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2018 WAR for Byron Buxton

Posted by Bryan Borchardt , 06 April 2018 · 2,182 views

For the Minnesota Twins 2017 was a year that surpassed the expectations of most fans. The team made the playoffs, and the manager kept his job (though we finally got rid of Neil Allen). One of the most encouraging features of the 2017 season was Byron Buxton's performance, which netted him a career high 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, placing him 11th among center fielders in 2017.

Buxton took a huge step forward in 2017 and we're all hoping for more in 2018. These hopes got me wondering, what would the next step look like? And how would we measure that? The question brought me over to Fan Graphs tonight where I spent most of my evening dissecting the calculations for WAR and coming up with what I think could be a reasonable estimate.

It goes without saying the much of Buxton's WAR value is derived from his defensive skills in center field and on the base paths. For this exercise lets assume he stays consistent there with only a slight bump for playing a couple more games in 2018 as opposed to 2017. What this means is that the majority of the improvement will need to come at the plate, and after the strong finish in 2017, it makes sense that we could see another nice jump for Buxton offensively in 2018.

So what does it look like? In order to be a top five center fielder in MLB Buxton would have to finish the season with about 6 WAR, an improvement of 2.5 Wins over 2017. I was curious, so I did the math. The results I think are in reach, but it would be a very impressive season. To get Buxton to 6.0 WAR he would need to produce a slash line of .296/.353/.494, including 23 homers and an OPS of .848. I think every Twins fan would be happy with that sort of a performance. Of course this is just one of the infinite number of ways to product 6.0 WAR, but it is one that seems in reach for Buxton.

The other key takeaway I have for tonight is that Mike Trout is good. Trout has had two seasons of over 10 WAR, and even though Buxton would have superior fielding and base running WAR, he'd still have to hit about 30 HR's and hit .309/.424/.547 to reach the 10 WAR level. Which of course, would make him the best player on the planet.

  • Dman and juki321 like this

Buxton isn't going to hit .296/.353/.494. Frankly, I think his bat is going to struggle again for a good part of the year.Not as bad as April/May of last year, but his pitch recognition still isn't great and he K's too much. If we get a .750 OPS and great D we shouldn't complain.

    • Bryan Borchardt likes this
Bryan Borchardt
Apr 07 2018 10:11 AM

I would be happy with a .750 OPS, but remember he finished last year at .727 even after the poor start.A .750 OPS would put his WAR somewhere around 4.3, leaving him in the 7-10 range for CF's again.Sure, .850 is a stretch, but I don't think it's out of reach.  

Nice write up and a great reference made in regards to Trout. The dude is a once in a generation or even possibly a once in a lifetime talent.

That said, I personally would be elated if Buck’s 2018 offensive numbers end up near the median of what he did last year and what Trout does every year. As you noted, a big chunk of Byron’s WAR has been defense/base-running and that the bat tool is the one thing keeping him from superstar status thus far.

Somewhat relatedly, man watching him chase those low outside sliders gives me young Tori Hunter flashbacks lol.
    • Bryan Borchardt likes this

It kind of depends on which metric you're using on Buxton. He finished with 5.2 rWAR last year despite fangraphs putting him at 3.5 fWAR.


I think Fangraphs underestimates Buxton's defense... A LOT, last year. In any case, I remember looking back at converting OPS to WAR and it was pretty close to .025 = 1 WAR (rough estimate).


I expect Buxton will actually only need to hit about .800-.825 OPS for a 6 WAR campaign. 2013 Carlos Gomez managed a .844 OPS for 6.7 WAR with a better UZR/150, but much worse base running. Gomez was not a superior defender than Buxton.

I think Buxton needs to turn his brain off at the plate.He seems to be overthinking everything up there again.The leg kick is gone again, he has the "heel up, heel down" swing.The generates no power and can't over the whole plate.  


Just see ball hit ball and he will be great.