Is White Sox Coaching Staff Worth Negative WAR?

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Jun 30, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura (23) looks on as his team plays the St. Louis Cardinals during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The White Sox defeated the Cardinals 2-1 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox are currently 50-54 and somehow still hanging around in the American League Wildcard race.

It’s safe to say that a woeful offense for the better part of the season is the biggest culprit for their current standing, but now that both the pitching and hitting have rounded into form, the largest detriment to the team moving forward may in fact reside in the dugout rather than on the diamond.

It’s difficult to quantify exactly what a coaching staff brings to the table and Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight seems to believe that a manager is worth only about negative two to two wins per year depending on what statistics you look at.

I highly recommend reading Paine’s piece, and while I don’t agree with his estimation, it at least offers a contrasting viewpoint to mine and as with all good rhetoric, it is always prudent to hear both sides before passing judgement.

With that said, here’s my view:

I think the White Sox’s coaching staff is currently the teams worst player.

Let’s take a second to look at last year’s best player. According to Baseball Reference, Jose Abreu was worth 5.5 wins in 2014. I believe 5.5 wins might be a little conservative, because ask yourself this: How many fewer games would the White Sox have won last season had Abreu’s .317/.383/.581 line and 36 home runs been replaced with league average output?

Considering how one hit can change an entire ball game, and that Abreu deposited a multitude of go-ahead home runs into the seats last year, that 5.5 benchmark starts to look awfully arbitrary.

Although I think WAR is an imperfect calculation, it is still good at telling us roughly whether or not a player’s output is above their nearest replacement. For the coaching staff, it is surely below.

Unfortunately, there’s no formula to determine a manager’s WAR because the statistic relies heavily on runs manufactured, and the coaching staff isn’t necessarily credited with runs scored. At the same time, the coaching staff does put players in a position to score or give up runs so in a sense the WAR of a player can reflect WAR provided by a coach.

So the easiest way to evaluate the coaching staff is to examine when they are placing players in situations that greatly detract from their ability to post above-replacement output.

Below are a few examples of where the coaching staff was likely worth negative wins:

Next: Bunting runners over?