Phillies Players and Popularity

At FanGraphs yesterday, fellow Sweet Spotter Jack Moore demonstrated just how little the Internet baseball community cares for Barry Bonds. Plotting players’ career WAR with their ELO rating, the overwhelming majority of players did not stray far from the trendline. Bonds, however, ranked 26th in the ELO rating despite having the second-highest WAR of all-time (just 0.2 behind leader Babe Ruth). I guess when you’re generally perceived as a prick and are the poster child for steroid use in sports, people tend not to like you.

Moore’s method is an interesting way to visualize a player’s popularity (or in Bonds’ case, the lack thereof), so I wanted to see how Phillies players fared. Using essentially the same methodology, I plotted the Phillies’ top-50 leaders in WAR using their overall career WAR with their ELO rating. The further up you go, the better the player actually was, and the further right you go, the better the player is perceived to be or to have been. An easy way to sum it up is to look at the trendline: players below it are overrated and players above it are underrated, with the distance from the trendline showing the degree to which a player is valued.

Ryan Howard should stick out, as he is (predictably) the most overrated of recent Phillies. The rest of the Phillies are slightly under the trendline because their careers are not yet finished. As they move forward, players like Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth will improve their WAR and move closer to the line. Scott Rolen is slightly underrated, likely an amalgamation of his injury-shortened seasons, under-appreciation of defense, and a few offensively-disappointing seasons.

Hamels sticks out as overrated, but it’s actually because he has just six seasons under his belt and his 2006 and ’09 seasons really weigh him down. ELO seems to underrate relievers as well. Halladay should be on the other side of the line before his career with the Phillies is up. Unsurprisingly, Curt Schilling is rated almost perfectly.

If you’d like to fool around with the spreadsheet, you can grab it here. It has 99 players: 50 position players and 49 pitchers. I removed one pitcher because his WAR wasn’t listed for some reason. If you’d like to waste some time rating players, stop by Baseball Reference’s ELO page.

Thanks to Jack Moore for the idea. Make sure to follow him on Twitter (@jh_moore), read his stuff at FanGraphs, and check out Disciples of Uecker.

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1 comment

  1. Max

    November 29, 2011 12:07 PM

    My only complaint with this analysis is that you should be modeling a curve rather than a line, as evidenced by the fact that the high and low ELO players are all underrated, and the middle players are generally overrated. If you regress ELO with log(WAR) it tells mostly the same story, but Burrell looks worse, Werth looks better, Howard still looks bad, and Utley and Rollins look much better, which I think are all appropriate. I don’t know if it makes as much sense to do pitching the same way, since their line looks better with the exception of the very low ELO (<1250) players, who maybe should just be taken out since there are so many of them?

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