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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hurley: Time For Baseball’s WAR Supporters To Tone Down The Arrogance

This is the worst Hurley wreck I’ve seen since that picture of Bobby Hurley’s Toyota 4-Runner truck was released!

I realize that by saying that I sound like the group of baseball fans who yell “Shut up, stat nerds!” at the first sight of any statistic that hasn’t been around for 100 years, but I assure you I’m not. (Unless you start equating BABIP to good or bad luck. Then we would have to fight with our fists.) There is certainly something to be gained by WAR.

But there is not that much, people.

...I’d honestly be more accepting of the stat revolution types if they didn’t seemingly make it their life goal to attack the RBI and all it stands for. “Driving in runs is meaningless!” they argue, saying a batter can’t control how often runners get on base in front of them. That’s true for sure, and it should be taken into account when trying to compare a 110-RBI man on the Yankees and an 88-RBI man on, say, the Astros. That Yankee is not necessarily better or “more clutch” than the Astro … but he still drove in 110 runs, which is damn impressive.

At-bats are different. When a hitter steps into the box in of those pressure-packed, late-inning situations, with a crowd of 40,000 going absolutely nuts and the opposing team’s best reliever on the mound, it’s different. His heart rate accelerates, he sweats more than usual and it takes more effort to focus his energy on the task at hand. If he doubles in that situation, it’s more meaningful and impressive than if he doubles in a tie game in the second inning with nobody on base. It just is, and that’s science, too.

Such factors can’t be ignored, and while considering them won’t create an easy-to-read spreadsheet, it’s still OK. You can just … watch the games and understand. Isn’t that why we enjoy the sport to begin with?

We all don’t need to war over WAR (damn, those terrible cliches are just so hard to resist). You’re not right, I’m not right, and there’s not one individual statistic that is right. Much like the way last year’s AL MVP race played out, WAR can be a factor without being the factor. Unlike the statistic itself, it’s not very complicated.

Repoz Posted: February 23, 2013 at 08:21 AM | 221 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. kcgard2 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:14 AM (#4374522)
You’re not right, I’m not right, and there’s not one individual statistic that is right.

So...let's not keep statistics?
   2. DL from MN Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4374528)
doubles in a tie game in the second inning with nobody on base


Do that more often and you don't have as many "pressure-packed" situations in the 9th.
   3. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:55 AM (#4374530)
Do that more often and you don't have as many "pressure-packed" situations in the 9th.


A fact that has nothing whatsoever to do with the argument at hand. No one is suggesting that teams shouldn't try to score more often and prevent close and late situations. This guy is suggesting, quite rightly so, that a late inning at bat in a pressure situation is physically distinct from other kinds of at bats. Your response here suggests strongly that you're not even considering the question properly.
   4. eddieot Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:55 AM (#4374531)
Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, WAR is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today!
   5. dave h Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4374532)
His heart rate accelerates, he sweats more than usual and it takes more effort to focus his energy on the task at hand.


Has anyone measured whether pro athletes really experience this in pressure situations?

It just is, and that’s science, too.

It's science if you take your hypothesis and test it by collecting data. If you just assume all of your assertions are true, then not so much.
   6. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:09 AM (#4374536)
Has anyone measured whether pro athletes really experience this in pressure situations?


Measured? Probably not. You're unlikely to find a team or player willing to electrode up for the big at bat that decides the World Series. What we do have, however, is reams and reams of self-reported experience from baseball players suggesting that pressure at bats are distinct from non-pressure at bat. I realize this would mean we would have to assume that players talking about the game and how it feels is a valid data stream for analysis, but perhaps that's not a bridge to far in our desperate search for pristine "science?"
   7. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:11 AM (#4374537)
#3: speaking of "the argument at hand" are either you or the original author trying to argue that WAR is meant to or should measure the difficulty of the experiential nature of each at bat? That is to say, as opposed to what it is actually in fact purported to measure?
   8. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:18 AM (#4374544)
I'm not going to attempt to speak for the author, though I'll commit to clicking through and reading the entire article to at least put together a theory of what he is arguing. I am not arguing for using WAR to measure anything other than what WAR purports to measure, which are results that happened on the field, on both sides of the ball and on the bases, not the state of mind of the player when those events occurred.

