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Monday, August 08, 2011

FanGraphs: Cameron: Zobrist vs Fielder: A Position Adjustment Primer

Wrong HOL, Buster!

Yesterday on Twitter, Buster Olney had some thoughts on WAR, and specifically, the way it values middle-of-the-diamond players compared to first baseman. A few selections from his comments:

  #1: “Love advanced metrics,but anybody find something a little skewed to 2B/SS/CF? Ben Zobrist No. 6 overall, ahead of all first basemen, McCann?”

  #2: “Zobrist, Victorino, Howie Kendrick and Yunel Escobar all ahead of Prince Fielder in WAR. You do wonder if positional adjustments too steep.”

  #3: “If you asked 30 GMs who they would pay the most among these players–Victorino, Yunel, Kendrick, Fielder–off ’11 stats,30 would say Fielder.”

There were a few others sprinkled in there as well, but you get the general point. The common wisdom in baseball has been that run producers are the most valuable players in the game, and since WAR does not line up with that assessment, Buster is questioning whether WAR is wrong.

...I get where Buster’s confusion is coming from. For years, we’ve been told that power hitting first baseman are the creme de la creme of baseball players. WAR does not agree with that assessment, and it challenges long-held beliefs about how players have been valued. But that does not make it wrong by default. Challenging assumptions is something any good metric should do, and the fact that it’s shining a light on previously underrated stars like Zobrist is one of the reasons why WAR is so valuable to begin with.

Repoz Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:19 PM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:45 PM (#3895295)
Zobrist is the Gil McDougald of his day. He can play anywhere, hit and nobody seems to pay attention.
   2. WallyBackmanFan Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:58 PM (#3895298)
http://www.gentlylayoffjoemorgan.com
   3. dave h Posted: August 08, 2011 at 01:58 PM (#3895313)
WAR accounts for offensive production relative to position, and defensive play relative to position, can someone confirm that baserunning is measured relative to position also?
   4. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:02 PM (#3895319)
Baserunning is part of the offensive production, so in a way, yes.
   5. zack Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:03 PM (#3895320)
I could be wrong, but

Offense and baserunning are not relative to position, only fielding is. Although the way it is presented on bb-ref has the positional adjustment tied in to the replacement runs category.
   6. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:07 PM (#3895324)
WAR accounts for offensive production relative to position, and defensive play relative to position, can someone confirm that baserunning is measured relative to position also?
Fangraphs breaks down its WAR numbers as follows:

Batting compared to league average + baserunning compared to league average + positional adjustment + replacement level adjustment + fielding compared to positional average

The baserunning numbers cited (Zobrist +2.5, Fielder -4.2) are compared to overall averages, not to positional averages. The positional adjustment is factored in on its own. The only number which is presented as itself relative to position is UZR defense.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:11 PM (#3895326)
I wish Dave was this thoughtful, rational and pleasant in all of his pieces. Very well written.
   8. salvomania Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3895334)
I think WAR is unreliable mostly because fielding metrics are so unreliable. Depending on which fielding metric is used in a WAR calculation, the resulting WAR can vary quite a bit from system to system for a particular player.

I still go back to the comparison between Cano and Pedroia, in which each, depending on the fielding metric, is either a fabulous defender, or about average, or terrible, costing his team wins with his glove.

It's because of this that I take my WAR with a huge grain of salt; it gives a quick idea of a player's performance, but to start parsing players to the tenth of a WAR point seems ludicrous to me, and to use solely WAR to make some specific judgment (which I have seen, comparing Player A to Player B, either for a season or for multiple seasons) is beyond ludicrous....
   9. Ron J Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:49 PM (#3895343)
to start parsing players to the tenth of a WAR point seems ludicrous to me,


Indeed. Standard error for WAR among full time position players is not under 8 runs (regardless of which WAR we're talking about) for a full time player. And is probably closer to 10 or 11.

All players within 5 runs in a season are of clearly indistinguishable value. The limitations of any given metric don't permit more accurate evaluations than that. I understand why WAR is listed to tenths, but some place there ought to be a little disclaimer.

