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White Sox Wed Aug 29 2012

Alex Rios And What WAR Is Good For

I like baseball, and I like statistics, but I'm not a huge Sabermetrics guy. I would love to be a card-carrying SABR member, but I have trouble wrapping my mind around some of the more sophisticated and complex statistics - when I peruse Baseball Reference and see stats like Rpos and RA9def, my head starts spinning.

One advanced stat I do like is WAR, which is Wins Above Replacement. Although the method to calculate the number is very convoluted, it is really a fairly simple statistic. A positive WAR is how many wins a player added to a team as opposed to an average bench player, and a negative WAR is how many wins a player cost a team.

I checked out some of the leaders in WAR on the White Sox. Not surprisingly, Chris Sale (5.4) and Jake Peavy (4.6) lead the pitchers, followed by Jose Quintana (3.4), Gavin Floyd (1.4) and Nate Jones (1.2). Makes sense.

As for the hitters... without looking it up (and forgetting you saw this article's headline), who would you guess the Sox leader in WAR is for position players?

I'm sure the top guess would be Paul Konerko or AJ Pierzynski. Adam Dunn probably received a few guesses too, because of his MLB-leading 38 home runs. The correct answer? Alex Rios, who leads Chicago with a 3.5 WAR. Even more interesting, it's not even close. Konerko is in second place with a 2.0.

How did this happen? Though he's clearly having a fine season, Rios didn't come close to an All-Star nod, and he wasn't even mentioned as one of the team's snubs. The right fielder has been remarkably consistent in 2012, hitting well in just about every month, and never having a season-defining hot streak like several other Sox players had. Check out his game log really quick. Rios had some good stretches in early and late June, but those were nothing like what Konerko had in April and May, Pierzynski had earlier in August, or even what Dayan Viciedo had in late May.

Though his unvarying play may make it sound like Rios is boring, it's far from the truth. He's fun to watch. The 6'5" Rios is not as imposing as he should look, due to his 210 lb frame (if he even weighs that much). A right handed batter, he has a nice swing and the ball can come off his bat like a bullet. Rios is on the short list of tall players with a good speed in MLB; he has seven triples in 2012, and 20 stolen bases. He's also made his share of slick catches in the field. The big knock on his game can be his free swinging, but that just means Rios fits in well with other Sox hitters who do not draw walks, like Pierzynski, Viciedo, and Alexei Ramirez.

The most ironic thing about Rios's superb year (20 HR, 73 RBI, .303 BA, .851 OPS) is that Rios is terribly inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. Last year, 2009 and 2005 he stunk; 2010 and 2006 though 2008 he was good.

Rios's contract runs for two more guaranteed seasons, with a team option for 2015. Who knows which Alex Rios will show up in 2013. For now though, Rios has been the most valuable position player on the Sox this year. Through convoluted statistics, that is.

 

Evan Moore / August 30, 2012 12:28 PM

I too was surprised that he did not get more All-Star consideration.He might be competing with Adam Dunn for the AL comeback POY award.

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