Treemap Comparing the Salary and WAR of the Braves

This chart includes everyone on the current 40-man roster (and so includes players on the DL, excludes players the Braves have traded, etc.) who contributed this year.  I did not include salaries for non-roster players the Braves may still be paying.  The size of the square is their salary, the color depth is their WAR, and their location is where they play.  Batters to the left, pitchers to the right, infielders to the left of outfielders, relievers below starters.  The WAR and salary data come from baseball-reference.com, and for players without a listed salary, I assumed they make the league minimum (which is probably very close to accurate).

 

What we see is that Freeman is the most valuable player, Inciarte is a steal at his salary, and we’ve been getting a lot out of our catchers.  Nothing too surprising there.  Take a step back, and see that our pitchers are all about equal, and salary doesn’t matter.  Kemp is the standout here, where even though he’s hitting .290 with 14 HRs at the moment, his poor defense has more than eliminated his offensive value.  For fun, lets’ take a look at the same chart but just isolating the dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement):

 

This again shows the value of Inciarte and Suzuki, the decline of Markakis compared to other right fielders around the league, and the hole in left that is Matt Kemp. Also notable is that Swanson’s defense is still valuable, even if his offense has struggled.

 

 

Start of the 2017 Season

The Braves (0-1) started out the season with a loss today, as Teheran threw 96 pitches over 6 innings (4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K), but the bullpen gave up 6 runs in two innings. Here’s a pdf summary of the 2016 season from baseball-reference.com.

2016 WAR by Position

This chart shows all of the Braves’ relative positions in WAR contributed by position. What we see on this pdf is that the Braves have a great first baseman, one that is locked up for a long contract.. and some other guys. Their outfield is fine.. and they have one of the favorites for the rookie of the year at shortstop! With the influx of a few short-term veterans, this team will be happy to finish above 70 wins, which would make for a much more entertaining summer.

A Visual Summary of A.J. Pierzynski’s Career

In recognition of A.J. Pierzynski‘s first home run as a Brave, we offer here a visual summary of his career.  The three lines show his Wins Above Replacement (WAR), his Offensive WAR and his Defensive WAR for each season from the records at BaseballReference.com.  Remember the rough idea is that 0 to 2 is a major league reserve (bench) player, 2 to 5 is a starter, 5 to 8 is all-star quality, and 8 and up is MVP quality.  So, a horizontal line at 0 would mean a player that could easily be replaced with a random professional a team might find on waivers.

PierzynskiCareer

 

A few observations:

  • A.J. has never been an amazing defensive player, but for the first half of his career, his overall contribution (WAR) was generally higher than his contribution on offense alone.  Since about 2007 his defense has been a liability, lowering his overall WAR below his offensive WAR.
  • For his career, he has been a fairly consistent 1-2 WAR player, with two all-star games (2002 and 2006), and as recently as 2012 he had an offensive WAR approaching 4.
  • Since he has averaged a little over $5 million in annual salary in the years after his rookie contract ended, he has been a fairly good bargain for his teams.  His 2015 salary with the Braves is $2 million.  He looks like even in limited time this season backing up Christian Bethancourt he has a shot to give the Braves at least a win for their investment.  He’ll likely be one of the Braves’ best pinch hitters as well.

Comparing the Salaries from the Last Two Opening Days

We’ll spend some time over the next couple of weeks unpacking the various deals the Braves made in the offseason, but let’s start with some big picture analysis.  First we see the salaries of the opening day roster last April, 2014.  Keep in mind that salaries reported on various websites like baseballreference.com and baseball prospectus are estimates, due to issues like the Giants paying Dan Uggla for the last couple of months, etc.  Only the Braves know for sure what they paid, but these should be roughly accurate.

2014-Salaries

Here is the same graph for today’s roster:

2015-Salaries

 

Obviously, there were lots of moving parts to the various moves the Braves made, but a few impressions can be made:

1) The Braves shed a lot of players who were being overpaid.  Justin Upton never matched his 2011 6.1 WAR season, and has been a 2.5-3 WAR player ever since.  That means he should be worth about 9-10 million a year (given the normal rough estimate of $3 million per WAR), but we was being paid much more.  Melvin (formerly B.J.) Upton was being paid $15 million a year to be a minor-league level player.  The Braves had to send along the best closer in the game (at 27 years old) just to get the Padres to take his money.  Ervin Santana was an emergency signing to deal with injuries last spring, and his $14 milion salary brought only 1.2 WAR.  Along with the Dan Uggla boondoggle, we see that the current Braves leadership is sacrificing to fix serious errors made by the previous General Manager.  The Braves were in a desperate “win now” mode, which resulted in a 79-83 record last season.  Clearly some housekeeping was necessary.

2) This graph doesn’t show future years, such as Heyward and Justin Upton being in the last year of a contract that will likely bring them a raise.  It also doesn’t show Freeman’s contract, which will increase every year until it reaches the $20 million annual range in a couple of years.  Yes, 2015 is the last season of the Uggla contract.

3) The Braves kept all of their home-grown starting pitchers, and acquired apparently high quality arms in return.  Except for possible exception of Minor (who has been great, but injury-prone), this group will likely continue to be bargains.