Also, given this the standard error when using WAR for the purposes of career comps will not be under 3 wins for careers of any substantial lengths (probably closer to 4)
   10. micker17 Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3895351)
"I think WAR is unreliable mostly because fielding metrics are so unreliable."


Best sentence EVER.

WAR also regularly ranks dh's as significantly more valuable on defense than Gold Glove fielders. (Before you get all exited, yes, we are all aware that the Gold Glove voting is flawed, relax.)

Bill James Win Shares are a much more acurate tool for performance measurement because it does not give negative values for defense. Everything you do on the field has some positve value.

It's unclear why history (so far) has chosen WAR over Win Shares.

WAR is so flawed that its proponants really should show greater humility. WAR is valuable as a tool for a quick superficial look on comparing offensive production.

And it may not even be used 5 years from now.
   11. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:09 PM (#3895353)
to start parsing players to the tenth of a WAR point seems ludicrous to me,


I think it's useful but the tenths should not be used to make definitive arguments. If I see;

Pedroia - 6
Bautista - 7

It's relevant to me if the details are;

Pedroia - 5.5
Bautista - 7.4
or
Pedroia - 6.4
Bautista - 6.5

I think more detail is better as long as I know not to go overboard assigning meaning to it. The problem is that I find people using WAR a little too definitively recently. There are enough issues with the adjustments and the defensive numbers that I think WAR is a starting, not an ending, point. Instead too many arguments I read around the interwebs come down to "Player X has 6.7 WAR so he is superior to Player Y at 6.3 WAR."
   12. Randy Jones Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:09 PM (#3895354)
Bill James Win Shares are a much more acurate tool for performance measurement because it does not give negative values for defense. Everything you do on the field has some positve value.

It's unclear why history (so far) has chosen WAR over Win Shares.


This is a joke right? Not even going to bother going over the problems with Win Shares.
   13. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:11 PM (#3895355)
WAR also regularly ranks dh's as significantly more valuable on defense than Gold Glove fielders.

Not if you don't make the error of ignoring the positional component of defense, it doesn't.
   14. Greg K Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:18 PM (#3895360)
It's unclear why history (so far) has chosen WAR over Win Shares.

I think a big factor is that a WAR unit is more intuitive than a Win Share. A win is a pretty basic unit of measurement. When someone says a guy is a 5 WAR player, we all know he means that he gives his team 5 wins. Win Shares as units are somwhat arbitrary in this sense (James multiplies by 3 for more or less aesthetic reasons doesn't he?)

Of course the biggest reason probably is WAR is freely accesible and you have to pay for Win Shares.

I used to use Win Shares for all my databases, but once B-Ref started including WAR it just wasn't worth the money or poor navigating of Bill James' site.
   15. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:19 PM (#3895361)
As a follow-up to #13: The worst of Derek Jeter's Gold Glove seasons by either TZ or Fangraphs UZR is '05 by UZR, -15 runs. With the Fangraphs positional adjustment, his fielding value that year is -8 runs.

Also in '05, David Ortiz had a fielding + position value of -17 (small negative fielding value, presumably from first base in interleague season, but it rounds to -17 either way).

So... yeah, you're going to have to provide an example that does factor in position.
   16. micker17 Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:19 PM (#3895363)
Heretics are never popular.

WAR is inherently flawed and will be discredited and in history's scrapbin within a few years.

Let the witch burning commence. Enjoy.
   17. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:26 PM (#3895368)
It's unclear why history (so far) has chosen WAR over Win Shares.


ummm
1: Because the way wins are allocated between offense, defense and pitching seems a little too arbitrary
2: Because there are no negative values for defense (I assume you were trolling when you cited this as a strength)
3: Because there are no negative winshares
4: Because there is no attempt at setting a replacement level (see 2 & 3)

OTOH I like the fact that winshares uses real rather than pythag/3rd order wins
   18. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:27 PM (#3895369)
WAR also regularly ranks dh's as significantly more valuable on defense than Gold Glove fielders.

Not if you don't make the error of ignoring the positional component of defense, it doesn't.