Prior to click through of this article, I will also sign up for the position that WAR is terribly misused by a majority of baseball fans who cite it, though not by all. It is a fall back position that some sectors of the community pretend "wins the argument" regardless of what level of nuance the argument might be. That's a problem, in much the same way that people misusing RBI, not adjusting for chances provided by the teammates batting in front of you, or people misusing raw batting average without looking at other means of getting on base is problematic.

From the excerpt here, the guy makes a good point about RBI. When you do some nuanced looking you can use RBI as a useful metric, not perfectly on par with, but more or less tracking SLG%. The reason people hate RBI is because "old school baseball men" love it so much, not because it's not useful if deployed rationally.

My responses in this thread to date are meant to argue only what they have argued, that contrary to DL's post @3, the question at hand isn't "should teams try to score more early, rather than late and close," but rather is "are 'pressure' at bats different for batters than non-pressure at bats."
   9. fra paolo Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:28 AM (#4374548)
Although I am not an especial fan of WAR, I think it has many good uses. And I fear that in the end its broadest possible acceptance is going to be hindered by the catchy acronym.

The 'Wins' in WAR are not based on actual wins in the standings. It's much easier to sell 'batting runs' as measuring the number of runs a given batting line is likely to generate, than to market 10 such runs = 1 win.

For all its flaws, the Win Shares system would be an easier sell.

Also, if saberists were really saying 'Driving in runs is meaningless', then I'd agree with him about arrogance.

EDIT: to fix bad phrasing
   10. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:29 AM (#4374549)
Okay, I've RTFA and pardon the huge quote below, but this is the part immediately following the sentence "But there is not that much, people." That is to say, these are the next few (of many) paragraphs Repoz has replaced with that sneaky little, non-dare-call-it-a-troll ellipsis up there in the block quote:

There is certainly something to be gained by WAR.

But there is not that much, people.

Look through the year-by-year top 10 lists for WAR, and you’ll see pretty much 10 of the best players in baseball for any given year. Last year, the leaders among position players included Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Yadier Molina and Alex Gordon. Those were certainly 10 of the best players last season, but for one, they weren’t absolutely the 10 best players, and secondly, did you really need WAR to tell you that those guys were good?

Seven of those players were also in the top 10 in batting average, seven were in the top 10 in slugging percentage, six were in the top 10 in on-base percentage, five were in the top 10 in OPS and three were in the top 10 in home runs.

Expanding further, the top 10 WAR leaders (position players) all time are Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial and Ted Williams. All of them except Bonds are Hall of Famers (and Bonds’ exclusion has nothing to do with WAR), and all the HOF voters were able to tell those players were pretty good, long before WAR had ever made its way into baseball. In fact, the only players in the top 30 all time in WAR who aren’t in the Hall of Fame are either active players or named Barry Bonds. Opening it up to the top 50 overall WAR leaders (including pitchers), every single player who’s eligible for the Hall and hasn’t been linked to steroids (Bonds, Roger Clemens) is in Cooperstown. However did voters determine those players to be great without relying on WAR?


There's actually a lot of good stuff in this piece if you click through and read it, and I will go ahead and sign onto more of it than not as a good, solid argument.
   11. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4374552)
More actual worlds from TFA:

To treat WAR as this revolutionary, incredible tool of perfection is just wrong. But that’s what some of these folks want to do.

I apologize for the forthcoming long excerpt from Miller, but it’s necessary.

“At the risk of grandiloquence, this is about more than one MVP race, about more than even baseball. We live in a world of disagreement on epochal issues that we can’t resolve even when the science is unambiguous: evolution, vaccines and climate change among them. These issues are daunting. Relying on science that’s hard to understand can be scary. So the tendency is to cling to the comforts of ideology and tradition — even when those ideologies are wrong, even when the traditions are outdated.

