From the Pages of Vine Line: WAR All-Stars—Left Field
All month, we’ll be unveiling the best single seasons by a Cubs player at each position in the team’s more than 100-year history, using the advanced statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Next up on our WAR All-Star team is the left field position, where nobody had a better single season than the recently departed Alfonso Soriano in the summer of 2007. Seen as a team leader as well as a power bat in the middle of the order, Sori was a key piece of the Cubs organization for the six-plus seasons he spent on the North Side.
Here’s how we chose our team.
What WAR essentially does is aggregate everything an individual contributes—offensively and defensively—into one definitive number that conveys his value, typically ranging from -1 to 10. The purpose of the formula is to quantify how much a team would lose if a player was swapped for an average replacement player.
In order to qualify for our team, each player had to spend the majority of his time at a single position during the season being measured. And because the team wasn’t officially christened the Chicago Cubs until 1903, players who represented the Orphans, Colts and White Stockings were excluded.
For more information or the entire team, be sure to pick up a copy of July’s issue of Vine Line. And watch the blog in the coming weeks for the rest of the roster.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Left Field: Alfonso Soriano, 2007—6.6 WAR
Most people probably expected to see Hall of Famer Billy Williams holding down this spot on the roster, but Alfonso Soriano had the best WAR season for a Cubs left fielder. Because of his huge contract, fans tend to think Sori was a little disappointing on the North Side, but he has still put up impressive numbers. The 2007 season was his first—and finest—in Cubbie blue. His home runs and slugging percentage were both top 10 in the NL, and he added 19 stolen bases for good measure. Though Soriano has a reputation as a poor defensive player, his ultimate zone rating of 32.0 suggests he was quite the opposite that season (anything better than 15.0 is considered Gold Glove caliber). Even from a contract standpoint, Fangraphs estimates he was worth $27 million based on his season totals—or $17 million more than he actually made.
Rob Neyer’s Take:
“Upon signing with the Cubs as a free agent, Soriano seemed to leave his steals and his walks behind in Washington. But he brought along his power, hitting 33 homers in his first (and best) season with the Cubs.”
Other Notable Seasons:
Billy Williams – 6.5 (1972)
Billy Williams – 6.5 (1970)