Appreciating Ben Zobrist

All references to WAR in this article are based on Baseball-Reference.com’s measurement of the statistic.

Who has the highest WAR from 2009-2012? From the title, I’m sure you’ve figured out that it is Ben Zobrist, who has just one All-Star selection in his career. To put that in perspective he is ahead of the likes of Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera, who have 5 MVP awards combined. Zobrist has a very uninspiring .260/.355/.441 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line. Zobrist has never had a season with a .300 batting average or 30 homers or 100 RBI.
So how can Ben Zobrist have the highest WAR in all of baseball since 2009? Although Zobrist does not stand out in any one area, it is his ability to be above average in every aspect of the game that makes him the most valuable player in the MLB since 2009. Zobrist’s offensive, defensive and base running skills are all above average. From 2009-2012 Zobrist has a .268/.369/.458 slash line, but in that same period, Zobrist is 5th in all of baseball in walks with a total of 357 base on balls. On defense, Zobrist is only 2nd to Brett Gardner in fielding runs above average based on UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). This is even more impressive considering Zobrist has played every position on the field other than catcher and pitcher. Based on his UZR, Zobrist has been able to play each position with great effectiveness. And in one of the most overlooked areas of the game, Ben Zobrist ranks 12th in his base running efficiency. Base running efficiency takes into account stolen bases, caught stealing and taking an extra base in order to determine how many runs above average a runner has created.
How underappreciated is Ben Zobrist? Well, from 2009-2012, Zobrist has been worth $106.1 Million, according to Fangraphs.com. In that same span, the Rays have paid him approximately $10.06 Million, which is more than 10 times less than what Fangraphs says he has been worth. Even though Zobrist has the highest WAR since 2009, he has only been an All-Star once in those four seasons. This clearly shows that many fans have yet to embrace the sabermetric revolution.
So, is Zobrist a star or merely an above average player? His statistics clearly tell two different tales. Based on sabermetrics, he is a star, but his basic statistics suggest he is just above average. Tell me what you think in the comments section.

Anthony Cacchione

One thought on “Appreciating Ben Zobrist

  1. Excellent question. Like Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies and statistics”. From your blog I think Zobrist is underpaid. I would like to field a team of 9 Zobrist than 9 Pujols. Keep the great blogs coming.

    Like

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