Fight it if you like, but baseball has become too complicated to solve without science. … WAR represents a chance to respond to the complexity of baseball with something more than ideology or despair.”


A little excessive, no?

I don’t need to sit here and try to break down every argument made by Miller. WAR makes him happy. He made that very clear. And it makes a lot of people happy. Hey, one number that can serve as a catch-all for everything in this wild and crazy game? Cool!

But WAR is not evolution of man. It is not the polio vaccine. It is not the melting of any polar ice caps.

It’s a baseball statistic.
   12. JJ1986 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:41 AM (#4374554)
I think it's true that (some) WAR supporters probably do need to town down their arrogance, but it's a little disingenuous to write this piece when WAR-detractors (people who dismiss it out of hand) are far more arrogant.
   13. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:42 AM (#4374555)
We all don’t need to war over WAR (damn, those terrible cliches are just so hard to resist).

And I fear that in the end its broadest possible acceptance is going to be hindered by the catchy acronym.

I really wish we could put an official indefinite moratorium on WAR/war-related puns (in particular the "what is it good for?" that seemingly appears every other article).
   14. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4374558)
What we do have, however, is reams and reams of self-reported experience from baseball players suggesting that pressure at bats are distinct from non-pressure at bat. I realize this would mean we would have to assume that players talking about the game and how it feels is a valid data stream for analysis, but perhaps that's not a bridge to far in our desperate search for pristine "science?"

What we also have, is reams and reams of data, suggesting that the vast majority of players, in those specific situations, perform on par with any other situation. So even if the statement is true, why should we care?
   15. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM (#4374560)
all the HOF voters were able to tell those players were pretty good, long before WAR had ever made its way into baseball.

Well, duh. That's about as weak of an argument as you can make. Let's tackle the higher hanging fruit. It's really about sorting out the top 100-300, isn't it, for the HOF? That's where the real value of a statistical tool is. Your eyes and some 1 dimensional statistics might tell you that Nolan Ryan was close to the best pitcher of all time. Lots of people believe that. WAR, WS, etc. should give you pause and cause you to drill deeper down.
   16. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4374562)
I think it's true that (some) WAR supporters probably do need to town down their arrogance, but it's a little disingenuous to write this piece when WAR-detractors (people who dismiss it out of hand) are far more arrogant.


I doubt this is the case. I suspect this is more confirmation bias on your part than anything like a statistical reality.
   17. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:54 AM (#4374564)
What we also have, is reams and reams of data, suggesting that the vast majority of players, in those specific situations, perform on par with any other situation. So even if the statement is true, why should we care?


Do we? We have reams and reams of data telling us that there's no large scale existence of "clutch hitting" if you define clutch hitting as hitting better in pressure situations. But I'm not sure the data says what you're saying here either. If we define clutch hitting as *not getting worse* rather than getting better, do we really have a large data set that shows most people maintain the baseline?
   18. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM (#4374565)
It's really about sorting out the top 100-300, isn't it, for the HOF? That's where the real value of a statistical tool is. Your eyes and some 1 dimensional statistics might tell you that Nolan Ryan was close to the best pitcher of all time. Lots of people believe that. WAR, WS, etc. should give you pause and cause you to drill deeper down.


I'm pretty sure that a lot of us were pointing out the fact that Nolan Ryan was overrated by the media that conveniently ignored all of those walks because of the seven no hitters and the strikeouts, back in the 90s, before WAR was a thing.
   19. OsunaSakata Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4374567)
I really wish we could put an official indefinite moratorium on WAR/war-related puns (in particular the "what is it good for?" that seemingly appears every other article).


Or someone could create a new statistical acronym that spells out LOVE.
   20. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4374569)
It's much easier to sell 'batting runs' as measuring the number of runs a given batting line is likely to generate, than to market 10 such runs = 1 win.


