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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hall of Fame: Why Tom Verducci won’t vote for steroid users | SI.com

Some people don’t know how to use a check book. That doesn’t mean nobody should have a checking account.

Wins Above Replacement

Like RBIs and saves, Wins Above Replacement is a semi-junk stat. Bill James has no use for it, yet some writers wield it incessantly. It is a measurement of nothing. It is an approximation, an attempt to roll everything about a player into one number. So it’s useful as a rule of thumb, like walking off the distance between two points and using your strides to “calculate” the distance. It tells you something, but I don’t want my contractor building my house like that. Yet writers are using WAR as an exact measurement, including the folly of using numbers after decimal points to split hairs. If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:20 PM | 125 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, steroids

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   1. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:25 PM (#5381762)
Good lord, he won't use WAR but then gives Fred McGriff an extra 70 home runs. Yeah, let's talk about junk stats Tommy.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:38 PM (#5381779)
I agree with the premise that Player A having a WAR of 74.9 vs Player B having a WAR of 73.8 doesn't necessarily mean that Player A (Whitaker) is better than Player B (Jackson), especially with defense being subject to significant differences even among the most popular analyst-friendly methods.

The bigger thing I think it means is that if players of similar WAR are viewed as a solid mid-tier first-ballot Hall of Famer vs being bounced off the ballot after receiving 3% of the vote, maybe the one-and-done candidate needs further review to understand his case better.
   3. ReggieThomasLives Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:39 PM (#5381780)
He thinks that clean Bonds would have "only' hit 599 HRs, and still won't vote for him.
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:41 PM (#5381782)
Here was Verducci's ballot last year, FWIW:

Griffey
Bagwell
Hoffman
Kent
McGriff
Mussina
Piazza
Raines
Schilling


   5. ReggieThomasLives Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:47 PM (#5381790)
I do agree WAR can at times obscure rather than reveal. If you are a GM it's useful to know a players value vs. an easily available replacement, but you also want to know the shape of the value. Is he good on defense, the bases, getting on base, hitting for power? Where his value lies dictates the usage you can get out of a player. For example a 2 WAR player might be a 1.5 WAR player if platooned, so in the right platoon you can use them to create a 2.5 WAR position.

Trumbo is a great example. He was a terrible fit for the Diamondbacks because they have few DH games, first base is blocked by Goldschmidt, so they were forced to play him in the outfield where his negative defensive value sapped the value of his bat. But move him to an AL team where he can be a 1B/DH and he potentially can be a league average player, even with his poor OBP.

And I think WAR is a weak metric for HOF analysis. I don't like crediting players with greater achievement because they hung on for 5 years as a below average player. It's again why I think peak WAA is a better summary stat of a players career value, essentially how much better than average did they get at during their prime years?
   6. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:54 PM (#5381798)
#5 is a reasonable, well-thought out take on the flaws of WAR and ways to deal with it in Hall of Fame voting. You will never get a TV show that way Reggie.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:57 PM (#5381801)
If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.

Remember, kids, any metric that doesn't confirm your preconceived notions is wrong!
   8. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:57 PM (#5381802)
He thinks that clean Bonds would have "only' hit 599 HRs, and still won't vote for him.
Better yet - "clean" Bonds would've hit 599 HRs, had 3 MVPs, 8 GGs, and something more than 450 SB (he had 445 thru age-33).
   9. JJ1986 Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:02 PM (#5381808)
If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.
Abreu and Berra have virtually the same WAR, while Abreu has 1700 more PAs. Same for Bagwell and DiMaggio. I think the stat considers Berra and Joe to be better players.
   10. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:08 PM (#5381820)
And I think WAR is a weak metric for HOF analysis. I don't like crediting players with greater achievement because they hung on for 5 years as a below average player.
Does anyone look only at WAR when voting?
If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.
This comes from a complete misunderstanding of WAR.

1. These players are randomly selected so that one has slightly more value than the other. Is it significant that, say Abreu's career WAR is 0.4 higher than Berra's? No one would say that.
2. WAR is a counting stat, and in 2 of these groupings (Abreu-Berra, Bagwell-DiMaggio) one player has 1700+ more PA than the other; in DiMaggio's case, those PAs come in the prime of his career. So no - no one thinks Abreu is better than Berra, or Bagwell is better than DiMaggio no matter what their WAR values say.
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:15 PM (#5381826)
Abreu and Berra have virtually the same WAR, while Abreu has 1700 more PAs. Same for Bagwell and DiMaggio. I think the stat considers Berra and Joe to be better players.


So it was war, not WAR that makes DiMaggio's numbers look not as good as Bagawell.
   12. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:16 PM (#5381829)
Wins Above Replacement is a semi-junk stat. Bill James has no use for it, yet some writers wield it incessantly.
Bill James' writing has brought a greater appreciation of the "why" of baseball to many people. For that, he should be applauded.

But that doesn't make him the final authority on all things baseball-related.
   13. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:21 PM (#5381837)
I don't get the whole 'hurt by steroids' argument about McGriff. If Verducc wants to argue that McGriff had poorer stats because the pitchers he faced were roided up, fine, I agree. But he is basically saying if McGriff used, and had better stats, then he would be a shoo-in for the HoF....but then Verducci wouldn't vote for him because he used.
   14. Los Angeles El Hombre de Anaheim Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:23 PM (#5381840)
Bill James' writing has brought a greater appreciation of the "why" of baseball to many people. For that, he should be applauded.

But that doesn't make him the final authority on all things baseball-related.
Moreover, James has personal stake in holistic metrics. His Win Shares is a direct competitor of WAR in the marketplace of ideas.
   15. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:26 PM (#5381844)
Verducci comes off as a real joyless, condescending prick here.
   16. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:30 PM (#5381851)
I agree with the premise that Player A having a WAR of 74.9 vs Player B having a WAR of 73.8 doesn't necessarily mean that Player A (Whitaker) is better than Player B (Jackson)


The number of pro-WAR people who I've heard actually say things like "Player A's WAR is 74.9, Player B's is 73.8; therefore, Player A is better" is not even close to the number of anti-WAR people I've heard claim that's all pro-WAR people do.

   17. Hank G. Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:34 PM (#5381855)
Moreover, James has personal stake in holistic metrics. His Win Shares is a direct competitor of WAR in the marketplace of ideas.


Exactly. Win Shares tries to measure the same thing. The major differences are that Win Shares start at zero rather than at replacement level, and the number of wins is multiplied by three for some weird reason I have never been able to ascertain.
   18. AROM Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:40 PM (#5381860)
Abreu and Berra have virtually the same WAR, while Abreu has 1700 more PAs. Same for Bagwell and DiMaggio. I think the stat considers Berra and Joe to be better players.


More WAR does not mean "better player" any more than Graig Nettles' 390 homeruns makes him a better power hitter than say, Johnny Mize's 359.

We have discussed many times the reasons catchers can't put up the same WAR totals that other positions can. The demands of the position mean they can't play every day and often have shorter careers. For Bagwell vs. DiMaggio, Joe missed 3 seasons out of his peak for WW2. Had he played those years he's over 90 WAR and maybe reaches 100.

As for Lou and Reggie, Reggie was one of my favorites but I'm open to the idea Lou was equally or more valuable. Reggie beats him on peak - Young Reggie was a dominant hitter but also a pretty good outfielder who could run. Late career Reggie, while the Reggie I knew and loved, wasn't all that valuable. He only contributed with the bat, and the bat wasn't that great all the time.

Whitaker was consistent and valuable throughout his career.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:44 PM (#5381866)
I agree with the premise that Player A having a WAR of 74.9 vs Player B having a WAR of 73.8 doesn't necessarily mean that Player A (Whitaker) is better than Player B (Jackson), especially with defense being subject to significant differences even among the most popular analyst-friendly methods.


Has anyone ever made that argument? Is this another one of those strawman arguments that people who don't understand the stat, like to pretend that others are making. Heck on this board alone we are comparing Andruw Jones (61 War) and Jim Edmonds (60.3 War) to Scott Rolen (70.0 War).


For the most part, the article wasn't horrible(it was bad, don't get me wrong, but there were some not bad moments) . I don't agree with his steroid stance, but getting past that, he talks about his definition of hofer...

I generally vote for players who were among the very best in the game for roughly a decade and have major career numbers. Exceptions exist, such as someone with a Sandy Koufax-like peak. For instance, when Clayton Kershaw throws his first pitch of this season—it will mark his 10th season, the minimum for Hall eligibility—he will have earned my Hall of Fame vote


One of the things I like to look at from a player for hof consideration, is their ten best years and how that compares to everyone else.


