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Win Probability Added: 2006

And, to nobody's surprise, your 2006 Seattle Mariners team MVP is JJ Putz.

HITTERS                         PITCHERS

(What is this?)

Now, WPA puts a lot of emphasis on leverage, which can make relief pitchers look a little better (or a little worse) than they actually were, but the difference between Putz and the nearest non-reliever (Ibanez) is so large that you can't really make a convincing argument for Raul. JJ blew him (and everyone else) away.

For what it's worth, it's important to note that WPA has little predictive value at all. While the best players will generally be at the top and the worst players at the bottom, the stat is deeply rooted in game context, so much so that a guy who goes 3-4 with three homers can end up with a negative rating if he hits into a big double play. That limits WPA to being something that should only be looked at in retrospect, but while that's a major flaw, I think it's just about the perfect tool to use when it comes to deciding between MVP candidates. You won't find a more direct measure of how valuable a specific player was to his team over a given season.

It's also critically important to note that WPA doesn't take defense into account. The numbers you see listed above are for offense (and pitching) only; while I took errors into consideration, I had them in another column in the spreadsheet and decided to leave them out altogether since defense is such a subjective ability. You have to make your own conclusions about individual fielding to get a true measure of a player's overall value. For example, while Ichiro ranked behind Ibanez and Betancourt below Lopez at the plate, accounting for defense might be enough for them to swap places. That part's up to you. I'm not even going to dip my feet in the troubled waters of defensive analysis in fear of having it bitten off.

Many of you may have been tracking Mariner WPA numbers online over at Fangraphs, but some of our results don't agree, and here's why: where Fangraphs is entirely automated, I tracked each game manually, and have the 162 Excel files to prove it. And one of the things I do that Fangraphs doesn't is account for errors. For example, take the following hypothetical situation:

Bottom five, one out, none on, Johjima standing at the plate in a 2-2 game. He hits a routine groundball to second but it's booted, and Johjima reaches safely.

WE before AB: 53.6%
WE after AB: 56.9%

Fangraphs will take that situation and give Kenji a 3.3% WPA boost, but I don't think that's right, since I'm not of the opinion that batters have control over whether or not their balls in play are cleanly fielded. In those situations, I charge the batter with making an out, because that's essentially what he did. Johjima didn't "add value" to the team; the opposing second baseman did. This is the heart of the disagreement between my numbers and those from Fangraphs. Because their process is automated, they look at the WE before and after a batter hit and have to conclude that he was responsible for whatever happened in the at bat. There's no alternative. They're generally still in the right ballpark, but because I manually tracked all this I believe my numbers are more accurate, albeit considerably more pessimistic. Defensive errors are why, if you calculate the sum of the total Mariner WPA, you don't get a -3.000 value (for finishing three games below .500). Those things add up.

I should also point out that, in the event of a Mariner error, the pitcher was given credit for whatever the ball in play should've been and the position player was docked for the difference between the two outcomes (although, again, I'm not including defense in the numbers at the top). Because of defensive miscues on both sides of the ball, position players will tend to have lower ratings than pitchers, so that should tell you a little something about one Joel Pineiro. That was a whole other level of suck.

So that's it. Congratulations to JJ Putz and a phenomenal (when healthy) bullpen for keeping the team afloat when few other players were pulling their weight. And here's to a whole bunch more positive numbers in 2007.