 2020, this value list would read very differently.
  • Encarnación and Mazara were the only significantly bad values in 2020. In fact, their combined value was about twice as bad as the other eight negative values among hitters combined.

Service time/salary figures, in this odd season of all seasons, are my best estimates and are perhaps a shade charitable to players who shuttled between Schaumburg and Chicago. All WAR figures are per the respective B-R, FanGraphs and BP sites.