I was a fan of Runs Created, but from what I understand, the linear calculation is better than the TB*OBP approach. I know there's a way to calculate batting runs with zero as a baseline instead of average, but I forget it at the moment. Outs still have a negative value, but much lower than the value used by Palmer and his successors.
   21. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:07 AM (#4374572)
I'm pretty sure that a lot of us were pointing out the fact that Nolan Ryan was overrated by the media ... back in the 90s, before WAR was a thing.

I'd like to see your posts on this from the day. Besides, it's exactly the voting media types who need these kinds of tools.

And you know that if "we" switched and started bleeting about VORP or WS or some other tool, the same article would have been written, so whether WAR was around in the 90s or not is irrelevant.
   22. DanG Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM (#4374575)
What we also have, is reams and reams of data, suggesting that the vast majority of players, in those specific situations, perform on par with any other situation. So even if the statement is true, why should we care?
This. Hurley ignores the fact that in "those pressure-packed, late-inning situations, with a crowd of 40,000 going absolutely nuts" that the batter isn't working in a vacuum: every player is keyed up/nervous, whatever. In addition, isn't it just as likely that the players are feeding off the energy of this pressure situation and are more focused/performing better than normal?
   23. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM (#4374576)
In addition, isn't it just as likely that the players are feeding off the energy of this pressure situation and are more focused/performing better than normal?


His argument here is in support of not dismissing RBI out of hand, so while everyone is jacked up, and some people ("clutch players") may feed off the environment, in his example one player won the battle and drove in the run.
   24. JJ1986 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4374579)
I doubt this is the case. I suspect this is more confirmation bias on your part than anything like a statistical reality.


Probably, but it's probably a confirmation bias most fans share. I'm far less likely to read random bloggers touting WAR (and even less likely to read Fangraphs or BPro) than I am to read something by a columnist who writes for a newspaper or outlet like ESPN.
   25. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4374580)
I'd like to see your posts on this from the day.


The best I can suggest is a search of Google groups for rec.sport.baseball and the alt.sports.baseball* hierarchies for posts with "Hutcheson." Those conversations were probably in RSB, though I was all over the ASB groups in the late 90s.

Besides, it's exactly the voting media types who need these kinds of tools.


I don't think the "voting media types" need these types of tools, per se. I think you're conflating the politics of professional sportswriters, with the notion of an entrenched and entitled access via being "newspaper men," and their opposition to the amateurs of the internet that they identify as eating away their jobs, with statistics.
   26. DanG Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4374581)
Or someone could create a new statistical acronym that spells out LOVE.
Low Observable Value Estimator
   27. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4374583)
Probably, but it's probably a confirmation bias most fans share.


Not sure I agree with this. Fans who get their sports news from the dailies and ESPN probably don't care much for WAR, because they're not that into the question. They care if the home team won and if the superstar whose jersey they bought did well. Fans who get their news from the internets outside of the main sports broadcaster sites are going to lean your way when it comes to bias. I have no idea where the majority fo the fans lie in this regard, but I suspect that "most" are still getting their news from ESPN and such.

The complaint here seems to be that the article attacks something of a straw man and that the saberist community is more nuanced and doesn't really think the way his caricature does, doesn't treat WAR as the holy grail that the caricature does, etc. Which is probably valid, but also something the community might consider the inverse of the next time Repoz drops a Murray Chass doll into the arena for punching practice.
   28. BDC Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM (#4374590)
a lot of us were pointing out the fact that Nolan Ryan was overrated by the media that conveniently ignored all of those walks because of the seven no hitters and the strikeouts, back in the 90s, before WAR was a thing

The irony is that by the '90s, Ryan was no longer overrated: he'd become the pitcher the media'd thought he was all along. He led the league in K/W ratio at the age of 40, and in WHIP at the ages of 43 and 44. He was still throwing 100, striking out everybody in sight, pitching no-hitters, and he'd cut his walks by a third or 2/5. He wasn't that pitcher for very long, but it was awesome to watch.