I wouldn't say regularly, but you occasionally see high profile examples like this:

Manny Ramirez 2004-2006 (404 G LF, 25 G DH) - Defense and positional adjustment -63 runs

David Ortiz 2004-2006 (398 G DH, 54 G 1B) - 38 runs

Thus, Ortiz the DH, despite being an inferior hitter, was deemed more valuable than Ramirez the LF.

Ramirez - 11.6 WAR, 15.9 oWAR

Ortiz - 14.9 WAR, 14.6 oWAR
   19. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:29 PM (#3895372)
WAR is inherently flawed


All the metrics are flawed in on away or another, to one extent or another.

WAR is inherently flawed


yes, when something better comes along it will rejoin winshares which is already there.
   20. Greg K Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:30 PM (#3895374)
Heretics are never popular.

Jan Hus begs to differ (or would if he wasn't burned alive)

Being a heretic is a great way to get a following.
   21. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:34 PM (#3895381)
Thus, Ortiz the DH, despite being an inferior hitter, was deemed more valuable than Ramirez the LF.

Ortiz wasn't actually the inferior hitter over that span - he has more Rbat, 136 to 129. (If you add in the baserunning/ROE/DP components, Manny gains a few runs but doesn't catch up.) oWAR is position-adjusted, so it's not good for comparisions of straight offense.

Your overall point, that Manny is penalized for playing the field, is correct, and is something that may merit adjustment when evaluating Manny's career. However, Manny was nobody's idea of a "Gold Glove fielder," which was the claim made in the original post.
   22. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:35 PM (#3895383)
The key to remember about WAR is "replacement" is partially adjusted for position. The "replacement" 1b in today's baseball is a better player than the "replacement" 2b/ss/cf (relative to the league). Those middle guys are just rare. Good middle guys are even more rare.

Is Prince a better player than those other guys? Yes, of course. However, the kinds of players you can get to replace Prince are much better than the guys walking around that play 2b/ss/cf.

I have no quarrel with WAR saying guys like Zobrist are worth more wins (and money) than Prince. It doesn't change the fact Prince is the better player. What you pay them relative to position, is an entirely different question.
   23. The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:38 PM (#3895384)
I wish Dave was this thoughtful, rational and pleasant in all of his pieces.
It would have been funny if he made the same point by re-submitting the "Nyjer Morgan is better than Adam Dunn" article...
   24. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:40 PM (#3895385)
Is Prince a better player than those other guys? Yes, of course.


No, Prince is better HITTER than those other guys, whether or not he is a better PLAYER is a different question
   25. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:43 PM (#3895386)
Ortiz wasn't actually the inferior hitter over that span - he has more Rbat, 136 to 129. (If you add in the baserunning/ROE/DP components, Manny gains a few runs but doesn't catch up.) oWAR is position-adjusted, so it's not good for comparisions of straight offense.


Yeah, I forgot about the positional adjustment being in there. Taking that out, Manny has 121 offensive runs (batting and running components), Ortiz 125.
   26. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3895388)
It doesn't change the fact Prince is the better player.

Better hitter, not better player.
   27. Ron J Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:47 PM (#3895389)
Bill James Win Shares are a much more acurate tool for performance measurement


The problem with this is that the offensive core of win shares in at heart (park adjusted) runs created per out. And that's a mediocre method.

WAR triumphs in part because of the ease of access. But that's only part of the story. Sean (talking the version of WAR seen on BBRef now) has incorporated aspects (baserunning, reaching on error and better adjustments for grounding into double plays) that win shares is blind to. They're not generally all that important, but since WAR starts from a more accurate base on the offensive side, the offensive component is simply better in WAR than in Win Shares. Add in that WAR is modular which makes it convenient for hypothesis testing and WAR is miles ahead.

Then there's the baseline. WAR sets replacement level sensibly. Win Shares does not and thus considerably over-values mediocrity. Yes, you can deal with this with either loss shares or by using win shares above base.

On the defensive front, I like the win shares concept that all fielding value is positive and I wish I could find a way to incorporate that notion into WAR. Win Shares is probably at its best specifically when comparing DHs to bad fielding corner OF or 1B. And that's an important enough issue that I'll forgive a multitude of sins.

