Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day 100: WAR - What is it Good For?

Some of these new fangled baseball stats often have me inquiring, "Who thinks this crap up?" And that's exactly what I thought when I first heard of WAR—or Wins Above Replacement. WAR was created by those Sabermetric geeks to try and wrap a players contributions to their team into one tidy statistic.

According to FanGraphs, WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”

Check out FanGraphs. It has all the formulas on how to figure out a player's WAR stat, none of which I understand. It's more confusing than calculus. For position players, there are basically six components used to calculate WAR: batting runs, baserunning runs, runs added or lost due to grounding into double plays in double play situations, fielding runs, positional adjustment runs, and replacement level runs (based on playing time).

At the most basic level, only two components are used to calculate this stat for pitchers: runs allowed (both earned and unearned) and innings pitched. And for catchers, the fielding piece is calculated using stolen base runs saved (which basically gives the catcher credit for throwing out a runner and preventing the steal in the first place) and runs saved from passed pitches.

Confused yet? I sure am.

The cool thing about WAR is that it's pretty neutral—context, league and ballpark don't affect the numbers. So basically you can compare players from different years, leagues and teams and everyone is on the same playing field. But if you're a ballplayer, you definitely don't want to see your WAR in the negative numbers. That would be very bad. It basically means your team is probably better off if you just sat on the bench and contributed nothing at all.

If you're interested in reading more about WAR, click on over to here and here for all the ultra confusing facts and formulas. Maybe you'll even want to start calculating the numbers for your favorite team. You know... if you have a gazillion free hours you're looking to fill.

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