His comment on Edgar though was weird, he talks about how he's similar to one and done candidates like Moises Alou and Will Clark, then pulls out an ops+ of 140 as an elite hitter which includes Edgar, and uses it to again argue for McGriff..... (he doesn't seem to grasp how important obp is over batting average)
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:48 PM (#5381871)
Exactly. Win Shares tries to measure the same thing. The major differences are that Win Shares start at zero rather than at replacement level, and the number of wins is multiplied by three for some weird reason I have never been able to ascertain.


For the same reason that ops+ and era+ are centered on 100, it looks better and is easier to grasp. I loved win shares, no idea if it's still good, but I like the fact that it makes a few assumptions, which is based upon the fact that "we don't know everything, so there is probably value here that we haven't figured out yet, and let's hedge it on the side of error that is more likely." Still, without an open source access to it, it's not going to be anything that anyone uses with regularity. Same with Warp or Vorp or whatever. Heck keep it black box, just license it out for free to bb-ref and it might have a chance of catching on.

   21. Ginger Nut Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:51 PM (#5381874)
These players are randomly selected so that one has slightly more value than the other. Is it significant that, say Abreu's career WAR is 0.4 higher than Berra's? No one would say that.


In addition, the pairs are set up so that the ostensibly better player in each case is someone whose fame is greatly enhanced by personality and circumstance, whereas the ostensibly worse player is someone lacking an outsized media persona who has been underrated to various degrees. Berra, Dimaggio, and Reggie were all great players, but they have all become far more hugely famous as pop-culture celebrities, which is part of what makes the comparisons seem initially absurd. But are they so absurd?

Jeff Bagwell is one of the greatest first basemen of all time. Having a comparable WAR to Bagwell indicates greatness, not mediocrity. Meanwhile, Dimaggio was obviously a great player and a no-doubt hall of famer, but he's at best the 5th greatest centre fielder of all time (Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Griffey) and maybe 7th (Speaker, Trout). That's about where Bagwell would land in the list of all-time first basemen. So why is it weird to compare Dimaggio to Bagwell? Dimaggio had a higher peak and lost the three prime seasons to WW2, but Bagwell was an absolutely devastating hitter and looking at their overall offensive numbers even without WAR, they are not that far apart (and it's not like Dimaggio played in a low-offence era).

I think the Lou Whitaker-Reggie jackson comparison works the same way. Reggie was a huge, outsized personality, and Whitaker was not a celebrity with a candy bar hitting WS home runs for the New York Yankees. But Whitaker's lifetime OBP was .363, Jackson .356. Jackson had a lot more power, but Whitaker played second base. Whitaker has 15.4 lifetime dWar, while Jackson has -17.2. It seems obvious that bbref WAR sees a lot of Whitaker's value in defence. I don't think it's absurd to say that Whitaker was about as valuable a player as Jackson over the course of their careers. Whitaker was a great player.
   22. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:02 PM (#5381891)
Speaker is miles better than Griffey, right?
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:08 PM (#5381895)

Speaker is miles better than Griffey, right?


Oh yeah. There's a big gap between Spoke and whoever you have at No. 5 (other than Charleston).

   24. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:08 PM (#5381896)
If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.


This is clearly a crappy argument. I get the argument against blindly using a stat, which is of course a good argument, but I don't think I've ever in my entire life on this planet seen someone use a cumulative stat as the only argument between two players (outside of maybe most wins in a decade)


Yogi Berra a catcher with 2120 games, 8359 pa, 59.5 war (and a 34.0 WAA) vs Bobby Abreu a rightfielder with 2425 games, 10,081 pa and 59.9 War, (and 28.0) WAA. Is there anyone with a brain that would look at just those numbers and conclude that Abreu was the better player? (Note I consider WAA to be War, it's the same thing just in a different format) It doesn't take any debating skills to argue for Yogi over Abreu. It's right there in the numbers.


I'll leave Whitaker vs Jackson alone now.


The Dimaggio vs Bagwell is the same argument as the Berra vs Abreu...
Dimaggio, 1736 games, 7672 pa, 78.1 war, 54.5 waa.(and 3 years in his prime in the military) vs Bagwell 2150 games, 9431 pa, 79.6 war, 51.8 Waa.... nobody with a brain is going to argue Bagwell was better than Dimaggio because of a difference of 1.5 war.

Of course the funny part is he's talking about three hugely famous players, who's fame might have been helped by playing in New York, and comparing them to players who were relatively obscured is arguing the "fame" argument.

The fact that Whitaker was probably better than Jackson over their careers is kinda the point of a stat like war is hoping to illustrate.
   25. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:11 PM (#5381899)
There's a stat that says that Fred McGriff was just as good as Lou Gehrig. Home runs. What junk.
   26. Fancy Pants with a clinging marmoset on his Handle Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:13 PM (#5381901)
Speaker is miles better than Griffey, right?

Tris Speaker is what Griffey could have been if he had a post-30 career good enough for the HoF by itself, instead of basically nothing. So yes.
   27. Booey Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:21 PM (#5381907)
I liked him using Dan Naulty's quote to show that yes, even at the time everyone knew steroids were cheating...while conveniently glossing over an important detail in that quote, the same detail that everyone who makes that argument seems to ignore:

“I was a full blown cheater and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principals that were laid down within the rules. Whether they were explicitly stated that I shouldn’t use speed or testosterone didn’t need to be stated. I understood I was violating mainly implicit principals."

Hmmm...My memory is hazy, but I'm pretty such others have compared roids to amps before...
   28. Los Angeles El Hombre de Anaheim Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:23 PM (#5381911)
I loved win shares, no idea if it's still good, but I like the fact that it makes a few assumptions, which is based upon the fact that "we don't know everything, so there is probably value here that we haven't figured out yet, and let's hedge it on the side of error that is more likely." Still, without an open source access to it, it's not going to be anything that anyone uses with regularity.
That was exactly my reaction. When the book came out, I read it through, then again. but couldn't figure why the multiplier was there. It seemed arbitrary at best, and dumb at worst. James says he allows for unknowables and errors, but if you're going to throw in a multiplier to make things "easier", then you're also multiplying those error factors. I didn't get it then, and I still don't now.

And I hate to say it, since Bill James has done so much to help shape the way I process information in a very real way in life, but Bill James now is not quite the same great Bill James from then.
   29. dlf Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:29 PM (#5381920)
Still, without an open source access to [Win Shares], it's not going to be anything that anyone uses with regularity.



While I'd love to see it at bb-ref, it is available at Baseball Gauge: link.

...

Win Shares tries to measure the same thing. The major differences are that Win Shares start at zero rather than at replacement level


I'd suggest that the biggest difference isn't this, but rather the decision to base it on team wins and make everything add up at a seasonal level.
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:31 PM (#5381923)
It was arbitrary, he flat out states that it was. His argument is that the numbers look better and with the larger number(30 for a top season instead of 10 that you get in war) that people don't focus on the decimal places...It's just an aesthetic decision. I think he thinks that a 30 vs 27 is a bit more clearer than a 10 vs 9.

Again, it's the same reason era+ and ops+ are scaled to 100, it just makes things easier to comprehend for more people.
   31. Walt Davis Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:35 PM (#5381932)
Yep, Whitaker-Reggie is one of the interesting comparisons we'd never even consider if it wasn't for WAR. Kenny Lofton as a potential HoFer would have never occurred to me.

I've said it dozens of times, I've demonstrated it dozens of times, "peak WAA" doesn't get you anywhere that WAR doesn't. I'm tired of that empty claim until you actually back it up with analysis. If you want to make a prime vs. career argument, just make a prime vs career argument.

Oh heck, one final time ...

Reggie had some below-average work at the end. His "peak WAA" was 44 in in 8800 PA. His "peak WAR" was 74. Reggie added 2600 PA of replacement level, leaving his career WAR at 74 but his career WAA down to 35. Whitaker never had a below-average season (except in his first 37 PA). Therefore his "peak WAA" is 42 and "peak WAR" is 75 in nearly 10,000 PA. That's certainly clarified things. Compare "peak WAA" and they're the same. Compare "peak WAR" and they're the same. Compare career WAR and they're the same. The only stat differs is career WAA because (per WAR), Reggie wasted everybody's time for 4 years. If you don't want to count that against Reggie (that's fine) then ignore career WAA and just use career WAR.