There is no justification for the way method errors are assigned to players in Win Shares either.

As for WAR going away, I doubt it. Combination of availability and design are powerful enough that it would take something very good to unseat it.

EDIT: The primary problem with James' defensive methods is that the spread between the best and worst fielders is almost certainly too small. But I'd expect a very high correlation between the way BBRef WAR defensive values and win share defensive values. They are both fundamentally range factor based with an attempt to adjust for context.
   28. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:48 PM (#3895390)
Yeah, I forgot about the positional adjustment being in there. Taking that out, Manny has 121 offensive runs (batting and running components), Ortiz 125.

If you look at '04 on its own, Manny has more offensive runs (36-33) but a lower WAR. So again, your overall point stands, regardless of my nitpicking of the specific example used.
   29. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:50 PM (#3895391)
Heretics are never popular.


Jesus was a heretic.

Now quit self-dramatizing and make an argument, or shut the #### up.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:50 PM (#3895392)
Heretics are never popular.

WAR is inherently flawed and will be discredited and in history's scrapbin within a few years.

Let the witch burning commence. Enjoy.


Wait, are you congratulating yourself on being a heretic? This board sees multiple arguments every single day on the utility of WAR. I think the only real reason it has the currency it does is laziness - seriously, it's just easier to use a single number to compare players than it is to have to cobble together more than a few. Everyone (on this board at least) is 100% aware of its flaws and would be excited to greet a superior statistic.
   31. Ron J Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:02 PM (#3895399)
#14 While win shares isn't easy to calculate, one of the guys (Mr High Standards IIC) has done the heavy lifting. I have a spreadsheet that will do win shares. Haven't used it in years -- for the reasons outlined in the thread.
   32. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:16 PM (#3895406)

No, Prince is better HITTER than those other guys, whether or not he is a better PLAYER is a different question


This is incorrect. The other guys are worth more because of the relative scarcity of their position. Whereas Prince plays a position that is relatively loaded with good players. The "replacement" 1b has a much, much higher floor than the "replacement" 2b/ss/cf.

Prince is the better player. The other guys are worth more. WAR doesn't exist to determine which players are necessarily better than others, it calculates value relative to replacement at a given position.

I could construct a hypothetical scenario where the replacement at a given position was so terrible, a guy like Mark Kotsay or even Aaron Miles had a greater WAR than Prince. Still doesn't change the raw fact Prince is the better player, even if his WAR would be lower than Miles or Kotsay under this scenario.
   33. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:30 PM (#3895420)
Prince's last two home runs have really impressed me. Both pitches were legitimately in and not only did he hit square he absolutely crushed both. Just a wow moment only it happened twice.

Take THAT Mr. Fancy WAR carrying but carrying a name of a Jewish attorney from the 1940's based in DC Zobrist!
   34. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:31 PM (#3895422)
Prince is the better player. The other guys are worth more.

Prince can't play 2B/SS/CF. Zobrist can play 1B. There is more to being "better" than hitting the ball, and Prince is highly limited in how good he is beyond his ability to hit.

We're splitting hairs, though, I think.
   35. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3895424)
Still doesn't change the raw fact Prince is the better player, even if his WAR would be lower than Miles or Kotsay under this scenario.

Have Prince play that hypthetical position in the field (or, heck, 2B) and then tell me if he's better.
   36. BDC Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:38 PM (#3895427)
I don't think WAR is particularly flawed, but I do think that the small sample sizes at each position make it difficult to truly assess a player like Zobrist. (And there are other players like Zobrist; Mark DeRosa comes to mind.) The picture that WAR develops of a guy like that is made up of lots of little tranches of play, each with its own context and adjustment. WAR isn't really designed to account for that; its positional nature makes it somewhat artificial when asked to cope with multi-position players.