As to the RBI, it is always extremely important to note that Runs is the only stat that counts towards winning. One should cheer for an RBI and be thankful one's team has guys who rack them up. No pennants are awarded for theoretical run production. The RBI only becomes less useful when trying to decide whether someone is actually a better hitter than someone else – and TFA notes that fact prominently.
   29. JE (Jason) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4374591)
"In of those pressure-packed, late-inning situations, with a crowd of 40,000 going absolutely nuts and the opposing team’s best reliever on the mound," how come the pitcher's heart rate remains the same? How come he doesn't sweat more than usual? How come he doesn't need to focus more...?
   30. JJ1986 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4374593)
The complaint here seems to be that the article attacks something of a straw man and that the saberist community is more nuanced and doesn't really think the way his caricature does, doesn't treat WAR as the holy grail that the caricature does, etc. Which is probably valid, but also something the community might consider the inverse of the next time Repoz drops a Murray Chass doll into the arena for punching practice.


I don't think it's quite a strawman in that I'm sure that people exist who write about WAR like it's absolute. And those people are arrogant. I just don't think they're influencing very many people. Not nearly as many people as the anti-stats writers reach.
   31. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:53 AM (#4374594)
how come the pitcher's heart rate remains the same? How come he doesn't sweat more than usual? How come he doesn't need to focus more...?

Because Closers have a different mindset... because they're Closers. At least, that's what Mitch Williams tells me on TV.
   32. bobm Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:12 PM (#4374602)
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/WAR_career.shtml?mobile=false

You need not go further than the top 100 by WAR all time to see big disconnects with the mainstream in perceptions about players.

Blyleven is #39 in WAR all time and his election to the HoF was no certain thing.

Mussina is 57; Bagwell is 59; Schilling is 63; Whitaker is 74; Larry Walker is 81; Trammell is 91; Raines and Reuschel are tied at 97 and Smoltz is 100. What does it say about WAR that these players are unlikely to be elected by the BBWAA?

Nolan Ryan is 65 all time, BTW.
   33. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:16 PM (#4374603)
Unless you start equating BABIP to good or bad luck. Then we would have to fight with our fists


Yes, there is good stuff in this morons screed.

And how can there ever be low pressure situations in baseball? EVERY at bat happens while you are alone, the sole object of focus for tens of thousands of people (unless you are in Tampa, hmmm, maybe I've discovered their organizational secret). How would you even begin to measure the additional stress difference of an important game or seasonal situation?
   34. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM (#4374609)
Mussina is 57; Bagwell is 59; Schilling is 63; Whitaker is 74; Larry Walker is 81; Trammell is 91; Raines and Reuschel are tied at 97 and Smoltz is 100. What does it say about WAR that these players are unlikely to be elected by the BBWAA?


Mussina, Baggwell, Shilling, Raines and Smoltz are all likely to make it, barring further steroid revelations.
   35. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4374610)
Your eyes and some 1 dimensional statistics might tell you that Nolan Ryan was close to the best pitcher of all time. Lots of people believe that. WAR, WS, etc. should give you pause and cause you to drill deeper down.


I don't think this is true. People who think Nolan Ryan is close to the best pitcher of all time are focusing on two statistics: strikeouts and no-hitters. Looking at even his other basic stats shows him as a very good-but-not-great pitcher. His ERA (3.19) is very good, but not outstanding. His ERA+ (112) is actually pretty mediocre for a Hall of Famer. His winning percentage (.526) is about the same. Ryan never won a Cy Young (and his Cy Young shares total is 30th all-time, which isn't exactly legendary). Of course, he walked the most batters of any pitcher in history, by far.

His wins total is his most impressive number, aside from the Ks and no-hitters, but it's also exactly the same as Don Sutton's, and no one ever accused Don Sutton of being the greatest pitcher of all time.

Those are all very basic numbers, except for maybe ERA+. Anyone who takes five minutes to study Nolan Ryan's career statistics would quickly understand that he doesn't belong in the discussion for greatest pitcher of all time. You don't need WAR or Win Shares to lead you to that conclusion.
   36. Bob Tufts Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4374616)
Those that ignore WAR are merely slipping into darkness.
   37. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4374631)
Yes, there is good stuff in this morons screed.


