I really wish people would stop reusing the name WAR for their creations. It just confuses people. As for this version, I believe there is a place for a context laden player omnistat. bWAR and fWAR really shouldn’t be used for MVP discussions.
While openWAR is unlikely to move the sabermetric community toward an agreed-upon measure of WAR, the authors of the model have set an admirable standard for transparency and reproducibility. There will still be those who prefer a measure stripped of all context, and the openWAR approach is perhaps better suited for MVP voting than forecasting. But for those who wish to take issue with some elements of their approach, Baumer, Jensen and Matthews have provided a framework and source code that can be built upon.
It couldn’t be cleaner. We were missing about 1.7 wins. Through Clutch, we located about 1.7 wins. This appears to explain the over-performance, but given the consistency, it shouldn’t be thought of as over-performance; it should be thought of as a team capability, that WAR misses.
This is evidence that having a shutdown high-leverage reliever can be worth more wins than WAR would suggest. And this is just in the regular season, so we’re not touching on any further benefits in the playoffs. When you have that reliever, you can make sure to use him at the most important times, saving close games and putting out assorted other fires. I think it’s entirely intuitive, so this probably isn’t a shocking result. This doesn’t get into deeper bullpens. And I might be overlooking a bias or two that explains what’s been found. Very well could be there are going to be comments below that make me out to be an idiot, but if they’re right, I’ll appreciate them, since I’d love to have more than one brain considering this.
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.