But that said, B-Ref WAR has Zobrist at 7.1 in his big year in 2009, 3.1 last year, 4.5 so far this year when he's obviously hitting a lot better than last year. These hardly seem like they're weird random figures; in fact they sound about right for a guy who is an excellent hitter, a good defender, and had an off-year. Fangraphs has him at 8.6, 3.7, and 5.6. Ballpark figures, but they're clearly in the ballpark.
   37. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:39 PM (#3895429)
The other guys are worth more because of the relative scarcity of their position.
Which is because it's harder to play. A guy who can play those harder positions at a MLB level of competence possesses real baseball skills that the guy who can't play those positions lacks.

Dustin Pedroia is faster than Adrian Gonzalez, quicker than Adrian Gonzalez, has better footwork and better body control than Adrian Gonzalez, and throws harder and more accurately than Adrian Gonzalez. These very real differences between Pedroia and Gonzalez, as baseball players, are greatly measured in Pedroia's +10 run advantage on Gonzalez in positional adjustment.
   38. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3895432)
This is incorrect. The other guys are worth more because of the relative scarcity of their position. Whereas Prince plays a position that is relatively loaded with good players. The "replacement" 1b has a much, much higher floor than the "replacement" 2b/ss/cf.

Prince is the better player. The other guys are worth more.


This is absurd, I would like to see Prince TRY to play 2B, or CF or 3B, just go ahead and try.

Anyway, Zobrist is putting up a 146 OPS+ (and yes I know he put up a 97 last year, and 149 the year before)
Prince is at 166. So you are saying that the fact that Zobrist can play pretty much any position without embarrassing himself, whereas Prince Can't has zero bearing on who is the better player? That's just wrong.

There are situations where a guy (let's use Youkilis) CAN in fact play a harder defensive position- but isn't because the team has someone else there- so yeah Youk was likely a better player than some other team's guy who was getting a position adjustment that Youk wasn't. That's not Prince, there is no team in the MLB that would play him at a harder position than 1B, there are a dozen who'd move him to DH in a heartbeat.
   39. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:45 PM (#3895437)
Dustin Pedroia is faster than Adrian Gonzalez, quicker than Adrian Gonzalez, has better footwork and better body control than Adrian Gonzalez, and throws harder and more accurately than Adrian Gonzalez.


I'm not sure about that first one.... Is Gonzo really that slow :-)
   40. AROM Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3895439)
It would have been funny if he made the same point by re-submitting the "Nyjer Morgan is better than Adam Dunn" article...


Kind of a mismatch though. At this point Alcides Escobar is better than Dunn - without even considering fielding.
   41. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:55 PM (#3895443)
For years, we’ve been told that power hitting first baseman are the creme de la creme of baseball players.


This is just dumb. Who is it that has been telling us this? Yes, some first basemen have gotten sketchy MVPs, like Ryan Howard and Mo Vaughn, but so have Jimmy Rollins and Miguel Tejada.

Prince Fielder, who is the focus of the discussion, has finished behind at least one shortstop in the MVP voting every single year of his career.
   42. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3895451)
I still go back to the comparison between Cano and Pedroia, in which each, depending on the fielding metric, is either a fabulous defender, or about average, or terrible, costing his team wins with his glove.

Now I'm curious. There's a fielding metric that says Pedroia is a terrible defender?
   43. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:19 PM (#3895464)
I'm not sure about that first one.... Is Gonzo really that slow :-)


Yep. I'd bet on Ortiz if the two were to race.
   44. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:19 PM (#3895465)
Now I'm curious. There's a fielding metric that says Pedroia is a terrible defender?
Every PBP fielding metric (TZ, DSR, UZR) appears to like Pedroia ~equally, and each thinks he's consistently very good to great. Cano gets much more spastic results, varying year to year and metric to metric.
   45. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:29 PM (#3895471)
Every PBP fielding metric (TZ, DSR, UZR) appears to like Pedroia ~equally, and each thinks he's consistently very good to great.
A WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!!
   46. DCW3 Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:49 PM (#3895485)
I don't think WAR is particularly flawed, but I do think that the small sample sizes at each position make it difficult to truly assess a player like Zobrist. (And there are other players like Zobrist; Mark DeRosa comes to mind.) The picture that WAR develops of a guy like that is made up of lots of little tranches of play, each with its own context and adjustment. WAR isn't really designed to account for that; its positional nature makes it somewhat artificial when asked to cope with multi-position players.

