Backup catcher Gerald Laird is a blessed man. In 2011 he won a World Series with the Cardinals, and in 2012 he'll get a chance for a second with the Tigers. (What beats glory and a full playoff share?) Laird is also the prototypical "replacement-level" player, producing 0.0 wins above replacement (WAR) this year and 0.3 WAR over the last four years.
Producing 0.0 WAR sounds pretty bad, kind of the same way hitting 0.0 home runs or drawing 0.0 walks sound pretty bad, but being a replacement-level major leaguer still makes you exceptionally good at baseball. To put this in context, let's consider a scenario in which I hold an MLB owner's kid hostage and force him to let me play an entire season. Just how low would my WAR be?
Note: These are obviously rough estimates, WAR isn't designed to measure the MLB value of a player who quit third-grade coach-pitch after going 0-3 with three K's.
Batting: To use some standard numbers, let's say I get 600 plate appearances in 150 games and never record a hit. In 2012 pitchers beaned batters at a rate of 5.4/600 PA, but pitchers don't have to bring the heat against me. So let's say I get 3 HBP. Pitchers can also go on tilt and lose the zone (pitchers as batters walked at a rate of 19.3/600 PA in 2012), so let's say I get eight regular walks for a final line of .000/.018/.000. Using the helpful Simple WAR Calculator, I'm worth about -130.9 runs, due to my terrible hitting.
Fielding/Position: The manager puts me in left field, the defensive position where I can do the least damage. Since WAR is adjusted for position, I'm already at -6.9 runs. Without getting into the complexities of fielding statistics, the worst MLB outfielders cost their teams around 15 runs. Clearly I'm worse than that, let's double it and give me an even -30 runs.
Baserunning: Mercifully, I get only 11 opportunities to run the bases. Over the course of a season, the worst baserunners typically cost their team around six runs, but they get a lot more chances. Let's say I still manage to pull off -2 runs.
Total: Before I release the owner's kid at the end of the season, I manage to cost the team 169.8 runs, which is roughly -17.0 WAR.
Below is a chart showing the WAR distribution for the 144 hitters who qualified for the batting title in 2012, with my hypothetical season included:
At -2.7 WAR, Jeff Francoeur just wrapped up one of the worst seasons of all time. I would be six times worse than that, which doesn't reflect well on either of us. Here's approximately how your team would have fared if they were forced to start me instead of their worst 2012 regular:
|Team||Real Record||Worst Starter WAR (min. 81 G)||Record with me!|
Only the Nationals would survive me, managing to stay above .500. Twelve teams would finish with over 100 losses, and the Astros would have the worst winning percentage since the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics.