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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Bob Ryan: WAR stat in baseball is complete nonsense

Ryan/WAR: One more step and I’ll fill your guts with stats!

vz

There’s a war going on in baseball. Did you know that? If you came of baseball age when a long game was 2:45, it was a failing of significant proportion for a starting pitcher not to go nine, all World Series games started at 1 p.m. local, and there was no such thing as a DH, you probably don’t know it. But if your surest sign that spring is coming soon is the appearance of “Baseball Prospectus” on your bookstore’s shelf, you are already a soldier in this skirmish. In your mind, you stand for progress and enlightenment. Speak to you not of “Triple Crowns.” You’d rather rhapsodize about BABIP.

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.

...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!

...But it’s not because his WAR (9.1) was better than Cabrera’s (6.6). If I’m going to deal with a stat, I prefer a stat that is actually a stat, not a shaky opinion.

WAR is nonsense. I urge General James to get control of his troops.

Repoz Posted: March 03, 2013 at 01:13 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. PreservedFish Posted: March 03, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4379735)
Problem solved: Wins Above Bloomquist
   2. Dale Sams Posted: March 03, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4379745)
There’s a war going on in baseball. Did you know that?


I guess in a vague way...kinda like the Afghanistan War.
   3. bobm Posted: March 03, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4379753)
For single seasons, From 1901 to 2012, (requiring WAR_bat>=-1, WAR_bat<=1 and Qualified for league batting title), sorted by most recent date

Seasons found: 3,262.

For single seasons, From 1901 to 2012, (requiring WAR_pitch<=1, WAR_pitch>=-1 and Qualified for league ERA title), sorted by most recent date

Seasons found: 1,779. 
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 03, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4379767)
Bob Ryan is right about this, in the situation where we are comparing players at different positions. You can find a replacement-level CF in the minor league ranks. You can also find a replacement-level 1B in the minor-league ranks. But how can you find someone who is the replacement level for players in general? The stats take away RAR ("Rpos") for being a 1B, and give you extra Rpos for being a CF, indicating that the true replacement-level player is better than the replacement-level 1B, but worse than the replacement-level CF. So the true replacement-level player is the replacement-level 3B? What if he would actually be way worse at CF than the Rpos adjustment would suggest?

The idea of how many runs to add or take away based on position does seem to be an opinion, and cannot factor in the idea that you have a 1B who COULD play 3B (or 2B) but isn't being used there at the moment. No matter what the WAR Accumulation Above All lobby says, that does make him more valuable.
   5. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: March 03, 2013 at 02:47 PM (#4379772)
The war on WAR is an unwinnable quagmire.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: March 03, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4379780)
I'm really surprised and disappointed in Ryan. If you agree with James' stuff, there's absolutely no reason you should be saying that WAR is a nonsensical concept. (You could of course argue about how to figure it out, but not that it's an illogical concept.)

If Ryan had acted like a reporter and given James a call rather than just speculating about James' feelings, I'm sure Bill would have told him in so many words "it's not a stat I personally use, but it makes perfect sense."
   7. tfbg9 Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:02 PM (#4379782)
Well, is Ryan not correct in that there is still a lot of debate about how to define replacement?

Also, by the time you get any kind of reliable baseline about how good a player is with the glove, in many cases, he's no longer at that level anyway, as it is my understanding that the defensive peak is ordinarily reached a few seasons before the batting peak.
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:06 PM (#4379786)
If Ryan had acted like a reporter and given James a call rather than just speculating about James' feelings, I'm sure Bill would have told him in so many words "it's not a stat I personally use, but it makes perfect sense."


I wouldn't be so sure about that. James has said that he doesn't consider WAR to be sabermetrics at all.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:06 PM (#4379787)
Well, is Ryan not correct in that there is still a lot of debate about how to define replacement?


Sure. Does that make WAR "complete nonsense?" Of course not. Another talking head overstates his case, yipee.
   10. themiddle54 Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:06 PM (#4379788)
I come from that quaint generation of yesteryear


Could not have said it better myself.
   11. bookbook Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4379789)
I thought it was wins above Scott Cousins.
   12. jdennis Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4379794)
when i evaluate players i prefer to center around the league average because you get a hard number baseline that way and the judgment call is taken out of it. however it does punish defensive specialists and pitchers by not giving them credit over replacement level for hitting. an ops+ of 78 then becomes a big negative rather than just a smaller positive, and one that defense and baserunning can't bring back to positive territory even though perception of these players was that they were above average and benefited the team above an average team. this could mean i need big positional adjustments, or it means our perception of their value is distorted. i'm not sure.

however, when i've evaluated players, i was surprised to find that defensive dropoffs were by far the most reliable aging indicator. psychologically, i'd think that a great defender would remain "savvy" in the field while his bat declined, but no, it is the opposite. defensive declines seem to be by far the most universal, consistent, and reliable. they lose their range before their speed on the basebaths or their bat.
   13. Darren Posted: March 03, 2013 at 03:30 PM (#4379795)
Every stat we have includes some judgement.
   14. OsunaSakata Posted: March 03, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4379819)
when i evaluate players i prefer to center around the league average because you get a hard number baseline that way and the judgment call is taken out of it.


I suppose this can work if you're evaluating MVP candidates. The problem is that league average players, or just below league average players still have value and are scarce.

While writing this, my daughter mentioned a garage band she knows called Above Average. One of her friends says the band is really below average. I suggest perhaps they should lower their bar and call themselves Above Replacement Level.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 03, 2013 at 04:23 PM (#4379832)
i guess i continue to struggle why anyone would be oppposed to another means of measuring success in baseball.

and the author needs to stay in closer touch with things. i am just guessing here but i suspect that if you polled those aware of bill james they would tell the author they think james is kind of crank these days. which is not a poor assessment
   16. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 03, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4379835)
While writing this, my daughter mentioned a garage band she knows called Above Average. One of her friends says the band is really below average. I suggest perhaps they should lower their bar and call themselves Above Replacement Level.

Or the 'Ments, for short.
   17. Dan Posted: March 03, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4379839)
Every stat we have includes some judgement.


What Darren says is absolutely true. If you're going to write off every stat that includes judgement, you'd better throw out Batting Average and ERA, Bob.


I wouldn't be so sure about that. James has said that he doesn't consider WAR to be sabermetrics at all.


If this is true, it says more about James' current state than it says about WAR (to echo Harveys in post 15 in different words).
   18. PreservedFish Posted: March 03, 2013 at 04:56 PM (#4379851)
Which stat has the least amount of judgment? Perhaps intentional walks. Even plate appearances are corrupted by the pernicious phenomenon of the catcher's interference.
   19. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4379863)
when i evaluate players i prefer to center around the league average because you get a hard number baseline that way and the judgment call is taken out of it.

The problem with average as a baseline, is that it punishes below average players for playing time, even though their contributions are valuable. Would you rather have a starting pitcher who gives you 220 innings of 4.20 ERA, or one who gives you 150 of the same?

And replacement level is just league average minus about 2 wins per full season of PA/IP. You can argue about the exact level replacement should be at. But it's it's pretty much inarguable that it gives you a vastly more accurate description of actual value, than average does. And since both are based on the exact same "hard number"...
   20. flournoy Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4379864)
Which stat has the least amount of judgment? Perhaps intentional walks. Even plate appearances are corrupted by the pernicious phenomenon of the catcher's interference.


Are you kidding? Who are you to judge a pitcher's intent?

The least judgmental stat can't even be Games Played, since there's the Larry Yount problem.
   21. valuearbitrageur Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4379865)
News Flash: Measuring players by WAR is imperfect.

News Update: Just like all other statistical measures of players, just less so.
   22. BDC Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:14 PM (#4379866)
Which stat has the least amount of judgment?

A Run Scored is near-absolute: only the guy who actually touches the plate gets credit. But of course, even there, there's a conventional scoring decision to credit the run to the guy whose feet touched the base, even if he hit an easy ground ball and was safe on a force-out, (1 AB, 0 H), while the guy who got a previous hit or walk is out and given no part of the Run.

So oddly enough, scorers sometimes give someone an RBI for making an out, and also sometimes give someone a R for making an out. The RBI out is sometimes arguably "productive"; the force-out followed by a score is a dead loss overall.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4379867)
Are you kidding? Who are you to judge a pitcher's intent?


I believe they are only awarded when the catcher is doing his standing and pointing thing, that is to say, when intent is beyond dispute. I suppose it's possible that once in a century a pitcher will try and sneak a 3-0 fastball down the middle on the unsuspecting hitter, but miss wide outside.
   24. tfbg9 Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4379869)
Games? As in appearances for pitchers?
   25. flournoy Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:23 PM (#4379870)
I believe they are only awarded when the catcher is doing his standing and pointing thing, that is to say, when intent is beyond dispute.


Perhaps the scouting reports said that, for example, Barry Bonds was especially vulnerable to pitches shoulder-high and two feet outside.
   26. TDF, situational idiot Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4379877)
While writing this, my daughter mentioned a garage band she knows called Above Average. One of her friends says the band is really below average. I suggest perhaps they should lower their bar and call themselves Above Replacement Level.
If they aren't above average, they certainly aren't above the level of The Replacements.
   27. bobm Posted: March 03, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4379880)
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bill James Online Mailbag [...]

Dear Mr James,

I’m a student at DePaul University writing a news story on what I’m calling “The War on WAR,” essentially a look into the different methods(BB Prospectus, Fangraphs, and BB reference) of calculating Wins Above Replacement. In light of this years AL MVP debate the WAR statistic is getting more publicity than usual and since there is not a standardized way of getting a true WAR of a player I was wondering how you personally view the different methods of calculating it. Thanks,


No; I don’t use that statistic myself, so I don’t have any view of how it should be calculated.  Not to speak ill of it; it is a useful concept.  It is probably in everyone’s best interests that there be multiple ways of calculating it.  It is like, for example, the Money Supply in the Economy.  There are all kinds of different ways of calculating the supply of money in the economy, or the GDP (Grounded Into Domestic Products.)  There are many different ways of estimating the GDP, and there SHOULD be, because if something is real, it can be estimated in different ways, and it weakens the value of the stat to reduce the number of ways that it can be calcualted.  [Emphasis added]


http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/bill_james_online_mailbag4/
   28. bobm Posted: March 03, 2013 at 06:05 PM (#4379883)
Tango on Bill James and WAR

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/bill_james_turns_win_shares_into_wins_above_replacement_war/

To convert Win Shares to Wins Above Replacement, you do: WS/3 - .333 * (WS+LS)/3That “/3” is to convert win shares into wins.  And the “.333” is the win percentage replacement level.  So, the final simple equation is (2*WS-LS)/9.  For McGriff, that’s 319*2 - 152 or 486.  And divide by 9 to get to 54.  This is how you convert Win Shares and Loss Shares into Wins Above Replacement (WAR).  And Bill James has ranked his firstbasemen by (his version) of WAR. [...]

It seems to me therefore that Bill has accepted that some sort of wins above baseline is needed.  And he is using a level that pretty much match what we’re using for wins above replacement, since the results are consistent.  I wouldn’t worry about the implication of the “.333 win percentage”, since that number is specific for the way his system is constructed.

This really brings Bill James back to where he always was 25 years ago, when he first wrote about replacment level in the context of Rice v Guidry and Clemens v Mattingly.  And when he ranked players as “chance of being better than a .400 player”.  Bill took a detour along the way in terms of ranking players by Win Shares (without considering Loss Shares).  Him bring Loss Shares into the mix really resets his position back along the Wins above replacement track that the rest of us are on. [...]

Ok, I can buy he’s using .350, not .333. The main point is that Bill is ranking based on some form of wins above replacement.

And, wins above replacement is nothing more than Linear Weights at its core.
   29. Cooper Nielson Posted: March 03, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4379885)
Which stat has the least amount of judgment?

A Run Scored is near-absolute: only the guy who actually touches the plate gets credit. But of course, even there, there's a conventional scoring decision to credit the run to the guy whose feet touched the base, even if he hit an easy ground ball and was safe on a force-out, (1 AB, 0 H), while the guy who got a previous hit or walk is out and given no part of the Run.


I was thinking of Runs as well, but I suppose sometimes there is a tough call at the plate and it's either a run or an out, depending on the umpire's judgment.
   30. gehrig97 Posted: March 03, 2013 at 06:32 PM (#4379890)
Wellll... I don't think Mr. Ryan is THAT far off on some things. Sure, there's an element of "judgement" in all stats (if you broaden "judgement" to include scorer's decisions; the manager's "judgement" in ordering IBBs, defensive shifts, calling for sacrifices, lineups, etc.; the centerfielder's judgement --or lack thereof-- on balls hit over his head; the baserunner's judgement in trying to score from first on a ball hit to the gap), but the traditional stats rely on basic arithmetic MUCH more than WAR. I think it's a useful stat (any stat that reinforces the true greatness of, say, Mickey Mantle while cutting through the nostalgic haze that somehow suggest Jack Morris is a HOFer, is useful), but we're a long way off from refining it to the point where it should be accepted as the uberstat. There are just too many weird things that pop up (forget Miggy vs Trout -- I'm in the Trout camp). I'm talking about things like huge swings in defensive dWAR from season to season, etc).

The good news is that, at least to my untrained eye, league leaders in WAR generally align with leaders in more traditional stats. Top-5 in OBP + slg will generally get you top-5 in WAR (unless the guy is a butcher in the field, or has a huge home/rd split). But WAR is still very much in the "evolving" stage.
   31. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 03, 2013 at 07:14 PM (#4379895)
There are just too many weird things that pop up (forget Miggy vs Trout -- I'm in the Trout camp). I'm talking about things like huge swings in defensive dWAR from season to season, etc

Why is that weird, or wrong? We accept huge swings in offense from season to season as normal. Why wouldn't you expect large variations on the defensive side of things?
   32. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: March 03, 2013 at 07:35 PM (#4379900)
Even games -- in fact even games started -- relies on judgment. Specifically (at the very least) the judgment of the umpires that it is not raining too hard to continue to the fifth.
   33. JJ1986 Posted: March 03, 2013 at 07:54 PM (#4379904)
I wonder if Ryan knows that the replacement-component benefits Cabrera more than it does Trout or if he just assumes that all parts of the stat are biased in favor of Mike.
   34. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 03, 2013 at 08:58 PM (#4379911)
It’s how much more Player X is worth than a player that doesn’t exist!


If it bothers you so much, use WAA. Trout was 8.8 wins above average, Miggy 4.7 It's such a cop out for these knuckleheads to throw their hands up and say "Since we don't really know what a replacement level player is, we can't really know if Trout was better than Cabrera." Yes you can. You know what an average player is, and Trout was twice as better as him than Cabrera was. Problem solved.

Or not. These guys aren't looking for information to base an opinion on. They use information like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support rather than illumination.
   35. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:01 PM (#4379912)
Which stat has the least amount of judgment?


Home runs. Yeah, there's the odd fair/foul call, and the even rarer "did it hit over the line or under?", but as a percentage of the whole, the vast majority of HRs are judgement free.
   36. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:08 PM (#4379914)
I wonder if Ryan knows that the replacement-component benefits Cabrera more than it does Trout or if he just assumes that all parts of the stat are biased in favor of Mike.

Why is that, anyway?

The replacement-component adjustment is just a playing-time (and league) adjustment.

Cabrera got 697 PA, so to get from RAA to RAR they add (697/650)*22, which is 23.59. His RAA was 45 and his RAR was 69.

Trout got 639 PA, so to get from RAA to RAR they add (639/659)*22, which is 21.63. His RAA was 85 and his RAR was 106.

It looks like Trout's number was rounded down to 21, and Cabrera's number was rounded up to 24. But I assume that's misleading and the real numbers were more precise than the 2 significant figures displayed on BB-ref.
   37. bobm Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:26 PM (#4379916)
Home runs. Yeah, there's the odd fair/foul call, and the even rarer "did it hit over the line or under?"

Then there is the rarest of all calls... http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=3977861&topic;_id=&c_id=mlb&tcid=vpp_copy_3977861&v=3
   38. BochysFingers Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:30 PM (#4379917)
Wins above 175% the player Emmanuel Burriss is.
   39. Walt Davis Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:46 PM (#4379922)
Was this covered already? Anyway, the choice of replacement level has no impact on the difference between two players (#1 and #2 below):

R1 = X1 - R
R2 = X2 - R

Where X1 is the raw "runs" a player is credited with and R is the level a replacement player is credited with ... making R1 the runs above replacement (which can then be converted to wins).

R1 - R2 = X1 - X2 - R + R = X1 - X2

The value chosen for R doesn't matter in measuring differences. You can use league average if you want.

bWAR and fWAR disagree in terms of RAR for a given player in part because of choosing different replacement levels. In the end, that's such an unimportant difference they should simply agree on what replacement level is. But to the extent that bWAR and fWAR differ in terms of a gap between two players (say MT and MC) then they differ in substantive ways about how best to calculate X. That's a topic for serious discussion.

Of course the only alternative to that reality is the dreaded groupthink where all the projection systems agree completely and that uniformity would form the basis for criticism of the methodology.
   40. Walt Davis Posted: March 03, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4379926)
It looks like Trout's number was rounded down to 21, and Cabrera's number was rounded up to 24. But I assume that's misleading and the real numbers were more precise than the 2 significant figures displayed on BB-ref.

I think there's a slight adjustment based on batting order position, otherwise leadoff hitters get replacement value just due to more PA. Technically Rrep might be "replacement level player with the same mix of batting order positions."

Trout got 639 PA, so to get from RAA to RAR they add (639/659)*22, which is 21.63. His RAA was 85 and his RAR was 106.

You made at least one typo here. I assume you mean 650 as the denominator for Trout since that comes out to 21.63.

Given the rounding, it doesn't matter a lot. Trout rounds to 21 for everything from 654 to 686 as his replacement PA. It's just tinkering down in the first decimal place.
   41. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 03, 2013 at 10:14 PM (#4379929)
There’s a war going on in baseball. Did you know that?


Actually, the war is over. Your side lost. Quite some time ago, in fact.

   42. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 03, 2013 at 10:21 PM (#4379932)
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”:


That's the explanation for WARP. WAR and WARP are different things.

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


Replacement level players exist everywhere; they are ubiquitous, which is the point. They are as freely available as house painters.

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


Where to set replacement level is certainly an issue. But I don't see why that invalidates the stat.



   43. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 03, 2013 at 10:27 PM (#4379933)
Was this covered already? Anyway, the choice of replacement level has no impact on the difference between two players (#1 and #2 below):

R1 = X1 - R
R2 = X2 - R

Where X1 is the raw "runs" a player is credited with and R is the level a replacement player is credited with ... making R1 the runs above replacement (which can then be converted to wins).

R1 - R2 = X1 - X2 - R + R = X1 - X2

The value chosen for R doesn't matter in measuring differences. You can use league average if you want.

That's only if R is constant, which it isn't, since it is dependant on playing time.
   44. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: March 03, 2013 at 10:38 PM (#4379937)
The war on WAR



Mr. Ryan: you, sir, are not my typewriter!
   45. Dan Evensen Posted: March 04, 2013 at 12:26 AM (#4379961)
The main point is that Bill is ranking based on some form of wins above replacement.

And, wins above replacement is nothing more than Linear Weights at its core.


The irony here was lost on most readers back when Win Shares came out a decade ago (has it really been that long?). James published a number of articles in the 1980s about how senseless it was to come out with The Ultimate Baseball Statistic. Then, suddenly, when his relevance was at an all-time low, he came out with his own version of WAR.

I'm kind of a strange guy. I've had this project going on for a few years now, where I've been rereading all the classic Sabermetric books I can get my hands on in order. I've got the Abstracts from 1982-1988 (even the reprints of 1977-1981 are almost impossible to find), as well as both Historical Abstracts, The Hidden Game of Baseball, Win Shares (and a bunch of other random James books), The Book (first edition, I believe), every issue of The Hardball Times (but not much of a Prospectus collection -- probably because I've always visited Primer / BBTF), some random old issues of The Baseball Research Journal, and an almost complete collection of The APBA Journal from the late 1970s to 1993 or so (I think I've got some old Strat newsletters sitting around as well).

Anyway, I'm almost done with The Hidden Game of Baseball. Though I don't have access to everything James had published up to that time, I've got to say that linear weights blows a lot of the stuff James was doing out of the water. The statistic is easy to use, the reasoning for each calculation is clearly explained, and you don't see any of the half-baked, rushed ideas that James frequently produced.

The entire concept behind Win Shares contradicts a number of things James was saying again and again in the 1980s, in what I believe was an attempt to stop Palmer from stealing his thunder. Honestly, though, I firmly believe that linear weights and The Hidden Game of Baseball have had a much larger impact on the development of sabermetrics and baseball statistical analysis than runs created and the Abstracts.

I still disagree with a number of Palmer's ideas. I find irritating the idea that strikeouts are overrated, for example, or that BAA doesn't tell us as much as how many earned runs a pitcher gave up. I also haven't taken the time to deconstruct the way Palmer calculated park factors, since I figure that ship sailed about 30 years ago or so.

Still, though, linear weights, WAR and the concept of removing biases uniformly in baseball statistics are very powerful. Reading that one book has done more for my understanding of current sabermetrics and why we measure the things we do (things like win probability) more than anything I've read by James.
   46. Howie Menckel Posted: March 04, 2013 at 02:04 AM (#4379984)
"I'm almost done with The Hidden Game of Baseball."

I have mentioned several times on this site that I have a galley proof of this book from that era (lime green cover), and it's not so I can engage in a bidding war. I would sooner meet people who wanted it, and if they can afford any sum at all, we can give the proceeds to charity. Or maybe the most sincere applicant gets it for free, and pays it forward.

Never an answer, which costs me nothing. It doesn't mean much to me, but I always wondered if others here would diagree. More bemused than anything else; how many galley proofs are actually out there?
   47. Ron J2 Posted: March 04, 2013 at 04:30 PM (#4380426)
it's not a stat I personally use, but it makes perfect sense.


Win shares is absolutely a WAR.
   48. Ron J2 Posted: March 04, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4380435)
#45 Linear weights blows away runs created if and only if you use the "slope correctors" As Bill pointed out, if he used a slightly different formula for runs created in every year he could totally get the standard error of runs created down.

Baseball-reference uses a linear weights approach with no slope corrector. But they calculate the value for the events for every season.

The most accurate linear weights approach with no (as my friend Bob Rich called it "cheating") individual season adjustments is our own Jim Furtado's extrapolated runs. (and it is indeed better than runs created, though it does have some method errors. In particular, counting DPs without adjusting for context)
   49. Walt Davis Posted: March 04, 2013 at 04:49 PM (#4380444)
That's only if R is constant, which it isn't, since it is dependant on playing time.

True but nobody ever cares about comparing part-timers and full-timers.
   50. Canker Soriano Posted: March 04, 2013 at 04:58 PM (#4380460)
I do respect the New Math of baseball.


WAR is nonsense.


I'm not really getting respect there. I feel like he's playing at acting like he's trying to understand it, when in reality a 30-minute discussion with any number of people would answer most, if not all, of the questions he's raised.

Someone should come up with a list of 30-40 players at each position who grade out at "replacement level". Not just current guys, but players from the 70s and 80s. Give it a Potter Stewart feeling - you may not know how to calculate replacement level, but you know it when you see it.
   51. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 04, 2013 at 05:21 PM (#4380480)
45/Dan - If you want old baseball prospectuses, I might be able to help you - up to and including the rsb postings that essentially comprises what prospectus looked like the year before it became a book.
   52. Moeball Posted: March 04, 2013 at 07:58 PM (#4380565)
I've got to say that linear weights blows a lot of the stuff James was doing out of the water.


I also was fascinated when Linear Weights first appeared with Hidden Game back in 1984. Not only could you use LW to compare/rank players, but for the first time I felt you could see actual numbers backing up certain old adages in the game, such as "good field, no hit". Seems like every team had one of these guys - in some cases, it looked like the defense really was good enough to offset a weak bat (Ozzie Smith) but, in a lot of cases, teams were killing themselves putting players on the field that just cost way too many runs to have in the lineup.

Now we are in the WAR era, almost 30 years later. B-Ref has essentially adopted the offensive component of Linear Weights in the Batting Runs calculations and most people seem to think that is reasonably accurate. The defensive side of WAR, however, leaves a lot to be desired, even with using play-by-play data, and a lot of people are so disenchanted with dWAR that they abandon WAR altogether for being too inconsistent. For those who really like to dig in the numbers I highly recommend Michael Humphreys' book "Wizardry" - he goes into great detail about how he computes DRA for evaluating players defensively. At least with his version you can see all the formulas for how the numbers are computed. You may not agree with his conclusions but at least you can see where they came from.

One thing I thought was kind of funny last fall when the MVP debates were happening - according to B-ref WAR, one of the reasons Trout trumped Cabrera so thoroughly was that not only was Trout the much better baserunner and fielder - no one was really arguing that point - but that Trout was the better hitter. According to Batting Runs, Trout had 54 Rbat and Cabrera only 52. This really set a lot of the Cabrera fans on fire - how could a guy who won the Triple Crown not be the best hitter in the league? I think it's primarily the Park Factor adjustments that leapfrogged Trout over Cabrera, and PF adjustments have been part of offensive LW for decades now, so that's really nothing new. But it sure set off a lot of the Miggy supporters, who have now decided that not only is dWAR unreliable, but oWAR as well.

So maybe we're back to the drawing board trying to find the best measurement stat. Maybe WAR isn't the answer, but I think we're at least heading in a better direction than we were 40 years ago.
   53. BDC Posted: March 04, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4380578)
For those who really like to dig in the numbers I highly recommend Michael Humphreys' book "Wizardry" - he goes into great detail about how he computes DRA for evaluating players defensively. At least with his version you can see all the formulas for how the numbers are computed. You may not agree with his conclusions but at least you can see where they came from

Seconded. Given that, without a time machine, nobody can reconstruct zone data for games that were never observed for it, something like DRA is the only recourse to compare defense across eras, and Humphreys's book is a wonderful exercise in the logic behind doing so.
   54. BDC Posted: March 04, 2013 at 08:27 PM (#4380579)
how could a guy who won the Triple Crown not be the best hitter in the league? I think it's primarily the Park Factor adjustments that leapfrogged Trout over Cabrera

Although it's also true that Trout led the majors in Runs Scored despite missing 23 games of the season. To put that forward as an MVP credential is so old-school, it's new-school :)
   55. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 04, 2013 at 08:54 PM (#4380586)
how could a guy who won the Triple Crown not be the best hitter in the league?


In 1992, Barry Bonds hit .311/34/103. He had a 204 OPS+ and 8.2 oWAR. Gary Sheffield didn't win the TC, but he was in the hunt all year. He finished with a .330/33/100 slash line, winning the batting title, and missing the TC by 2 HR and 9 RBI. He had a 168 OPS+ and a 6.8 oWAR. 2 more HR and 9 more RBI would not have gotten him close to Bonds.
   56. cardsfanboy Posted: March 04, 2013 at 09:16 PM (#4380593)
In 1992, Barry Bonds hit .311/34/103. He had a 204 OPS+ and 8.2 oWAR. Gary Sheffield didn't win the TC, but he was in the hunt all year. He finished with a .330/33/100 slash line, winning the batting title, and missing the TC by 2 HR and 9 RBI. He had a 168 OPS+ and a 6.8 oWAR. 2 more HR and 9 more RBI would not have gotten him close to Bonds.


True, but Miggy also won the slugging percentage crown and the raw ops crown that all the stat guys are talking about (and was only behind trout by .006 in obp ) I don't think the Cabrera supporters are as old school as people seem to portray them as.
   57. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: March 04, 2013 at 09:38 PM (#4380602)
1.4 WAR? What is that, @ 14 runs? When you're hitting that many home runs, how accurate are the runs estimates?
   58. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 04, 2013 at 10:15 PM (#4380619)
1.4 WAR? What is that, @ 14 runs? When you're hitting that many home runs, how accurate are the runs estimates?


Well, it's actually more than that. I mistakenly used oWAR, which includes a defensive position adjustment. Sheffield, who played 3rd that year, got a +1 for position, while Bonds who played left, got a -6.

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