Now, obviously WAR will correlate very highly with non-context-neutral performance. That goes without saying. It would be unlikely that a player who is a legitimate MVP candidate does not have a high WAR. It would be equally unlikely that a player with a high WAR did not specifically contribute to lots of runs and wins and to his team’s success in general. But that doesn’t mean that WAR is a good metric to use for MVP considerations. Batting average correlates well with overall offensive performance and pitcher wins correlate well with good pitching performance, but we would hardly use those two stats to determine who was the better overall batter or pitcher. And to say, for example, that Trout is the proper MVP and not Cabrera because Trout was 1 or 2 WAR better than Miggy, without looking at context, is an absurd and disingenuous argument.
So, is there a good or at least a better metric than WAR for MVP discussions? I don’t know. WPA perhaps. WPA in winning games only? WPA with more weight for winning games? RE27? RE27, again, adjusted for whether the team won or lost or scored a run or not? It is not really important what you use for these discussions by why you use them. It is not so much that WAR is a poor metric for determining an MVP. It is using WAR without understanding what it means and why it is a poor choice for an MVP discussion in and of itself, that is the mistake. As long as you understand what each metric means (including traditional mundane ones like RBI, runs, etc.), how it relates to the player in question and the team’s success, feel free to use whatever you like (hopefully a combination of metrics and statistics) – just make sure you can justify your position in a rational, logical, and accurate fashion.
Be sure to read through the comments. They’re absolutely excellent and worth checking out.
Dave Studeman had some awesome work on Pennant Probability Added back around 2008. Much as there’s been a shift towards RA9, I think there ought to be greater consideration on leverage-adjusted contextual stats for the purpose of determining the MVP award.
In short, the WAR war is over. If it wasn’t over when Felix Hernandez won the 2010 Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record, it surely was last year, when Clayton Kershaw became the first National League pitcher to win the MVP since 1968 — in no small measure because his 8.0 WAR led the majors, with the closest position player in the Senior Circuit being Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy at 6.8. And, of course, the fact that they are on the back of the Topps baseball cards, which is as close as the baseball world can get to dropping leaflets.
Any serious baseball fan in 2015 knows what WAR is and sees it referenced regularly. Casual fans have at least heard of it, and can accept that it is used as a single number to help measure players’ performance across positions, combining offense and defense. Further, Olney’s position writing for ESPN and appearing on a weekly national baseball broadcast gives him the opportunity to reach casual fans and further inform them, rather than insult their intelligence.
The argument that WAR is not relatable because it cannot be computed with simple math has been used, pardon the Latin here, ad nauseam. To say that it has no place in an awards debate is not only to go against vox populi, but should require a mea culpa for not knowing the role played by defensive runs saved — another incalculable stat by pencil-and-paper— in determining the Gold Glove winners.
Richie Shaffer last week joined an exclusive club — more exclusive than you’d think — when he became just the 26th position player in 20 years to be drafted, signed and developed by the Rays and debut in the majors with them.
The Rays expect great things, of course, from Shaffer, who was their top pick in the 2012 draft. And if he pans out as projected, he will be part of an even smaller group, as of that 26 the Rays have produced only two homegrown All-Star position players, OF Carl Crawford and 3B Evan Longoria.
Among the other two dozen that made it to the majors, only a few could loosely be considered impact players — Aubrey Huff (as much for what he did after leaving the Rays), B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli (in a career shortened by illness).
No current version of WAR accounts for framing, a catcher’s art of carefully receiving the pitch in such a way as to cause the umpire to call it a strike. That happens to be Posey’s most important defensive talent. Good framers turn pitches outside of the zone into strikes and keep pitches within the zone from being called incorrectly as balls. This ability, in turn, scares opposing batters into swinging at less-optimal pitches, making the impact of good framing significant. Our best estimates put a good framer as worth up to three or four wins per year.
So far this season, Posey has racked up 11.8 runs in value from his framing, more than an entire win’s worth to add to his total and putting him within a win of Trout. Catchers who consistently earn strikes where umps usually call balls are clearly good at manipulating the umpires, but there’s some mystery as to how good framers like Posey get those calls. I wanted to understand not just what Posey does when a pitch comes in, but also what he does that other catchers don’t do.
The art of sabermetrics—first brought to the mainstream by Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, Moneyball—is, essentially, the math of baseball. Since the book’s publication, a new breed of baseball personnel—such as the Cubs’ Theo Epstein (formerly of the Red Sox) and Boston’s Ben Cherington—have followed in Oakland A’s general manager and Moneyball star Billy Beane’s footsteps, and the way a winning team is built has changed fundamentally.
The most crucial statistic to understanding the sabermetrics revolution is WAR, or wins above replacement. It also might be the most complicated metric to understand. The above video is as simple as possible a breakdown of what the stat means and why it’s important.