And this is the problem.
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4374638)
"In of those pressure-packed, late-inning situations, with a crowd of 40,000 going absolutely nuts and the opposing team’s best reliever on the mound," how come the pitcher's heart rate remains the same? How come he doesn't sweat more than usual? How come he doesn't need to focus more...?

There's actually more evidence for "clutch" pitching than "clutch" hitting. At the extreme, the Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel, can't get withing a yard of the plate is as obviously "unclutch" as you can get.

And it makes sense, in that pitching is deliberative, and hitting is reactive. It's much easier to psyche yourself out when you have 30 seconds to hold the ball than when you have 0.7 seconds to swing.

BTW, do you guys pronounce it war, like World War II, or waar, like car? I've always thought waar, since war is already a thing, but maybe I'm alone in that.
   39. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:50 PM (#4374641)
WAR as in "war" for me.
   40. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:56 PM (#4374647)
This is more or less a copy and paste. Every once in a while, a dumb sportswriter stumbles on something new to attack WAR with, but its generally the same basic things: strawman (and usually about RBI) to attack, something to the extent of "the at bats I think are more difficult/important are more difficult/important because I think they are" type circular logic without anything to really back it up (this helps build a narrative to sell), and something else like "see all these players at the top of the WAR leaderboard, everyone already knows they're good so who cares!" nonsense. We don't need the home run or batting average leaderboard to know that Aaron and Cobb, or M Cabrera were/are good hitters, so why bother tracking those metrics either?

I would greatly enjoy some writer coming out and saying "I'm used to the stats I learned when I was nine and checked out a box score for the first time, and I'm too get-off-my-lawn to change my ways". That's what this article is really about. He talks about the stats nerds attacking him without realizing he's just as much of a stubborn ass. Is it too much to ask for one of these writers to admit to being an ass too?
   41. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4374649)
This is more or less a copy and paste. Every once in a while, a dumb sportswriter stumbles on something new to attack WAR with, but its generally the same basic things: strawman


Says the second living embodiment of supposed "strawman" in this comment thread.
   42. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:06 PM (#4374651)
Says the second living embodiment of supposed "strawman" in this comment thread.




I'm excited for you to argue that he didn't write "'Driving in runs is meaningless!' they argue"

He's more than happy to demonstrate that he understands the limitation of RBI, but he characterizes the stat nerd as someone who refuses to think deeply about them and unable to understand their value.
   43. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4374652)
He's more than happy to demonstrate that he understands the limitation of RBI, but he characterizes the stat nerd as someone who refuses to think deeply about them and unable to understand their value.


Have you never heard someone argue that "RBIs are meaningless?"
   44. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4374654)
Have you never heard someone argue that "RBIs are meaningless?"


You've changed the quote, and specifically made it vague enough for the writer to sneak out. He said driving in runs, and no, I've never heard anyone say that tallying runs is meaningless. There's a whole ocean's worth of difference between that and what I have heard, that a player's RBI total is not a meaningful measure of ability.
   45. bobm Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:11 PM (#4374655)
Career Leaders & Records for Wins Above Replacement (B-R)

 Rank Bucket  #HOF  ACT  TOT  % HOF
      1- 100    72    6  100    77%
    101- 200    52   10  100    58%
    201- 300    33   10  100    37%
    301- 400    22    6  100    23%
    401- 500    11    7  100    12%
    501- 600     6    9  100     7%
    601- 700     4   12  100     5%
    701- 800     2   12  100     2%
    801- 900     3   10  100     3%
    901-1000     4   10  102     4%
       Total   209   92 1002    23% 


ACT = Active through 2012
TOT = Total number of players in bucket
% HOF = percentage of hall of famers among inactive (through 2012) players in bucket
   46. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:13 PM (#4374656)
I would greatly enjoy some writer coming out and saying "I'm used to the stats I learned when I was nine and checked out a box score for the first time, and I'm too get-off-my-lawn to change my ways". That's what this article is really about. He talks about the stats nerds attacking him without realizing he's just as much of a stubborn ass. Is it too much to ask for one of these writers to admit to being an ass too?


