Recently I took a look at several position players who are not only having great seasons, but thanks to the wonders of the wins-above-replacement metric, one can get a better sense of just how good. While orthodox stats certainly tell a MLB tale, often to develop an entire picture you have to look at numerous statistics, and who has time for that? Even then, as the Sabermetrics community will tell you, traditional stats don’t always paint an accurate picture (yes, as “Money Ball” relayed to the masses in fine cinematic style).
So, to get some perspective as to what a ridiculously good WAR score is for pitcher, in 2012, Justin Verlander put up a god like 7.0 (according to the great folks at Fangraphs). This year the season leader thus far is Mets’ star, Matt Harvey, who scored an amazing WAR of 6.1 before his season was brought to an unfortunate end.
While predictable names like Clayton Kershaw (5.9), Felix Hernandez (5.8) and Yu Darvish (4.5) are all WAR leaders, some folks may not realize that Hisashi Iwakuma isn’t that far behind and is ranked #20. Mr. Iwakuma currently has a WAR of 3.5, which places him neck-in-neck with pitching studs like James Shields, Hiroki Kuroda and Cliff Lee.
Yes, the Mariners’ right hander has definitely silenced those who cried ‘small sample size’ after his breakout year last year, which was also his first with MLB. You may recall that Iwakuma turned some heads in 2012, after he was assigned to Seattle’s bullpen to begin the year, only to become the go to man behind Hernandez.
Now, after 191 innings pitched in 2013 (he threw just 125 last year), Iwakuma has an ERA of 3.16, a WHIP of 1.02 and the opposition are hitting just .225 off of him. The 32 year-old has a K/9 ratio of 7.3 and a BB/9 score of 1.65. Yes, that’s ridiculously good. Another thing that is ridiculous is Iwakuma’s split finger, which according to Brooks Baseball, has a WHIFF percentage of nearly 20%. That’s nasty.
Another pitcher whose WAR might raise a few eyebrows around MLB, is Jose Quintana’s. While the White Sox lefty is coming off a nice 2012 campaign, like Iwakuma, he was limited to less than 140 innings pitched. This year, however, he’s already thrown just over 165 and has put up a WAR of 3.4. That has him positioned right behind Iwakuma at #21, and ahead of go-to-starters like AJ Burnett (3.3), Justin Masterson (3.3) , C.J. Wilson (3.0) and David Price (2.9), amongst others.
Quintana has put up a respectable ERA of 3.69 so far in 2013, a WHIP of 1.24, and opposing players are hitting .248 off of him. The lefty has a K/9 of 7.55 and a walk ratio per 9 IP of 2.61. Quintana has done so by attacking the opposition with a developed arsenal, which includes a four seam fastball, sinker, cutter, change-up and curveball. Oh, and aside from these nice figures, perhaps the best news is that Quintana is just 24 years old.