With Zobrist, though, at least this year, that's pretty much an academic concern: he's exclusively played second base and right field. If there's a degree of "versatility" that deserves a bonus in advanced stats (and I'm not convinced that it does), his 2011 doesn't rise to that level.
   47. salvomania Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3895494)
Now I'm curious. There's a fielding metric that says Pedroia is a terrible defender?


Maybe not terrible, but FRAA has him at -3.3 runs in 2009 and -7.2 in 2010, and a combined -1.2 from 2006-2011, while UZR has him at a combined +32.5 over the same period.

The difference with Cano is even more stark: UZR has him -39.4 for his career, while FRAA has him at +31.2.
   48. Srul Itza Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:17 PM (#3895499)
Take THAT Mr. Fancy WAR carrying but carrying a name of a Jewish attorney from the 1940's based in DC Zobrist!


What??? You lost me here, Harveys.

I know you were just being funny/clever, but you still lost me.
   49. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:24 PM (#3895505)
This is incorrect. The other guys are worth more because of the relative scarcity of their position. Whereas Prince plays a position that is relatively loaded with good players. The "replacement" 1b has a much, much higher floor than the "replacement" 2b/ss/cf.

Prince is the better player. The other guys are worth more. WAR doesn't exist to determine which players are necessarily better than others, it calculates value relative to replacement at a given position.


Where do you get that? How is the scarcity of position manifested in WAR? Rpos? That doesn't vary by more than 1 or 2 runs from season to season. In 1977, the average NL SS had an OPS+ of 77. The Rpos for a whole season was 10. In 2000, when the average AL SS had an OPS+ of 95 (AROD, Jeter, Nomar, Tejada, Valentine), the Rpos for a full season was 7. Those are two pretty extremes, and yet the scarcity bonus is only 3 runs. That same year (AL 2000), second base (OPS+ of 84) was 3. So even though there were many more good hitters playing SS that year, SS still got a much bigger position bonus than second base.
   50. Dan The Mediocre Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:47 PM (#3895523)
Where do you get that? How is the scarcity of position manifested in WAR?


It is manifested in the replacement level for offense. If second basemen suddenly started hitting for a collective .880 OPS, Zobrist wouldn't be nearly as scarce a commodity.
   51. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:05 PM (#3895534)
We're splitting hairs, though, I think.


No doubt in this case. However I did want to make the point WAR is great, not because it tells us who is better, (it doesn't), it tells us who is more valuable in terms of marginal value over replacement (which has a meaningful positional adjustment).
   52. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:31 PM (#3895560)
This is absurd, I would like to see Prince TRY to play 2B, or CF or 3B, just go ahead and try.


Why is this absurd? By your logic Wes Helms is a better player than Prince because he can play 3b. Ditto Carlos Gomez in CF or Alexi Casilla at 2b. I know this isn't your position on this subject. I would love to see any of these guys hit 50 HR in their early 20s or ever in fact....I'd even be happy if they slugged .650, for a month.
   53. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:36 PM (#3895565)
Srul:

His name is Ben Zobrist. Everything between Mr. and Zobrist was meant in a light-hearted fashion.
   54. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:36 PM (#3895567)
Zobrist is a wonderful player. Make no mistake and it is certainly worthy of debate if he is a better player than Prince. I'll argue against it, certainly for most year, but it is splitting hairs either way.

WAR might be the most important metric when it comes to creating your roster intelligently using the limited available money. If you are a GM with a unique ballpark that seeks to have a roster designed for run prevention as well as fast base runners and position flexibility, then Zobrist, without question is the more valuable player and perhaps the better overall player. If you are in Yankee stadium and you NEED a slugging lefty to rape the shallow RF wall, then Prince is the better player.
   55. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:47 PM (#3895577)
It is manifested in the replacement level for offense. If second basemen suddenly started hitting for a collective .880 OPS, Zobrist wouldn't be nearly as scarce a commodity.