First, congratulations on admitting that you're being an ass. That's honest, at least.

Second, I'm not a professional sports writer or anything, but I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing that WAR gives me that I can't ascertain effectively by looking at a players slash stat line, his defensive valuations, and his team. Which is to say, if I'm a reasonably intelligent and informed baseball fan, I don't really need WAR much at all.
   47. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4374657)
You've changed the quote, and specifically made it vague enough for the writer to sneak out. He said driving in runs, and no, I've never heard anyone say that tallying runs is meaningless.


Seriously? This is your argument? Let me clear this up quickly then. The phrase "driving in runs" is universally used in reference to "RBI men" in baseball.
   48. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4374661)
First, congratulations on admitting that you're being an ass. That's honest, at least.

Second, I'm not a professional sports writer or anything, but I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing that WAR gives me that I can't ascertain effectively by looking at a players slash stat line, his defensive valuations, and his team. Which is to say, if I'm a reasonably intelligent and informed baseball fan, I don't really need WAR much at all.


For someone who just called out Repoz for sneakily excluding an important part of one's work, I'd figured you wait more than about 30 seconds to do the same yourself.

The writer doesn't need WAR to have a basic understanding that the top 10 or so players we're probably the actually top 10 players, at least according to him. Well, why do we need the slash stats to know that Cabrera was one of the best hitters in the game, or any defensive valuations to know that Trout was fantastic last year? Like I said, which you conveniently ignored, why bother tracking anything that is easy to see, like hits falling in or home runs going over the fence?
   49. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4374667)
Well, why do we need the slash stats to know that Cabrera was one of the best hitters in the game, or any defensive valuations to know that Trout was fantastic last year?


Here's a thought: we don't actually need slash stats to know Cabrera could rake or that Trout was an outstanding five tool player. Slash stats allow me to assess how a player I don't see play very often contributes to his team (or fails to) but we don't need them if we see the players. If you watched Mike Trout play baseball on a daily basis, you wouldn't need his slash line or his zone ratings to ascertain his value. Those stats are most useful for general managers looking to evaluate potential roster additions more than anything else.

Like I said, which you conveniently ignored, why bother tracking anything that is easy to see, like hits falling in or home runs going over the fence?


Baseball has always tracked stats. I'm not at all sure what you're trying to get at here. WAR is not a statistical marker of an event that happened in the world. It's a derived amalgam of many, disparate events, sort of glommed together to create a short hand for people who don't want to look at the details very closely. As the article notes, actually.
   50. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4374668)
Seriously? This is your argument? Let me clear this up quickly then. The phrase "driving in runs" is universally used in reference to "RBI men" in baseball.


And that makes a difference how? The writer, and you now, are intentionally using the term vaguely enough so that it can mean two different things. You two seem to think that only you two get to decide when to separate those two ideas, and mainly just to say "look at those dummies!".
   51. greenback calls it soccer Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4374669)
I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing that WAR gives me that I can't ascertain effectively by looking at a players slash stat line, his defensive valuations, and his team.

This all needs to be converted into a dollar amount somehow, and WAR is a pretty obvious means to doing that.
   52. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4374670)
BTW, do you guys pronounce it war, like World War II, or waar, like car? I've always thought waar, since war is already a thing, but maybe I'm alone in that.

I say "waar" in my head, but the few times it's come up in an actual conversation, I've always just said "Wins Above Replacement", to avoid this very conundrum.
   53. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4374672)
And that makes a difference how? The writer, and you now, are intentionally using the term vaguely enough so that it can mean two different things.