Yogi also was essentially never below average. He had -0.8 WAA at 37 but +0.8 WAA at 38 ... then went 2 for 9 for the Mets. So 60 peak/career WAR, 34 peak/career WAA. Abreu had some at the front and at the back ... his "peak" is 57/32 which doesn't separate him and Berra; his career WAR is 60 but his WAA drops to 28. So compare them by career WAR not career WAA.

Bagwell-DiMaggio is the problem of JoeD missing 3 prime years for the war. Different kettle of fish.

Anyway, it's fairly straightforward WAR math. If a guy added a bunch of below-average PA, that means those seasons essentially added nothing to his career WAR. Therefore career WAR is peak WAR and peak WAA is just a re-centered version of peak WAR, they tell you the same thing. If a guy didn't have those below-average seasons, then his career WAR and peak WAR are defined in the same way and both are telling you the same as their WAA counterparts.

I further very much dislike this usage of "peak." Historically "peak" has been used to refer to a roughly 5-year period not 13-15-20 seasons of a player's career. (WAR7 of course uses 7 years non-consecutive which is sort of a cherry-picked peak.) "Peak" obviously refers to the very top, the best the player ever was (on a reasonably consistent basis). Once upone a time, maybe in a HoM thread, somebody suggested the use of "prime" for these longer time frames. Tim Raines was at his peak from 1983-1987. His "prime" was 1981 to 1993 (give or take). Or arguably one sets an arbitrary limit on prime (10 years, 12 years).

If you want to pursue a peak/prime is more important than career argument, then do so. It won't really matter if you use WAR or WAA for this argument. The gap in two players' prime WAR and WAA will be identical (give or take, based on PAs and league differentials) and then the career guy either catches up in career WAR or doesn't (this would generally also make them equal in career WAA but that may be more a matter of the peak player falling back to the career player rather than the career player catching up.) No matter how you decide to measure it, you're still going to have to discuss whether 60 WAR in 12 years then nothing is better than 50 WAR in 12 years then 10 WAR in 5 years (while the other player was adding nothing).

Can you present one single comparison where "peak" WAA/WAR leads you to a markedly different conclusion than career WAR without relying on a peak vs. career argument?

By the way, I prefer prime over career so I'm not asking you to defend that. I'm asking you to come up with a case where your "peak WAA" leads us to a different conclusion than peak WAR and a different conclusion than career WAR that doesn't boil down to "then player B went on to add value while player A did not." (I should probably add some caveat to cover McGwire, Walker, etc. with long but injury riddled careers, giving them long "peaks" by season but not so much by PA.)
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:40 PM (#5381933)
Can you present one single comparison where "peak" WAA/WAR leads you to a markedly different conclusion than career WAR without relying on a peak vs. career argument?


I missed post five, I had no idea what you were railing against for a minute there... I don't even understand what peak WAA could be. I get using WAA and using WAA removing any negative seasons from the mix, but no clue what the hell someone could mean by peak WAA.
   33. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:42 PM (#5381936)
the number of wins is multiplied by three for some weird reason I have never been able to ascertain.


I thought James did that mainly because Win Share totals would more closely match pitcher win totals.
   34. Rob_Wood Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:08 PM (#5381964)
Verducci comes off as a real joyless, condescending prick here.


This is the vibe Verducci gives off on MLB Network as well. I like him, but he is frequently kind of a jerk.

Regarding Verducci's "anti-WAR" rant, he has a point but he over-sells it. As many have said above, even the most pro-SABR proponent would never use WAR (or any stat) in the way Verducci implies. There are "error bars" around many if not all of the deductive-links underlying WAR (and Win Shares, etc.). Maybe these error-bars cancel out over time or maybe they are exacerbated over time. Either way, basing any judgment solely upon career WAR is silly.

In addition to the "WAR vs. WAA" or "peak career WAR" vs. "peak career WAA" issues that Walt elucidates above, there is an important and separate issue of whether a single-season replacement level should be propagated over the course of a player's career in the calculation of "career WAR". Soon after Win Shares and WAR become popular, several analysts suggested that the proper "replacement level" in value comparisons should decline over time. So rather than the ten-year-replacement-level being equal to 10*one-year-replacement-level, it should instead be 8 times it (or whatever). It is easier for a GM to find a quality replacement for a player over 5 years than over 1 year. In the "limit" (say 20+ years), replacement-level approaches league-average. Different mathematical approaches were utilized but I don't think anything really caught on in this regard.

As a shorthand, some people use something akin to WAA+WAR which essentially double-counts a player's above-average contribution compared to his below-average-but-above-replacement-level contributions. And, following in Bill James's footsteps, people like Hall-of-Merit founder Joe Dimino have calculated career pennant-added values for players based upon their seasonal WAA and WAR figures.
   35. Esoteric Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:14 PM (#5381971)
I am generally less concerned with the rationales used by BBWAA HOF voters than I am with their final ballots. Verducci's column may bug you, but his past and present ballots have been entirely defensible, especially to those of us who still think people like Clemens and Bonds should be denied entry into the Hall for their crimes against the integrity of the game.
   36. JohnQ Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:43 PM (#5381993)
I'm always somewhat shocked at how terrible baseball reporters are at framing a simple sound logical arguments without straw-man arguments and logical fallacies. I don't know if they're just being disingenuous or they're just dumb.

He chose to discredit WAR by comparing 3 huge HOF oversized personalities (Berra, R. Jackson and Dimaggio) against 3 very underrated players in (Bagwell, Whitaker and Abreu)

Anybody can play that game. Dave Kingman had more HR than Piazza, Ripken, Snider, Dawson, B. Willaims, Kaline, Bench, Fisk, Berra, Dimaggio and Greenberg. That doesn't make HR a "junk-stat"

Juan Pierre had more hits than Joe Dimaggio, that doesn't make hits a junk-stat. Mark Grudzielanek had more doubles that Joe Dimaggio, that doesn't make doubles a "junk-stat". Mickey Hatcher had a higher lifetime BA than R. Jackson. etc.

Dimaggio lost 3 years during his prime because of WW2 and as it is his Peak 7 seasons of WAR was 51.0. Most likely he'd have something like a 100 WAR without WW2.

Berrra was catcher so naturally he's going to lose playing time each season which will affect his overall WAR numbers. Abreu had about 2000 more plate appearances. Also Berra was a great power hitter and fielder but I think he was a tad overrated because of those MVP awards. T. Williams should have won the 1951 award. Minoso, Avilia and T. Williams were the best players in 1954. 1955 was the oddest one. Mantle should have won the MVP easily that year.

And Bobby Abreu was a very underrated player. .395 lifetime on-base%, .870 ops, 1476 BB 20th all time, 3979 times on base 47th all time.

As far as R. Jackson vs. L. Whitaker. Whitaker was just massively underrated. Reggie also padded a lot of his HR & RBI stats from 1983-87 when he was a pretty lousy DH. But Verducci doesn't even differentiate between peak verse career value. If you look at that, R. Jackson has the clear advantage: Reggie Peak 7 (46.8), Lou Peak 7 (37.8)
   37. ReggieThomasLives Posted: January 11, 2017 at 06:07 PM (#5382008)
I missed post five, I had no idea what you were railing against for a minute there... I don't even understand what peak WAA could be. I get using WAA and using WAA removing any negative seasons from the mix, but no clue what the hell someone could mean by peak WAA


The idea is that a player may have been brought up when they were too young, or may have been allowed to play too long, and that neither of those decisions should affect how we see them as HOF candidates. So start adding up WAA from their first positive season, and keep adding it until their WAA reaches it's highest level, ie. "peaks". Essentially the farther above average a player reaches, the greater they were as a player.

And we don't ignore negative (below average) seasons. If they occur at 30 years old and the player still puts up more above average seasons they are counted. We are just clipping the ends to focus on their prime years.

Jeter is a great example, his last 5 years were years he and the Yankees wanted him to play (and that he was paid a large sum of money to play). His WAA shouldn't be docked for those seasons.

Yount is another good example. He was 2.8 wins below average by the end of his age 20 season, which means he was a hellofa player to make the majors at 18 years old. His total WAA is 37.0, but his peak WAA is 40.8.

For Walt, I think guys like Holiday and McGwire are good examples of players who peak WAA treats better than WAR7/JAWS, and it's because of incomplete seasons (whether injury, suspension, strike, etc). I've always disliked the argument that two players had similar "peaks" because their WAR7 is similar. Palmerio has a WAR7 of 38.7, McGwire 41.8, yet Palmerio averaged 5.3 WAR per 150 games during that "peak", while McGwire average 6.8 WAR per 150 games during his. How can a peak measure be so wrong? And why 7 seasons, why not 6 or 5 or 10?

