In Search of David Ross

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We offer a new lens in this paper for viewing what it means for a team to exhibit good chemistry. Our aim is to quantify the “David Ross Effect,” or the indirect impact that an individual player can have on team wins through making their teammates better. To measure the strength of player interactions, we decompose FanGraphs’ wins-above-replacement metric, fWAR, with a spatial factor model. We then construct refinements of fWAR based on network statistics to isolate a player’s own contribution to team wins irrespective of his teammates, and his contribution adjusted for his effect on his teammates. We refer to the total network effect of a team’s players on each other as tcWAR, or team chemistry WAR. With this new metric, we document that high winning percentage teams do in fact tend to exhibit good team chemistry. A player’s net impact on his team through his teammates is what we call pcWAR, or player chemistry WAR. By constructing conditional age-position profiles for pcWAR, we show that designated hitters, relief pitchers, first basemen, and catchers make positive contributions to team chemistry at younger ages on average than other players. We then classify players based on their “intangibles,” defined by where they fall in relation to their profile. Looking at David Ross reveals a player who not only consistently outperformed his profile, but did so at a position that tends to support team chemistry more generally.

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