But that would effect every player in the league, not just second basemen. Rrep is leaguewide replacement, not position adjusted. See Prince Fielder. He has the most PAs on the Brewers, and the highest Rrep. SS Betancourt has 83% of the PAs, and 83% of the Rrep. There is no position scarcity figured into that stat.
   56. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:56 PM (#3895591)
Why is this absurd? By your logic Wes Helms is a better player than Prince because he can play 3b. Ditto Carlos Gomez in CF or Alexi Casilla at 2b. I know this isn't your position on this subject. I would love to see any of these guys hit 50 HR in their early 20s or ever in fact....I'd even be happy if they slugged .650, for a month.


The comment you responded to is poorly worded, but I understood what he meant, and I think you are being intentionally obtuse here. Surely you don't believe the best players are the best hitters period full stop? Alex Rodriguez (162 OPS+) was a better player in 2000 than Jason Giambi (187 OPS+), and it's not controversial. Or do you disagree?

Fielder is a better player than Helms because the sum total of his offensive and defensive* contributions far outweigh Helms's. Zobrist is about equal to Fielder because his offensive and defensive contributions are about the same, if in a wildly different shape.

* including some positional adjustment, however you want to do it.
   57. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:43 PM (#3895631)
I think we'd be better off on focusing on what is the replacement level / when do we use that versus another baseline (average, etc....) w/ these arguments - though the number of posts here so far would dispute that.
   58. andrewberg Posted: August 08, 2011 at 09:06 PM (#3895645)
Maybe this is an easier question that my mind is allowing it to be, but what if a bunch of teams just decided to throw defense to the wind and play better hitters at prime defensive positions? Let's say the entire AL central decided to bench their 2B and played Jason Kubel, Carlos Quentin, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Billy Butler at 2B.

If hitting is measured against league average, the effect on league average would be small or non-existent, so 2B hitting WAR, in isolation, would not change. The positional adjustment would change, and comparing Zobrist's defense to position average would make him a more "valuable" defender. If I'm right about these premises, it would translate to a higher WAR (for hypo Zobrilla) if the change in positional adjustment was smaller than the attrition in overall position defense, and a lower WAR if the change in positional adjustment was larger than the attrition in overall position defense, right?
   59. Dan The Mediocre Posted: August 08, 2011 at 09:35 PM (#3895657)
But that would effect every player in the league, not just second basemen. Rrep is leaguewide replacement, not position adjusted. See Prince Fielder. He has the most PAs on the Brewers, and the highest Rrep. SS Betancourt has 83% of the PAs, and 83% of the Rrep. There is no position scarcity figured into that stat.


rPos is the one you want. There, the difference between Fielder and Betancourt is something like 16 runs per 500 PA.
   60. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2011 at 09:45 PM (#3895663)
Why is this absurd? By your logic Wes Helms is a better player than Prince because he can play 3b. Ditto Carlos Gomez in CF or Alexi Casilla at 2b. I know this isn't your position on this subject. I would love to see any of these guys hit 50 HR in their early 20s or ever in fact....I'd even be happy if they slugged .650, for a month.


No, what is absurd is your contention that best hitter = best player with seemingly no consideration given to defensive value.

Obviously Prince is a better player than Carlos Gomez - even if Gomez is better at every aspect of baseball except hitting- since hitting is hugely important and since the hitting gap between them is a vast unbridgeable chasm.

What is unclear is whether Zobrist or Prince is a better PLAYER than the other, the only way to conclude that Prince is a better PLAYER period full stop in the way that you have done, is to assign no weight whatsoever to fielding ability, baserunning etc.
   61. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:11 AM (#3895790)
I've taken the batting line for each position and calculated Extrapolated Runs per 434 outs (150 games) and subtracted the MLB-wide non-pitcher average, then added Tango's position-switch fielding (and wholly arbitrary catcher) adjustment. Voila:

Pos     XR     Fld     Tot
C    
8.0    12.5     4.5
1B    12.6   
-12.5     0.1
2B   
4.7     2.5   2.2
3B   
8.0     2.5   5.4
SS   
7.4     7.5     0.1
LF     0.0   
7.5   7.5  
CF     3.7     2.5     6.2
RF    10.3   
7.5     2.8
DH     3.5   
-17.5   -14.0 

This'd be more complete with baserunning split by position. Does anyone *do* that?