Peak WAA is just a better HOF value measure than JAWS and thats how I intended it . It doesn't care how long the peak or career was or how high it was, simply how much above average the player's career peaked at. And as a bonus it's easy to calculate and compare. A player who played for 10 years at 4 wins better than average (63 WAR) should have a far better HOF case than a player who played 20 seasons at 1 win above average (66 WAR).
   38. QLE Posted: January 11, 2017 at 06:35 PM (#5382016)
I agree with the premise that Player A having a WAR of 74.9 vs Player B having a WAR of 73.8 doesn't necessarily mean that Player A (Whitaker) is better than Player B (Jackson), especially with defense being subject to significant differences even among the most popular analyst-friendly methods.


For that matter, unless you're a more or less pure career counter with WAR, WAR itself demonstrates that point.

Looking at the ten best seasons by WAR for Whitaker and Jackson:

Whitaker: 6.7, 6.7, 5.4, 5.3, 4.7, 4.5, 4.5, 4.4, 4.3, 4.1
Jackson: 9.2, 7.8, 6.7, 6.5, 5.7, 5.6, 5.3, 5.2, 4.7, 4.5

Even if we were to adjust these to reflect the 1972 and 1981 strikes (with asterisks to mark the adjustments):

Whitaker: 6.7, 6.7, 5.7*, 5.4, 5.4, 4.7, 4.5, 4.5, 4.4, 4.3
Jackson: 9.2, 7.8, 6.7, 6.5, 5.8*, 5.7, 5.3, 5.2, 4.7, 4.5

This is even notable based on position: among right fielders, Jackson has the ninth-best ten-year prime unadjusted, while Whitaker is eighteenth among second basemen.

The difference between the two is Jackson goes downhill rather fast after these ten seasons (only four in which he was above an average player), while Whitaker never got that bad (the only year he was below-average was the cup of coffee he had to start his career).

That said, Whitaker is, even by this method, a clear HOFer- just one whose relative rating will be affected by how you value peak vs. prime vs. career.

As for the Abreu-Berra comparison: The impression I have at this point is that there's basically no one left who uses WAR and doesn't understand that catchers deserve a bonus because of the nature of their position, so whatever point Verducci's trying to make is invalid.
   39. JohnQ Posted: January 11, 2017 at 06:50 PM (#5382024)
It seems like Verducci also leaves out the fact that that McGriff was a lousy fielder which affected his lifetime numbers. I don't see how steroids would have helped his defense.
   40. TJ Posted: January 11, 2017 at 07:26 PM (#5382045)
Re: Jackson vs Whitaker.

Comparing second basemen to corner outfielders is comparing apples and doorknobs. A second baseman who hit and fielded like Jackson would be moved to a corner outfield position in the minors to get his bat in the lineup and defense isn't so important, while a corner outfielder who hit like Whitaker would be moved to the infield if he could handle it defensively and his bat would have more impact.

Are ridiculous comps like this the new Verducci Effect?
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 07:39 PM (#5382051)
For that matter, unless you're a more or less pure career counter with WAR, WAR itself demonstrates that point.

Looking at the ten best seasons by WAR for Whitaker and Jackson:

Whitaker: 6.7, 6.7, 5.4, 5.3, 4.7, 4.5, 4.5, 4.4, 4.3, 4.1
Jackson: 9.2, 7.8, 6.7, 6.5, 5.7, 5.6, 5.3, 5.2, 4.7, 4.5


yep, imagine if you had two players with 100 career rbi,

one guy went

140, 140, 130, 130, 120, 110, 100, 80, 50.
vs
a guy who did
110, 105, 100, 95, 90, 85, 80, 80, 75, 75, 75, 30....would anyone really consider them equal if there was a reason to think RBI was a stat that actually told a story?
   42. John DiFool2 Posted: January 11, 2017 at 07:48 PM (#5382054)
Speaker is miles better than Griffey, right?


Tris Speaker is what Griffey could have been if he had a post-30 career good enough for the HoF by itself, instead of basically nothing. So yes.


Unless you timeline. Speaker in today's talent rich league would probably be better than Lofton I'd say, but probably not a ton better.
   43. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: January 11, 2017 at 07:56 PM (#5382056)
If you pull an unflattering comparison out of your ass and declare "timelining," maybe. Chain every major league season in history MLE-style, as done by Clay Davenport, and Speaker drops from 127 WAR all the way to... 104.
   44. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 08:59 PM (#5382084)
Not sure which is more annoying, timeliners or wpa'ers.... at least the cult of the WPA has died it's deserved death.
   45. Captain Supporter Posted: January 11, 2017 at 09:05 PM (#5382086)

And hopefully the cult of WAR will soon follow.
   46. oscar madisox Posted: January 11, 2017 at 10:02 PM (#5382095)
I didn't - and won't - read the article. Does Verducci actually say who he voted for this year?
   47. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 10:05 PM (#5382097)
And hopefully the cult of WAR will soon follow.


Don't see that happening, one number to include offense, defense, position and playing time is a pretty big step... I don't see any reason to get away from it.


Sure it could use refinements, but it's pretty good for the most part. But I mean, c'mon there are the cult of Jeter, who actually think he wasn't the worst defensive shortstop in history. It's like these people have never seen him play, because it was obvious in 2000 that he was a crappy shortstop to anyone who had seen anyone play a quality shortstop, that Jeter was crap defensively. Yet you still get these morons who think that somehow he wasn't the worst defensive shortstop in baseball history... it's pretty sad, some of these people can even turn on a computer. Fortunately we don't have any of those people around here. Most people around here realize that the statistical analysis confirms what anyone with eyes could see about Jeter's defense, that he was piss poor, made horrible decisions, and that the hop throw alone probably cost him 10 runs a year easily, as he would make the play and the runner would be safe by a step, instead of just planting and throwing the guy out.
   48. Cooper Nielson Posted: January 12, 2017 at 05:31 AM (#5382136)
He chose to discredit WAR by comparing 3 huge HOF oversized personalities (Berra, R. Jackson and Dimaggio) against 3 very underrated players in (Bagwell, Whitaker and Abreu)

Anybody can play that game. Dave Kingman had more HR than Piazza, Ripken, Snider, Dawson, B. Willaims, Kaline, Bench, Fisk, Berra, Dimaggio and Greenberg. That doesn't make HR a "junk-stat"

Juan Pierre had more hits than Joe Dimaggio, that doesn't make hits a junk-stat. Mark Grudzielanek had more doubles that Joe Dimaggio, that doesn't make doubles a "junk-stat". Mickey Hatcher had a higher lifetime BA than R. Jackson. etc.


In Verducci's defense, neither HR nor hits has ever been put forth as a comprehensive stat that measures the "value" of a player's entire game -- hitting, fielding, running, and pitching combined (park and league adjusted).

Theoretically, WAR is supposed to tell you who had the better/more valuable season or career, in terms of contributions to team wins. But it's necessarily theoretical, approximate, and imperfect. HR and hits, on the other hand, measure actual things that happen in games. They're not theoretical or arbitrary (OK, there's some gray area between hits and errors), they are "facts."

Dave Kingman had more HR than Hank Greenberg, Juan Pierre had more hits than Joe DiMaggio. Those are indisputable facts. But did Bobby Abreu create more wins for his teams than Yogi Berra? Hell if I know. WAR makes that claim, but it's a couple degrees removed from the "facts."

Plus, Verducci called WAR a semi-junk stat. That's still hyperbole (most people, of course, will focus on the half that says "junk"), but this part isn't so wrong: "It is a measurement of nothing. It is an approximation, an attempt to roll everything about a player into one number. So it’s useful as a rule of thumb ... It tells you something, but ..."

Though I wouldn't call WAR a junk stat or even a semi-junk stat, I do think Verducci's argument is... semi-valid.
   49. villageidiom Posted: January 12, 2017 at 07:16 AM (#5382139)
WAR makes that claim, but it's a couple degrees removed from the "facts."
WAR doesn't make that claim. Nor do the people who created WAR or its similar stats.

That claim is made either by people who don't understand WAR enough to know the level of imprecision in it, or by people who know but don't care because the imprecision negates the point they want to make. The former are using it blindly, and Verducci is correct that writers doing so are fools. (The latter are worse, but aren't the subject of Verducci's derision.)

Those who are looking at PA totals to put his WAR comparisons in context are making Verducci's point. You're not using WAR blindly, and you are reaching a different (and better) conclusion than if you had been using it blindly.

