• WAR – What Is It Good For?

    Posted by on February 2nd, 2013 · Comments (9)

    Great stuff on this from Jim Caple.

    Just yesterday, I was thinking, to myself, how incredible it is that ESPN and the MLB Network now throw around WAR statistics in their broadcasts like everyone has been throwing around RBI and ERA for a zillion years.

    I don’t think I have ever seen such a polarizing sabermetric stat gain acceptance in the mass media as quickly as WAR.

    I mean, really, it could have died faster on the vine that you can say “Win Shares.”

    Comments on WAR – What Is It Good For?

    1. Raf
      February 2nd, 2013 | 8:49 am

      Like anything else WAR isn’t meant to be a be-all end-all statistic. It’s a good shorthand way to sum up a player’s value.

      I’m not surprised that WAR has been accepted. Mainstream baseball is getting with the times; heck even MLBN has a show dedicated to stats & sabermetrics.

      Can’t say this is much different from when broadcasters were parroting OPS.

    2. Evan3457
      February 2nd, 2013 | 6:58 pm

      1. WAR has distortions and illusions. So do other stats.
      2. The reliability of seasonal advanced defensive metrics is not great. Better an imperfect ruler than no ruler. I’d rather have a foot long ruler without inch marks, than no ruler. I can still measure a length to the nearest foot with it.
      3. Trout had much higher WAR than Cabrera last year because he was about 90% the hitter Cabrera was (and really, 100% if baserunning is counted) and a far better fielder at a more difficult position. Trout was further above the replacement level CF than Cabrera was above the replacement level 3rd baseman, and this at a time when there are very few good third baseman.

      So…is it an injustice that Cabrera won the MVP and not Trout? Yeah, probably. But not an outrage. A guy who wins the Triple Crown while being the clearly Most Valuable Player for a team that won the division in a pretty close race, and whose team went on to win the pennant…well, that guy is a more worthy MVP candidate than at least 1/2 the guys who’ve won the award.

      So, Trout was the more valuable player than Cabrera last season; both versions of WAR are clear on that outside the error bars. But Cabrera won the MVP Award, and I can live with that result, even if Trout never has another season as good…even if he never wins an MVP Award of his own.

    3. MJ Recanati
      February 4th, 2013 | 9:36 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      The reliability of seasonal advanced defensive metrics is not great. Better an imperfect ruler than no ruler. I’d rather have a foot long ruler without inch marks, than no ruler. I can still measure a length to the nearest foot with it.

      This.

    4. February 20th, 2013 | 3:19 pm
    5. February 23rd, 2013 | 8:40 am
    6. March 3rd, 2013 | 1:46 pm

      Bob Ryan is not a fan:

      I come from that quaint generation of yesteryear, but I do respect the New Math of baseball. This is no revisionist history, either. Check it out if you like. I nominated Bill James for baseball sainthood many, many years ago. He has influenced how we see the game and evaluate the participants (managers, too) more than any single individual in the last century.

      James taught us that batting average, by itself, is merely a curiosity, that stolen bases are vastly overrated, and that where things are done (i.e. which ballpark) is a critical component of any player or team evaluation, and he opened our eyes to the immense value of a good leadoff man.

      He has taught us that, well, a lot of things in baseball aren’t what they seem.

      He led a true revolution in baseball thinking and has performed a valuable service. If Alexander Cartwright gets into the Hall of Fame for his 19th century baseball contributions, then Bill James should go in for the ones he made in the 20th.

      But it turns out that baseball history is no different than world history. Sometimes a revolution is ripped out of the hands of its original leaders and commandeered by zealots who don’t know when to stop.

      OK, OK, it took me a while, but I’m here. This is an official declaration of war on, yup, WAR.

      For those of you who don’t know, WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. In “Baseball Prospectus,” it is known as WARP, or Wins Above Replacement Player. Same thing.

      WAR is the stat de tutti stat for the baseball fans we affectionately refer to as “seamheads.” WAR is believed to be the ultimate rating measurement of a player, combining a variety of offensive and defensive computations (there are also pitching stats) and then coming up with a number that allegedly tells us all how many more wins per season said player is worth over, yeah . . . here’s the problem.

      It’s how much more Player X is worth than a player that doesn’t exist!

      I wish I were making this up. I’m not. Here is the explanation for WAR/WARP on page xiii of the 2013 “Baseball Prospectus”:

      “WARP combines a player’s Batting Runs Above Average (derived from a player’s True Average), BRR (Baserunning Runs), FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), an adjustment based upon position played, and a credit from plate appearances based upon the difference between the ‘replacement level’ (derived from looking at the quality of players added to a team’s roster after the start of the season) and the league average.”

      Got that?

      Now, even if you are conversant with BRR and FRAA, there remains one little problem in accepting the notion that WAR is a relevant tool with which to evaluate and separate players.

      It’s ultimately based on a judgment. It’s not a statistic!

      This “replacement player” who constitutes the very linchpin of the entire premise is mythical. There is nothing measurable or precise about his existence. Yet supposedly intelligent people have signed off on this utterly bogus piece of baseball idiocy.

      http://bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/03/03/bob-ryan-declares-war-war/ErbD99zVKGfn1XjonlmBBK/story.html

    7. Evan3457
      March 3rd, 2013 | 5:29 pm

      Steve L. wrote:

      It’s ultimately based on a judgment. It’s not a statistic!
      This “replacement player” who constitutes the very linchpin of the entire premise is mythical. There is nothing measurable or precise about his existence. Yet supposedly intelligent people have signed off on this utterly bogus piece of baseball idiocy.

      Silly argument by Ryan. Let’s suppose the calculation of the replacement player’s level is way off in any given year. Then set that replacement level at any convenient level you like. The player who led the league in WAR at the calculated level will STILL lead the league in WAR at the assumed level. Only the final number will change. The comparisons between players will still hold, for any given league in any given season.

    8. Corey
      March 3rd, 2013 | 10:40 pm

      @ Evan3457:
      Math for the win.

    9. MJ Recanati
      March 4th, 2013 | 8:44 am

      Corey wrote:

      @ Evan3457:
      Math for the win.

      LOL, yep!!

    Leave a reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.