Unsurprisingly, LF and DH suck, and 1B is not special.
   62. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:35 AM (#3895810)
rPos is the one you want. There, the difference between Fielder and Betancourt is something like 16 runs per 500 PA.


Oy, I feel like I'm talking in circles.
   63. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:38 AM (#3895815)
It's because of this that I take my WAR with a huge grain of salt; it gives a quick idea of a player's performance, but to start parsing players to the tenth of a WAR point seems ludicrous to me, and to use solely WAR to make some specific judgment (which I have seen, comparing Player A to Player B, either for a season or for multiple seasons) is beyond ludicrous....

This is true for all stats, not just WAR. People seem to get this for WAR, because there are different constructions of them out there. But the same lesson applies for any metric.
   64. Dan The Mediocre Posted: August 09, 2011 at 01:32 AM (#3895936)
Oy, I feel like I'm talking in circles.


Yep. But you also forget that Rroe, Rbaser, and Rdp are all adjusted to a major league average rather than a positional average. I'm sure a difference between a 1B and a SS would also be there.
   65. cardsfanboy Posted: August 09, 2011 at 02:09 AM (#3896010)
Yep. But you also forget that Rroe, Rbaser, and Rdp are all adjusted to a major league average rather than a positional average. I'm sure a difference between a 1B and a SS would also be there.


This is a point I've never really considered. Until this thread, I was perfectly fine with thinking about base running as relative to average player, but there is a point to consider when you are looking at other positions. Jason Kendall was a great baserunner for a catcher, but for his career he's basically an average baserunner. He still gets bonus points over other catchers, but it could be argued that it's not enough since his running is not being compared to other catchers but all other position players.
   66. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 09, 2011 at 02:14 AM (#3896014)
Jason Kendall was a great baserunner for a catcher, but for his career he's basically an average baserunner. He still gets bonus points over other catchers, but it could be argued that it's not enough since his running is not being compared to other catchers but all other position players.


I don't see why it matters. If an average catcher is -5 vs the average player, and Kendall is +2, then he's +7 vs the average catcher, whether it's done in 1 step or 2.

edit: or to use real world numbers, Kendall is +1 for his career, Bengie Molina is -30. Does it really matter if they are compared to each other directly, or indirectly, through their ability vs the league average?
   67. Banta Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:30 AM (#3896053)
I think the problem I have with WAR is projectability, which isn't really fair to the stat, as this problem will occur with any stat that incorporates multiple elements into it. I had a long explanation written out about this, but I just deleted it since it was wordy and all that I'm really trying to say is every stat is subject to variance from the player's true talent level (which itself is always fluctuating). The more you add those stats together, the more variance there's going to be. Looking at something like WAR will always be neat for something quick and dirty but for any sort of insight, one will have to look at the component stats. Now, I think those component stats (or the emphasis one places on them) will change over time, but I don't think we can ever develop a single stat that can be anything more than descriptive (which WAR probably isn't even doing the best possible job of that). A predictive single stat seems impossible to create, which is what I think a lot of people expect out of WAR (I know I do at times). I want to be able to say "THAT'S A FIVE WIN PLAYER FOR 2012", but the more I think about it, the more I don't think that's reasonable to expect.

And the reason why big power guys get the money is that it SEEMS that big power is a skill that is subject to the least amount of variance.
   68. The Keith Law Blog Blah Blah (battlekow) Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:46 AM (#3896062)
Prince's last two home runs have really impressed me. Both pitches were legitimately in and not only did he hit square he absolutely crushed both. Just a wow moment only it happened twice.

I agree. I don't remember seeing him pull his hands in like that very often before. It was striking.
   69. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:27 AM (#3896088)
I think it is a great point to point out the variability in these skill sets and just shooting from the hip, it does seem power from a power hitter in his prime has less variability than say the skill set of a Zobrist. Of course Prince failed to slug even .500 in 2010, was even out slugged by Gallardo a pitcher.

One thing Fielder has over nearly everyone in terms of 162 game reliability is incredible durability. He is always in the lineup.

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