Most of the people arguing against Verducci here don't seem to know they are actually arguing for him.
   50. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 07:53 AM (#5382144)
Better yet - "clean" Bonds would've hit 599 HRs, had 3 MVPs, 8 GGs, and something more than 450 SB (he had 445 thru age-33).

With all due respect, this is looking away when it comes to the real reason Bonds has not been elected to the HOF. Voters are aware of what Barry did pre-steroid. He's not being elected because he was a cheat for a number of years. The same thing could be said about Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was great before 1919 World Series (and afterward). And the answer to that when it comes to honors is: so what? Ditto, Barry, is many voters way of looking at it.
   51. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 12, 2017 at 09:19 AM (#5382185)
Those who are looking at PA totals to put his WAR comparisons in context are making Verducci's point. You're not using WAR blindly, and you are reaching a different (and better) conclusion than if you had been using it blindly.

Verducci's point is to discredit WAR by using a strawman. Nobody is claiming that Abreu was better than Dimaggio, but for some reason Verducci likes to pretend that some people are using it that blindly. By using the strawman (and hanging onto Bill James' supposed criticism of WAR), he's trying to argue that WAR has no value at all.
   52. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 12, 2017 at 09:31 AM (#5382191)
Better yet - "clean" Bonds would've hit 599 HRs, had 3 MVPs, 8 GGs, and something more than 450 SB (he had 445 thru age-33).

With all due respect, this is looking away when it comes to the real reason Bonds has not been elected to the HOF. Voters are aware of what Barry did pre-steroid. He's not being elected because he was a cheat for a number of years. The same thing could be said about Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was great before 1919 World Series (and afterward). And the answer to that when it comes to honors is: so what? Ditto, Barry, is many voters way of looking at it.
With all due respect, this has nothing to do with the price of tea in China.

Verducci is arguing that McGriff is cheated because his stats don't look as good beside the "steroid cheats" (like he knows whether McGriff used or not), because the "steroid cheats" didn't age like "normal" players. He makes this point by arguing "steroid McGriff" (McGriff thru age-33 plus Bonds' post-33 aging curve) would somehow compare to "clean Bonds" (Bonds thru 33 plus a "normal" aging curve). But "steroid McGriff" still doesn't compare to "clean Bonds", and "clean Bonds" is still inner-circle HOF.

My post has nothing to do with how voters viewed Bonds "pre-steroids"; it's pointing out how flawed his whole "McGriff was cheated by steroids" argument is.
   53. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 09:35 AM (#5382195)
My point is that many voters are voting like I characterized. The quote I referenced is a springboard to that. It explains why they aren't electing him. Your point doesn't.
   54. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 09:55 AM (#5382216)
With all due respect, this is looking away when it comes to the real reason Bonds has not been elected to the HOF. Voters are aware of what Barry did pre-steroid. He's not being elected because he was a cheat for a number of years. The same thing could be said about Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was great before 1919 World Series (and afterward). And the answer to that when it comes to honors is: so what? Ditto, Barry, is many voters way of looking at it.


That's true for Bonds. Jackson, not so much since he's been ineligible for votes. I'm curious as to how the vote would have gone if baseball had separated the punishments - say he's not allowed to be part of the game, but eligible for an award on past accomplishments. Probably would vary over time - maybe the earliest voters would say no, but at some point the perceptions seemed to shift to Joe being a tragic figure who made a mistake that he didn't really understand. And then he gave the money back and hit .390 in the WS. Maybe at some point the voters are sympathetic enough to vote him in.

I think there's a sizeable number of voters who would have put Pete Rose in over the years. Probably less now than a decade ago. He may have bet on games but he had 4000 hits and played hard every day and never did steroids. Well, maybe he did do steroids but at least he didn't use them to hit homeruns like these disreputable moderns!
   55. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:19 AM (#5382226)
To go a bit further, all positive WAR seasons:

Lou: 6.7, 6.7, 5.4, 5.3, 4.7, 4.5, 4.5, 4.4, 4.3, 4.1, 3.8, 3.8, 3.8, 3.6, 3.5, 2.5, 1.9, 1.5
Reg: 9.2, 7.8, 6.7, 6.5, 5.7, 5.6, 5.3, 5.2, 4.7, 4.5, 3.5, 3.4, 3.1, 2.2, 1.2, 1.0, 0.9

Whitaker had one negative, 11 games in his age 20 September callup. That's also the only season Whitaker was below average. Reggie had 4 years of negative WAR, 3 of them with pretty substantial playing time.

Reggie has more positive WAR, and comparing season by season he's ahead for best season all the way through to 10th best. I understand why this makes Reggie a bigger star and infinitely easier HOF case.

The consistency and ability to adapt to age shown by Whitaker is amazing in a different way. Players like him are pretty rare too. If I were running a team, focused on the long term, and had a crystal ball I'd want Whitaker over Jackson because he probably never gets super expensive and I can keep him for his whole career, and he'll always give me value. With Reggie I'm going to have to pay top dollar or else he's gone.

Hm. Maybe not. I could take 36 WAR from Reggie ( 42 if I don't call him up in 67 and Kris Bryant him for 1968) for cheap and arbitration prices. Then let someone else pay 90% of his career earnings for 40-50% of his career production.

Reggie and Lou represent two different types of greatness. In my HOF there's room enough to honor both.
   56. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:25 AM (#5382231)
Jeff Bagwell is one of the greatest first basemen of all time. Having a comparable WAR to Bagwell indicates greatness, not mediocrity. Meanwhile, Dimaggio was obviously a great player and a no-doubt hall of famer, but he's at best the 5th greatest centre fielder of all time (Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Griffey) and maybe 7th (Speaker, Trout). That's about where Bagwell would land in the list of all-time first basemen. So why is it weird to compare Dimaggio to Bagwell?


2 reasons it's weird, 1 I think valid and one not

1. They are not really comparable, if not for WWII, Jolting Joe blows Bagwell out of the water.
2. Dimaggio was the Jeter of his time- a great player who was nonetheless dramatically overrated by a significant fanbase-when I was growing there were still folks around who insisted that Joe D was the "greatest living player" greatest CF etc etc (these geezers tended to ignore Mays and would actively piss on Mantle...) There's an after-effect there, we primates may see him as a 78 WAR guy who would have gotten 95 or so but for WWII, but there's a huge base of traditionalists out there who see him up with Speaker and Musial and yes Mays... rather than someone who's "down" there with the Clementes* and FRobbies and Kalines- for those folks comparing Bagwell and DiMaggio is just so far off from where they perceive things it's a total non-starter.

*BTW use BBREF's era converter and put Clemente into 1939 Yankee Stadium and you get a guy with a.349 career batting average - and a couple of years that look like Dimaggio years...
   57. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:37 AM (#5382244)
*BTW use BBREF's era converter and put Clemente into 1939 Yankee Stadium and you get a guy with a.349 career batting average - and a couple of years that look like Dimaggio years...


That's a real flawed method but in that case probably works out OK. That's using the average park factor which doesn't take into account extreme asymmetrical stadiums. Joe was hurt by Yankee stadium's death valley while lefty batters did pretty well there. But Clemente - good pick, because he's a guy who had to deal with similar stadium issues. Forbes field was 457 to center and 406 to left center.
   58. Cooper Nielson Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:40 AM (#5382246)
WAR doesn't make that claim [that Bobby Abreu created more wins for his teams than Yogi Berra]. Nor do the people who created WAR or its similar stats.

This is purely semantics, but WAR is treated as a counting stat (e.g., yearly totals can be added together arithmetically), so I would argue that it "claims" to measure something concrete/countable. It's not an abstract player rating, like giving someone 4 stars or a B+. And as the stat is called "WINS above replacement," it would seem that "wins" is quite literally what it purports to measure.

Baseball-Reference states that WAR is "a single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add." That seems like a claim.

All of us here understand that it's an estimate/approximation and has inherent imprecision/error bars, but I think it's fair to characterize the current iteration of WAR as "claiming" -- without 100% certainty, of course -- that Abreu created (added) more wins for his teams* than Berra did.

* If you're simply saying that "above replacement level" needs to be included in the statement "Abreu created more wins for his teams" then I have no argument.
   59. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:57 AM (#5382258)
*BTW use BBREF's era converter and put Clemente into 1939 Yankee Stadium and you get a guy with a.349 career batting average - and a couple of years that look like Dimaggio years...

