The Legend

The Legend

Monday, August 3, 2015

WAR! What is it Good For?

I'm heading to the Pirates/Cubs game tonight at PNC.  This year has been a struggle for me to find time for games, but August seems to be working out. I will also be at the Dodgers game on Saturday. Needless to say this week has the makings of a good one.

I'll be brief about something that kind of pissed me off. I can't remember if I was watching the MLB network or if it was an actual game, but the discussion turned to some of the sabermetric stats. I understand some peoples reluctance to accept to new ways of thinking. Baseball is a game based on tradition and stats like rbis and wins have been around forever. I just get pissed with people disregard the new stats and say some blanket statement like the game is played on the field, not on a computer.

The funny thing is if you sort by some of the newer stats like WAR or XFip it comes up with a list of players that most reasonable baseball fans would consider the best players. The backlash is usually aimed at the defensive metrics.  Guys like Lorenzo Cain and Kevin Kiermaier get big time bumps as they are considered the best at their respective positions. Here is the top 30 position players in Fangraphs WAR.

Name Team
Bryce Harper Nationals
Mike Trout Angels
Josh Donaldson Blue Jays
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks
Jason Kipnis Indians
Manny Machado Orioles
Lorenzo Cain Royals
Joey Votto Reds
Buster Posey Giants
A.J. Pollock Diamondbacks
J.D. Martinez Tigers
Yoenis Cespedes - - -
Todd Frazier Reds
Joe Panik Giants
Anthony Rizzo Cubs
Nelson Cruz Mariners
Brian Dozier Twins
Andrew McCutchen Pirates
Kris Bryant Cubs
Brandon Crawford Giants
Mark Teixeira Yankees
Nolan Arenado Rockies
Kevin Kiermaier Rays
Miguel Cabrera Tigers
Russell Martin Blue Jays
Jason Heyward Cardinals
Adrian Gonzalez Dodgers
Xander Bogaerts Red Sox
Matt Duffy Giants

WAR wasn't designed to be the end all of stats. Even in the glossary section of Fangraphs it states it is best used with other stats to get a gauge. How could you really argue with the top 4 this year?

Really the only surprising names on the list are Kiermaier and Matt Duffy.  Kiermaier is basically the right field version of sabermetrics darling Alex Gordon, and Duffy has flown under the radar.

Don't get me wrong, some sabermetrics guys come off as blowhards just as much as the staunch traditionalists. I just think it is time for people to accept that these stats give a much better idea of a players value than avg,rbis and homers.

I could keep ranting, but I'm short on time. What do you guys think of advanced statistics? Has your local broadcasts started using them?


  1. At this point I've come to think of people who ONLY use traditional stats or ONLY use sabermetrics stats as morons. You need a mixture of both to tell the complete story.

    1. I can buy into this. I am not a fan of WAR and some of the other stats because many of the new stats are too subjective. At the end of the year, the math looks all nbice and pretty, but there is still wiggle room that does not factor in. Sure, WAR has a baseline that is the same for everyone. But I think of it this way:

      That is a link to the 2010 Angels. The WAR for the outfield is pretty low, but still positive. Now, remember who was waiting in the wings to come up in 2011....

      WAR don't take into account just who is the potential replacement player for a specific team. The 2014 third baseman for the Cubs was Luis Valbuena, and his WAR at the end of 2014 was 1.6. We all know who his replacement is at the hot corner this year.

      WAR is too generic, and for that it cannot be the end all, be all stat. Along with all the others. Are they valuable pieces of information that can be used to better gauge talent - yes. But you have to factor in the old with the new. Just cuz a formula says one thing, the actual execution is different.

    2. That is the beauty about baseball is that their will always be a human element and evaluation side of things. WAR was designed as a base point. It's up to the team to know that Mike Trout or Kris Bryant would be more valuable (and less expensive).

  2. The Cubs broadcast teams (TV and radio) both seem to embrace them. I think Jim DeShaies, the TV color analyst, talks about them the most out of the four, but none of the announcers have poo-poo'd them.

    I'm a big believer in FIP and babip as indicators for future success. I like the Cubs recent pick up of Dan Haren as a fifth starter, but I'm worried about his actual ERA regressing more toward his FIP.

    xFIP? That's a new one to me. Please, educate me!

    1. Per Fangraphs,
      "FIP tells you how a pitcher has performed (value) independent of their defense while xFIP tells you about how well he has pitched (ability, talent) independent of their defense."

    2. The Pirates broadcast team is still pretty lacking with the new stats. They will throw out WAR every once in awhile and emphasize obp, but only when showing leader boards.

  3. I think that baseball has become more of a predictive sport.It's almost as If statisticians are trying to find the best way to project or tell how a player will most likely perform in the future rather than how Is he doing now.My question is,where will It stop?Because everything can be quantified.The amount of trips a player makes to the clubhouse bathroom which in turn may affect his awareness .The amount of practice swings that may lead to an injurie down the road.The amount of times he looks away from the player hitting while playing in the outfield which in turn may affect his fielding. When Is too much,too much.I guess my point Is,as a fan I'm happy with just knowing a players Avg.,HR's RBI,2B,3b and SB's.I'll leave the in depth analytics to the scouts and managers ;)

    1. I'm fine with the old stats, I just get mad when people completely disregard the new stats as some kind of black magic.

    2. For whatever it's worth, teams do try and quantify the more human elements of baseball. While we fans debate whether or not lineup protection or clubhouse chemistry is real, there are probably teams out there trying to quantify those things. And they have the money to do so (or most of them do anyway).

    3. The predictive injury thing is something being worked on as well. It encompassed a lot of things like innings, pitch selection and age. I think Tanaka was at the top. Splitters and sliders seem to be the hardest on the arm.

  4. Replies
    1. The game actually got postponed in the fifth. At least I'll get a voucher for another game!