There’s some sort of innate emotional connection that comes with the label of a ballplayer being “homegrown.” As fans, we’re naturally drawn to players that matured in our favorite organization—it’s almost as if there’s more merit involved with fostering a team full of homegrown kids rather than acquiring players through the colder, more businesslike alternatives of free agency and trades.
As the Phils have increasingly acted in true big-market fashion over the last few years, the front office has been inclined to go out into the markets to stock the roster find players. With all of the colossal free agent deals and trades that ship away hoards of prospects, a commonly shared sentiment is that the organization is moving away from homegrown talent. Whether or not this is a bad thing is none of my concern—I’m not interested in normative analysis here. Rather, I’d simply like to look at the division between homegrown and non-homegrown talent in terms of production.
In order to do this, I needed to choose a measure of production that can be used applied to both position players to pitchers, which is in line with comparing apples to oranges. The metric that makes most sense for doing so is WAR, and the version I find most useful is found over at Fangraphs. Let me briefly make a disclaimer that I am well aware that WAR is far from perfect or even great (the pitching variety especially), and that I often argue against the sabermetric pitfall of “adding up the WAR.” But for this post, I believe it does a sufficient job of providing insight into what I am looking for.
Using data from Fangraphs, I went back to 2007 and divided each Phillies team up into two groups: those who came up through the farm system and those who came to be ballplayers elsewhere. After recording each group’s contributions in terms of WAR, I made the following two graphics to help interpret the information. The first shows how many wins above replacement each type of player provided to their respective Phillies team, in absolute terms (click to enlarge).
The second shows homegrown production as a percentage of total production:
These charts confirm some basic suspicions regarding the question I originally posed. First off, it’s quite clear that the Phillies homegrown core (Rollins, Utley, Victorino, and so on) has provided a significant amount of value throughout the years, demonstrated by both the towering blue bars and the red line that hovers in the 70 percent range. One thing that sticks out—at least to me—is that homegrown position players accounted for nearly 90 percent of the production last season in terms of WAR. Batters brought in through free agency or trades provided a net total of only 2.3 wins above replacement.
The other obvious trend is the increased importance of non-homegrown pitching. With the likes of Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt joining the Phils in the last few years, there is no surprise here. Five years ago, homegrown pitching accounted for more than half of the total production. Last year, that figure was at 35 percent.
Does this information really give us profound insight into the composition of the Phillies? Not really. But I do think, if nothing else, that it’s a neat snapshot of just how our team is made up.