It doesn't look like Clemente was hurt by his home park like DiMaggio was by his. In fact, Clemente's home park is on the positive side. Not DiMaggio and his. Yankee Stadium just killed him.
   60. cardsfanboy Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:00 AM (#5382260)
Those who are looking at PA totals to put his WAR comparisons in context are making Verducci's point. You're not using WAR blindly, and you are reaching a different (and better) conclusion than if you had been using it blindly.

Most of the people arguing against Verducci here don't seem to know they are actually arguing for him.


We are arguing that nobody uses it blindly, and that Verducci is making up an argument that nobody actually ever makes. (it's like he has a pile of straw and is making a man out of it)
   61. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:01 AM (#5382261)
WAR doesn't make that claim [that Bobby Abreu created more wins for his teams than Yogi Berra]. Nor do the people who created WAR or its similar stats.


Considering we're talking about a 0.4 difference over an entire career, it would be more accurate to say that Abreu created about the same number of wins that Berra did. I have to admit, that is the literal claim that the stat implies.

That does not mean "Abreu was better than Berra" or even "Abreu was about as good as Berra". I would not make that claim without considering playing time and positional demands. Berra ranks much higher among catchers than Abreu does among right fielders. Then there's pitch framing and game calling. We can't retroactively install Trackman in the Yankee Stadium of the 50's but if we could Berra would probably pick up a few wins there.
   62. John DiFool2 Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:03 AM (#5382267)
If you pull an unflattering comparison out of your ass and declare "timelining," maybe. Chain every major league season in history MLE-style, as done by Clay Davenport, and Speaker drops from 127 WAR all the way to... 104.


I did find the article in question, and the main point stands: Speaker would lose quite a bit of value.
   63. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:09 AM (#5382272)
I've got a problem with equating players who have the same WAR but one has achieved his WAR in 2000 more PAs.
   64. Cooper Nielson Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:20 AM (#5382285)
That does not mean "Abreu was better than Berra" or even "Abreu was about as good as Berra". I would not make that claim without considering playing time and positional demands. Berra ranks much higher among catchers than Abreu does among right fielders. Then there's pitch framing and game calling. We can't retroactively install Trackman in the Yankee Stadium of the 50's but if we could Berra would probably pick up a few wins there.

Right, but maybe that's what Verducci is complaining about -- not that WAR itself is a junk concept, but that it's not accurate enough because it ignores some of these things.

The beautiful thing about WAR -- and the thing that makes it hopelessly un-perfectable -- is that it (theoretically) allows us to compare Mark McGwire to Jim Sundberg to Lou Brock to Wilbur Wood to Pedro Martinez to Billy Wagner to Buddy Groom. But maybe that's a fool's errand?
   65. Hank G. Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:38 AM (#5382304)
Right, but maybe that's what Verducci is complaining about -- not that WAR itself is a junk concept, but that it's not accurate enough because it ignores some of these things.


I hope he’s also complaining about the “base hits” statistic because it ignores the fact that Pete Rose holds the record for most hits only because he had 2800 more plate appearances than Ty Cobb.
   66. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:40 AM (#5382307)
WAR is held to ridiculous standards to the extent that no other stat is.

Morty, do you have a problem with the homerun leaderboard equating Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez?

Then going back to #5: "I do agree WAR can at times obscure rather than reveal. If you are a GM it's useful to know a players value vs. an easily available replacement, but you also want to know the shape of the value. Is he good on defense, the bases, getting on base, hitting for power?"

Do you guys realize that the individual components of WAR are available on the BBref and Fangraphs player pages? Do you also realize you can find their career length, whether measured in PA or games, on the same page?

Do the critics of WAR think we're so stupid that we would argue that Mike Trout isn't really any better than Doc White or Dave Bancroft?



   67. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:47 AM (#5382313)
Morty, do you have a problem with the homerun leaderboard equating Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez?

I have a problem with people taking the equal aggregate WAR of two players and concluding they have the same value when one of the problems compiled his WAR total in 2000 or 3000 more at bats. Don't you?
   68. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:48 AM (#5382315)
WAR is held to ridiculous standards to the extent that no other stat is.


I think that's true. It's very misunderstood.

But it's also touted (correctly, IMO) by its supporters as being the best stat to measure a player's total value while also accounting for outside factors like the era they played in. So of course it's going to be held to a higher standard.
   69. Ron J Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:53 AM (#5382322)
#14 More than that, WAR is in method the direct descendant of the methods James introduced in the early 80s (and dropped in the mid 80s).

He never liked ranking players and did so basically for commercial reasons. He knew the player rating section was the most popular part of the book and tried to do in a systematic way.

From the into to the Player Rating section of the 1984 Abstract (which uses a structure to rank the players that would be familiar to anybody who uses WAR. Though they're ranked based on two year totals rather than a single year's rating.

I. ANTI

The idea of rating ballplayers is an arrogant bit of nonsense, incurring inherent intellectual costs which can lead, if unchecked, to intellectual bankruptcy. [...]

I am very leery of "great statistics," of statistics which consider everything and provide the once and final answers to great baseball questions, questions like "Who was the greatest player ever?" or "Who should have won the MVP award?" or "Who really belongs in the Hall of Fame?" or even, "Who is better, Dawson or Murphy?". It is my considered opinion that we have no business answering these questions by formula.

( Runs for nearly two pages but I think you get the gist )

II. PRO

[...] My work has been described in a lot of ways, and I don't like most of them, but one I particularly don't like is being called a baseball expert. I am not an expert; I am a student. I dislike making ratings because it puts me in the position of being an expert.

[...] I am not trying to lecture anyone -- about who is good and who is bad. I have my ideas on the subject, that's all. I offer those ideas because people expect me to do it. It sells books, and I have to make a living. If this book sells 100,000 copies, I'd guess that 65,000 people would cite Section III (player ranking -- RNJ) as their favorite part of the book. [...]

But people should understand that when I say that opinions are bullshit, it's not other people's opinions that I am referring to. I don't value my opinions, either. [...]

So I shrug, and I say, "Well, if people want me to do it, I'll do it the best I can. [...]"

I don't mind doing them, really; I don't mind offering these suggestions. I do regret that they draw a grossly disproportionate share of comment -- that such a minor, inconsequential and irrelevant part of my work comes to stand for my work in the minds of so many people. I sometimes resent that I am prevailed upon to make these ratings, and then people refuse to accept them in the spirit in which they are offered.

[...]





   70. Hank G. Posted: January 12, 2017 at 12:04 PM (#5382341)
With all due respect, this is looking away when it comes to the real reason Bonds has not been elected to the HOF. Voters are aware of what Barry did pre-steroid. He's not being elected because he was a cheat for a number of years. The same thing could be said about Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was great before 1919 World Series (and afterward). And the answer to that when it comes to honors is: so what? Ditto, Barry, is many voters way of looking at it.


I get that, but personally, I see a huge difference between breaking the rules in an effort to make yourself a better player and to help your team win more vs. taking money to deliberately lose baseball games. Cheating to gain an edge has always been in the game, and for some reason, if it is low tech (scuffing the ball or pretending to be hit by a pitch that actually hit the bat) it is winked at or even celebrated, but if it is high tech (using a telescope to steal signs or using steroids) it is disparaged.

Jackson has benefited from the passage of time. His colorful nickname and illiteracy have convinced many people that he wasn’t too bright and didn’t really know what he was agreeing to do. I reject that premise; being illiterate doesn’t mean that you are stupid, and I believe that Jackson was fully aware of what he was being asked to do.

MLB also recognizes the difference, which is why Jackson is forever banned and Bonds is not.
   71. Morty Causa Posted: January 12, 2017 at 12:19 PM (#5382362)
I get that, but personally, I see a huge difference between breaking the rules in an effort to make yourself a better player and to help your team win more vs. taking money to deliberately lose baseball games.

Well, keep trying to convince the voters of integrity of your personal standards. Or when you get to be a voter, vote according to them. That, however, right now, doesn't obligate anyone.

Well, everyone in every avenue of endeavor tries to game the system. At a point, that gets to where it is beyond the pale. That point can be set in expressed law (a rule) or it can be a social construct (we don't want his kind), which is valid (unless there's a rule saying it isn't).
   72. bachslunch Posted: January 12, 2017 at 12:50 PM (#5382391)
@71: I have no issue with folks who think pre- and post-2005 steroid use are different. There was a rule, testing, and penalties in place for the latter, but not the former.

