Pittsburgh Pirates Wake Up Call: Pirates’ WAA marks by position

In our daily Wake-Up Call, we get you ready for the day with a complete look at all things Pittsburgh Pirates.

As we grind through the offseason, one of the best ways to get through it is to compare the Pittsburgh Pirates to the rest of the baseball clubs around the game. Today we will look at WAA, or Wins Above Average, an offshoot of the popular WAR (wins Above Replacement) metric used all over the baseball interwebs.

WAA is a creation that originated over at Baseball Reference. There, they break out the WAA by team and then by position. When distilled, WAA attempts to refine a player’s worth by comparing their performance to the MLB average rather than a replacement player. For a good primer, check out this post from Beyond the Box Score.

Let’s take a quick lap through some notes from comparing the Pirates’ WAA to other clubs in baseball.

A leading unit that is a heck of a surprise

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ relievers actually posted the highest group WAA at 1.6 — good for the seventh best mark in baseball. This likely comes as a surprise, but upon further review perhaps it shouldn’t. Despite the rocky waves from Daniel Hudson and Tony Watson, the rising tides of Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio lifted all boats. Next year’s bullpen will look decidedly different, but with Rivero in tow, the Pittsburgh Pirates may already have a solid foundation. At least in the late innings.

Solid seasons may not mean much to WAA

By all accounts, Andrew McCutchen had a solid, bounceback type of year. He carried the bulk of the team’s plate appearances in centerfield, yet the position ended up with a 0.4 WAA, ranking 19th in the game. McCutchen’s 583 PAs amounts to a full season’s worth, give or take, and aside from Starling Marte‘s 94 PAs at the position to start the year, no Pittsburgh Pirates hitter logged more than 13 PAs at the position.

The Pirates would certainly take McCutchen’s production eight days a week after his 2016 nightmare of a season, and this WAA speaks more to the quality of talent at the position overall rather than any indictment on McCutchen in particular. Unsurprisingly, the team that carries the best centerfielder — and best player — in the game in Mike Trout (the Angels) carried the highest positional WAA with 5.0

The same can be said for Josh Bell, who turned in a fine “rookie” campaign. Despite his heroics at the position and his burgeoning power stroke, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished 21st in baseball at 1B with a -1.1 WAA.

Overall thoughts

One last WAA item of note — the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielders overall ranked 25th in baseball with a -2.7 WAA rating. Losing Marte for a year coupled with the stops and starts of Gregory Polanco‘s 2017 conspired to drag this rating down. So, there are real, actual reasons that you can point to for such a subpar rating.

However, if you had told any Pittsburgh Pirates fan back in 2015 that the “dream outfield” would lag behind so badly in 2017, that fan would call you a liar.

Here is the  full table showing all positions and rankings, with the Pirates highlighted:

h/t Baseball Reference

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Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)