Right Field

Meet the NL WAR-Stars

On Friday we revealed the AL WAR-Stars.* Today it’s the senior circuit’s turn.

* The designated hitter position was inadvertently left off of that list. David Ortiz with his 2.3 WAR easily outdistances Adam Dunn (1.4) for the top spot among DH regulars.

You know by now that WAR stands for “wins above replacement” player. It is a useful (not to be confused with “perfect”), all-in-one statistic combining both offensive and defensive performance, including baserunning. WAR also includes a defensive positional adjustment. (For those who need a primer, Alex Remington offered up an easy-to-digest yet pretty thorough explanation of Fangraphs’ version — which we are using here — a few years back.)

As with the AL winners, the outfield consists of a left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder. For example, left fielder Martin Prado ranked third in WAR (3.7) among all outfielders, but because that score lagged behind someone else who plays specifically in left, he is not listed below.

So who are the NL winners?

1B: Joey Votto,  4.8 WAR

Votto is light years ahead of his brethren — Paul Goldschmidt is next on the list, at a comparatively paltry 2.0 — but has been banged up of late. The first-place Reds are hopeful that their franchise player with his phenomenal 191 OPS+ gets back to full strength soon.

2B: Aaron Hill, 2.8

Hill’s emergence in the desert — a .300/.360/.512 first-half slash line tops his numbers in Toronto — finally got noticed back east when he hit for the cycle twice in 11 days. (See this morning’s Reveille.)

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SS: Ian Desmond, 2.7

Desmond is fun to watch, and even more so if you are a Washingtonian with a fetish for first-pitch hackers. Manager Davey Johnson’s decision to bat him leadoff when the season started was curious, to put it kindly. Now that he bats fifth or sixth, Desmond’s .484 slugging percentage is much better utilized. Also worth noting is his improved fielding.

Jed Lowrie (2.5) deserves special mention here. The Red Sox never questioned Lowrie’s talent, only his ability to stay healthy. So far, he’s played in 71 of the Astros’ first 79 games.

3B: David Wright, 4.5

Much of Wright’s first-half success is credited to the adjusted dimensions at Citi Field, but he’s hit only four home runs there (out of nine total, both at home and on the road) so far this season. Considerably more significant are his career-best walk (14.6 percent) and strikeout (12.8 percent) percentages.

LF: Ryan Braun, 3.9

Braun’s 161 OPS+, which includes 22 home runs, has carried the Brewers’ lineup this season. His performance is even more impressive if you believe that slugger Prince Fielder’s departure via free agency means that Braun is now seeing fewer good pitches.

CF: Michael Bourn, 3.9

Rob Neyer of SB Nation had high praise for the center fielder following his move from the Astros to the Braves last summer: “If you believe fWAR, Bourn has actually been the second-best outfielder in the National League since 2009.” Bourn is even better this year, as he has added some power (.302/.350/.435). Combined with his stellar play in the field, this was enough to skate past runner-up Andrew McCutchen (3.6).

RF: Jayson Heyward, 3.3

The 2010 Heyward is back after a prolonged sabbatical. Interestingly, he is walking less and striking out more than he did during last year’s awful campaign, but there is now far more pop in his bat — a .500 slugging percentage compared to a woeful .389 in 2011.

C: Carlos Ruiz, 4.0

As with Braun, Ruiz’s .358/.423/.585 performance is being wasted on a losing team — in this case, the cellar-dwelling Phillies. The .372 batting average on balls in play (BABiP) does not seem sustainable but, even when regression is accounted for, Ruiz has demonstrated that he is on par with the top catchers in the league.

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.