The "social contract" gets a whole lot stickier, especially since it appears to be applied retroactively in pre-2005 steroid use and is inconsistently applied for things like amphetamine use across the board.
   73. bachslunch Posted: January 12, 2017 at 12:56 PM (#5382397)
In fact, it's not even applied consistently. Bonds and Clemens were acquitted in court for PED related cases, yet are still seen as dead-on guilty. And IRod is about to be elected to the HoF when Sosa, McGwire, and Sheffield are headed for the dumper and Bonds/Clemens may end up there as well.
   74. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 12, 2017 at 01:01 PM (#5382401)
#14 More than that, WAR is in method the direct descendant of the methods James introduced in the early 80s (and dropped in the mid 80s).


He essentially did a WAR calculation in determining that Rice 1978 was better than Guidry 1978- but you only reach that conclusion if you select replacement level the way James did- IIRC he decided that the starters available to the Yankees to take up Guidry's "missing" starts were a lot better than the guys who would have taken Rice's PAs, therefore the Redsox would have lost more runs than the Yankees, therefore Rice was more valuable to the Redsox than Guidry was to the Yankees. It didn't seem to even occur to him at the time to think of who a typical replacement level player was, but looked specifically at who the Yankees/Redsox had already (which is odd because he certainly understood the replacement level player concept, he referred to it as "freely available talent"

Similarly he had a huge flaw in his OWP (offensive winning percentage) formula- he defined it as the winning percentage a team of 9 guys would have- given average pitching and defense- but that's not how he calculated it- his denominator was not a park adjusted league r/g, it was the actual r/g scored in the games played by the player's team. That did in fact fix the park adjustment issue- but it saddled (or benefited) the player with his team's pitching and defense, not league average pitching and defense- his OWP method really broke down when he compared 1987 Kevin Seitzer to 1987 Mark McGwire- Seitzer's OWP was virtually the same as McGwire's because Seitzer produced X runs/game in a 4.34 r/g context whereas McGwire produced Y runs/game in a 4.92 r/g context. No Oakland was NOT a better hitter's park than KC, the opposite was true- but McGwire's teamates were better hitters and worse pitchers than Seitzer's teammates. When this flaw was pointed out to James, he claimed it was a feature not a bug, the runs Seitzer created were in fact more valuable to KC than the runs created by McGwire for Oakland (Coming from the man who was one of the first to realize that RBIs were a terrible value metric because RBIs were so teammate dependent this was a bit odd...)

The old Abstracts are fascinating, James was a genius, he at least thought of just about every sabrmetric concept you can now think of, but he was really flying blind most of the time- he really didn't KNOW which concepts were worth developing and which should have been tossed- he thought of FIP, but never developed it (and years later when Voros' stuff started getting out James' reaction was "wow, wish I'd thought of that"- funny thing was he had 15+ year earlier, he never developed it and obviously forgot about it).

So yeah, he was 90% of the way to developing what we now call WAR, and abandoned it to go in different directions.
   75. Captain Supporter Posted: January 12, 2017 at 01:57 PM (#5382451)
Sure it could use refinements, but it's pretty good for the most part. But I mean, c'mon there are the cult of Jeter, who actually think he wasn't the worst defensive shortstop in history. It's like these people have never seen him play, because it was obvious in 2000 that he was a crappy shortstop to anyone who had seen anyone play a quality shortstop, that Jeter was crap defensively. Yet you still get these morons who think that somehow he wasn't the worst defensive shortstop in baseball history... it's pretty sad, some of these people can even turn on a computer. Fortunately we don't have any of those people around here. Most people around here realize that the statistical analysis confirms what anyone with eyes could see about Jeter's defense, that he was piss poor, made horrible decisions, and that the hop throw alone probably cost him 10 runs a year easily, as he would make the play and the runner would be safe by a step, instead of just planting and throwing the guy out.


Some first rate analysis from a student of the game
   76. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 12, 2017 at 02:02 PM (#5382456)
But I mean, c'mon there are the cult of Jeter, who actually think he wasn't the worst defensive shortstop in history.


I don't think he was the worst defensive SS in history, bad yes, worst to get a Gold Glove? Yes. Worst to actually have a good defensive reputation (for much of his career)? Yes.

Worst to actually play that many games/innings at short? Yes.

   77. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 12, 2017 at 02:24 PM (#5382485)
I have a problem with people taking the equal aggregate WAR of two players and concluding they have the same value when one of the problems compiled his WAR total in 2000 or 3000 more at bats. Don't you?
The only people who do that are like Verducci - those who want to denigrate WAR. Anyone who builds a value case around WAR always considers playing time.
   78. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 12, 2017 at 02:51 PM (#5382512)
I don't think he was the worst defensive SS in history
He has 3 of the 15 worst defensive seasons at SS per BBRef Rfield; Michael Young is the only other player with 2 of the 15 worst. There are 111 seasons of <-15 Rfield among SS; Jeter has 8 of them. He had 3 full seasons that weren't at least -9 Rfield.

Really, the list of contenders for "worst regular MLB SS" is just Jeter and Young. Young is a pretty crazy -79 in the 5 years he was a regular SS - but even then, Jeter has a 5 year "peak" of -93, and 6 consecutive "peaks" worse than Young's:

99-03: -82
00-04: -84
01-05: -88
02-06: -87
03-07: -93
04-08: -90

I changed my mind. There is no list; he's clearly the worst defensive SS in history.



   79. Ron J Posted: January 12, 2017 at 02:57 PM (#5382518)
#78 I suspect that there's an important qualifier. He's the worst who was able to stick at the position.
   80. Mendo Posted: January 12, 2017 at 03:20 PM (#5382530)
You could take Verducci's excerpted quote and apply it to pitcher Wins:

"Like RBIs and saves, [Wins].. is a semi-junk stat... some writers wield it incessantly. It is a measurement of nothing. It is an approximation, an attempt to roll everything about a player into one number. So it’s useful as a rule of thumb, like walking off the distance between two points and using your strides to “calculate” the distance. It tells you something, but I don’t want my contractor building my house like that. Yet writers are using [Wins] as an exact measurement... If you blindly believe in a stat that considers [Jack Morris] better than [Pedro Martinez], [Jamie Moyer] better than [Bob Gibson] and [Dennis Martinez] better than [Juan Marichal], you better do some more homework."

Not that Verducci is a champion of the Win (I don't know whether he is or not), but he could lease out his argument template to Brian Kenny.
   81. villageidiom Posted: January 12, 2017 at 03:31 PM (#5382536)
Like RBIs and saves, Wins Above Replacement is a semi-junk stat. Bill James has no use for it, yet some writers wield it incessantly. It is a measurement of nothing. It is an approximation, an attempt to roll everything about a player into one number. So it’s useful as a rule of thumb, like walking off the distance between two points and using your strides to “calculate” the distance. It tells you something, but I don’t want my contractor building my house like that. Yet writers are using WAR as an exact measurement, including the folly of using numbers after decimal points to split hairs. If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.

Verducci is clearly, explicitly saying that some writers are using WAR as being precise and without further context. He's not saying it shouldn't be used by anyone, nor that it tells* us nothing. He's not saying you're wrong for using it, nor that you're using it wrong. I know he hasn't provided a comprehensive list or anything, but would the notion that some writers are using WAR with precision, or using it on its own without further consideration, be a surprise? And if such writers were doing so, wouldn't the examples he picked be excellent ones to illustrate that you can't just use WAR as an open and shut case?

Like RBIs and saves, Wins Above Replacement is a semi-junk stat. Bill James has no use for it, yet some writers wield it incessantly. It is a measurement of nothing. It is an approximation, an attempt to roll everything about a player into one number. So it’s useful as a rule of thumb, like walking off the distance between two points and using your strides to “calculate” the distance. It tells you something, but I don’t want my contractor building my house like that. Yet writers are using WAR as an exact measurement, including the folly of using numbers after decimal points to split hairs. If you blindly believe in a stat that considers Bobby Abreu better than Yogi Berra, Lou Whitaker better than Reggie Jackson and Jeff Bagwell better than Joe DiMaggio, you better do some more homework.

Verducci is explicitly, clearly citing that WAR is approximating something useful, but that approximation is not something that can be wielded with precision and without further context (e.g. the PAs it took to compile it).

* He says it "measures" nothing, and if you read the entire passage it's clear he's making an argument of semantics between "measures" and "approximates".
   82. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: January 12, 2017 at 03:39 PM (#5382541)
Verducci is clearly, explicitly saying that some writers are using WAR as being precise and without further context. He's not saying it shouldn't be used by anyone, nor that it tells* us nothing. He's not saying you're wrong for using it, nor that you're using it wrong. I know he hasn't provided a comprehensive list or anything, but would the notion that some writers are using WAR with precision, or using it on its own without further consideration, be a surprise? And if such writers were doing so, wouldn't the examples he picked be excellent ones to illustrate that you can't just use WAR as an open and shut case?


There's a lot of strawman in Verducci's argument. It's kind of a "people say..." sort of argument. Unless there is actually a meaningful discussion afoot that Abreu is better than Berra based on WAR (note: I have not actually done the research to know if that's a ridiculous claim or not) then he is making a meaningless point.

I think #80 does a good job of demonstrating what's wrong with the argument. You can make the case with virtually any numbers out of context (Cy Young lost more games than any other pitcher, therefore he is the worst pitcher in baseball history). But no one is actually saying what Verducci claims so there is no point.
   83. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 03:52 PM (#5382554)
Michael Young actually won a gold glove once, in 2008. He wasn't good that year but was less bad than in the preceding year years. It wasn't enough to keep him from being moved off position.

At 32, he moved from short to third. Two years later (and for good reason - signing Adrian Beltre) he became a DH/utility man.

Jeter never played an inning in the field other than shortstop. If Young had played there into his decline years he might have been worse than Jeter. Someone like Gary Sheffield, had he the inclination and persuasive power to stick at short would probably have been worse.

Jeter is just the worst defensive shortstop to be able to play there that long, or anywhere near as long. The best I can say about his glove is that he wasn't any worse at 40 than he was at 25.
   84. JJ1986 Posted: January 12, 2017 at 04:03 PM (#5382563)
If Verducci understand WAR, then who is he arguing against? I don't know of anyone who uses career WAR as an exact measurement.
   85. Ron J Posted: January 12, 2017 at 04:04 PM (#5382564)
#83 And there are plenty of futility infielders who could sort of fake short who would have been regulars if they were able to handle SS as well as Jeter.

   86. AROM Posted: January 12, 2017 at 04:05 PM (#5382566)
In my mind there's plenty of doubt exactly how bad Jeter was out there. Not good in any case, but extremely unlikely to have been the disaster that you would assume from looking at range factors. In his last season the Yankees had 337 assists from the SS position, an absurdly low total. In 2015, led by Didi, they had 481. The team had more groundballs hit in 2015 but such a difference is still ginormous. So that's probably 100 singles pasta diving Jeter that are now outs, right? That must have a huge effect on the pitching, right?

Well, the team in 2014 allowed a BA on ground balls of .252. In 2015 it was all the way down to... .248. That's not saving 100 singles, it's saving about 8. There is no obvious decline of the rest of the infield to offset that. Tex at first, a full year of Headley in 2015 after a half year in 2014, more Stephen Drew and less Brian Roberts at second.

   87. karlmagnus Posted: January 12, 2017 at 05:15 PM (#5382611)
OK, somebody explain to me. Jeter is arguably the worst defensive SS in history, yet gets only minus 9.7 defensive WaR. Manny is nowhere near the worst LF, yet gets minus 22.5 defensive WaR. Jeter had a considerably longer career, so how can Manny have accumulated more negative WaR. Shortstops get far more balls hit to them than left fielders; Manny's negative WaR should be only about a third of Jeter's, if they were equally bad relative to others at the position.

Obviously there's a positional adjustment, yet that's accounted for in the offensive side, so Manny has fewer OWaR, in spite of being a hugely better hitter (OPS+ 154 vs 115.) So isn't WaR double counting, and isn't the fielding adjustment for outfielders far too great?
   88. Sweatpants Posted: January 12, 2017 at 05:23 PM (#5382616)
Baseball-Reference puts a positional adjustment in its listing of both oWAR and dWAR, but when calculating overall WAR it doesn't double-count. Ramirez's oWAR and dWAR added together would give him under 60 WAR instead of 69.2.
   89. villageidiom Posted: January 12, 2017 at 05:28 PM (#5382619)
If Verducci understand WAR, then who is he arguing against? I don't know of anyone who uses career WAR as an exact measurement.
How many writers do you know? Because his statements are about writers who are doing that.

Unless there is actually a meaningful discussion afoot that Abreu is better than Berra based on WAR (note: I have not actually done the research to know if that's a ridiculous claim or not) then he is making a meaningless point.
He is using Abreu > Berra to illustrate the point that WAR should not be used blindly and with precision. It's a fine example to illustrate that point. At no point is he saying "People are arguing that Abreu was better than Berra"; he's saying "Relying just on WAR, with full precision, is tantamount to saying Abreu was better than Berra, and simply demonstrates that you're using WAR the wrong way." And this is correct*.

Whether it's a strawman or not that "some writers" are going about things this way, I don't know. He surely talks with more writers than I do, and I wouldn't expect him to out people in his profession using WAR that way, so I suspect we'll never know if it's a strawman or not. But strawman or not, he's correct: if a writer uses WAR in that way then the writer is a fool.

* It also demonstrates that Bobby Abreu accomplished a lot more than many people think he did across his career. But that's not germane to the point Verducci is making about stupid writers.
   90. JJ1986 Posted: January 12, 2017 at 06:08 PM (#5382636)
Whether it's a strawman or not that "some writers" are going about things this way, I don't know. He surely talks with more writers than I do, and I wouldn't expect him to out people in his profession using WAR that way, so I suspect we'll never know if it's a strawman or not. But strawman or not, he's correct: if a writer uses WAR in that way then the writer is a fool.
The intentional impression of that paragraph is that writers are using WAR that way in their writing.
   91. Fancy Pants with a clinging marmoset on his Handle Posted: January 12, 2017 at 06:35 PM (#5382653)
OK, somebody explain to me. Jeter is arguably the worst defensive SS in history, yet gets only minus 9.7 defensive WaR. Manny is nowhere near the worst LF, yet gets minus 22.5 defensive WaR. Jeter had a considerably longer career, so how can Manny have accumulated more negative WaR. Shortstops get far more balls hit to them than left fielders; Manny's negative WaR should be only about a third of Jeter's, if they were equally bad relative to others at the position.

Because most SS's could play a passable or plus LF, and most LFers would be horrendous at short. And yes dWAR includes positional adjustment. Bref has Jeter as 246 runs worse than an average shortstop over the course of his career. And Manny 129 worse relative to his position (mostly LF, with a bit of RF).

And what #88 said about double counting positional adjustments.
   92. karlmagnus Posted: January 12, 2017 at 06:41 PM (#5382656)
Sorry, double post
   93. karlmagnus Posted: January 12, 2017 at 06:44 PM (#5382659)
Thanks, I see now. Manny's WAR is only 12.0 less than his oWaR, whereas Jeter's WaR is 23.7 less than his oWaR. So Jeter's ineptitude cost his team about twice as many wins as Manny's, reflecting the number of pastas. I regard Manny's ineptitude as overstated because of the LF wall at Fenway (and there's no correction for high-fives issued in the middle of double plays) but within the limits of the system, that makes sense.

This season, Manny needs to return from Japan for a game or two, to get his HOF clock reset. Much better chance to overcome the steroid nonsense in 2032 than in 2026.
   94. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 12, 2017 at 07:00 PM (#5382667)
Worst to actually play that many games/innings at short? Yes


You do realize that there are exactly two guys who played that many games at short, right?
   95. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Posted: January 12, 2017 at 07:49 PM (#5382692)
Because most SS's could play a passable or plus LF....
This qualifier brought to you by Hanley Ramirez!
   96. ajnrules Posted: January 12, 2017 at 11:12 PM (#5382781)
This season, Manny needs to return from Japan for a game or two, to get his HOF clock reset. Much better chance to overcome the steroid nonsense in 2032 than in 2026.

I was hoping Clemens would do that in 2012. Of course he didn't and his Hall chances are all but sunk thanks to voters like Verducci.
   97. Booey Posted: January 13, 2017 at 12:12 AM (#5382795)
Worst to actually play that many games/innings at short? Yes


You do realize that there are exactly two guys who played that many games at short, right?


Yeah, I was gonna say, I don't think anyone is arguing that Jeter was a worse defensive shortstop than Omar Vizquel.
   98. QLE Posted: January 13, 2017 at 01:02 AM (#5382802)
For those curious, Verducci's ballot, as announced on television tonight and added to the Tracker:

Bagwell
Guerrero
Hoffman
Kent
Martinez
McGriff
Mussina
Raines
Schilling
   99. bachslunch Posted: January 13, 2017 at 08:18 AM (#5382815)
For all the proverbial sound and fury, it's really a decent non-PED ballot. Needs Walker, though.
   100. bachslunch Posted: January 13, 2017 at 08:19 AM (#5382816)
Flip.
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