Well, no, not really. Language is vague, admittedly. Always has been, always will be. But there's nothing secretive or underhanded here. Anyone with a passing interest in baseball should know that "driving in runs" means "getting RBIs." They're called "Runs Batted In" for god's sake. You accumulate them by driving in runs. The runner on base accumulates Runs Scored by scoring on another player's RBI. This is Baseball 101, man. You can't not know this.
   54. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:32 PM (#4374673)
This all needs to be converted into a dollar amount somehow, and WAR is a pretty obvious means to doing that.


What interest would a casual fan have in converting an amalgam of various talents to a dollar amount?
   55. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:34 PM (#4374675)
49 - Look, I generally agree with you on WAR there. If we look at all the parts that go in, we'll have a better idea of how good a player is. For people who want to put in more than five minutes of work, you can do a lot better than simply WAR. I don't know who is arguing against that. But that's not what the writer says. He says that he just knows who the best players are already, so why bother with WAR. The reason he doesn't like it isn't because he has a better way of evaluating a player's overall ability, like you do.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4374677)
What interest would a casual fan have in converting an amalgam of various talents to a dollar amount?

Understanding if a FA contract was good or bad?
   57. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:38 PM (#4374679)
I'd like to see your posts on this from the day. Besides, it's exactly the voting media types who need these kinds of tools.



Really? You don't think a vast majority of the stat minded people were already arguing about Nolan Ryan's overratedness "back in the day". Heck you don't need war, you just need era to argue that. Heck war is beyond a useless stat for a pitcher anyway, no reason to really use it, and anyone that brings war as an argument for a pitcher, is going to be rightfully ignored anyway.

War works decently for offensive players, provided you are dealing with comparing players with relatively the same playing time. It has it's flaws (Pitchers, catchers, first baseman, utility players) of course, but it's still a damn better tool than we have had in the past.


His argument here is in support of not dismissing RBI out of hand, so while everyone is jacked up, and some people ("clutch players") may feed off the environment, in his example one player won the battle and drove in the run.


Then he is wrong. RBI is one of the worse stats ever created. There is no rate component applied to it, nobody has bothered to try and improve on it, other than some esoteric decimal numbers that people have come up with, or the moronic WPA system. Either way they don't really tell you much. RBI needs a rate component to be useful, but everyone who has put it into a rate component form, has screwed it up by being too technical about it and making it a non-popular or incomprehensible number, so they have never caught on. I would prefer to look at risp over rbi, every day of the week, and I don't particularly like risp.

don't think it's quite a strawman in that I'm sure that people exist who write about WAR like it's absolute. And those people are arrogant. I just don't think they're influencing very many people. Not nearly as many people as the anti-stats writers reach.


Agree, there are war absolutist out there, that get defensive when you criticize war, who don't bother to do anything with it other than use it as a comparison tool and claim "see so and so is better" even if there is a difference in plate appearances, leagues, positions etc. Just because War says so. On this site, not so much, but in the short articles that do include war, oftentimes it is just to point to war and be done with it.

   58. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:39 PM (#4374680)
As an old radio guy, it actually took me quite a while to look at "WAR" and not think "call letters".
   59. cmd600 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4374684)
Well, no, not really. Language is vague, admittedly. Always has been, always will be. But there's nothing secretive or underhanded here. Anyone with a passing interest in baseball should know that "driving in runs" means "getting RBIs." They're called "Runs Batted In" for god's sake. You accumulate them by driving in runs. The runner on base accumulates Runs Scored by scoring on another player's RBI. This is Baseball 101, man. You can't not know this.



And now we just have a wordy "look at that dummy!"

And all of your wordiness doesn't change that you are intentionally conflating two ideas, what driving in runs means to a team, and what an individual's RBI total says about his own ability. You're smart enough to understand the difference, so I have no idea why you are pretending otherwise. The writer flat out says that stat nerds don't understand the former when everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows they are referring to the latter.
   60. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4374687)
Blyleven is #39 in WAR all time and his election to the HoF was no certain thing.

Mussina is 57; Bagwell is 59; Schilling is 63; Whitaker is 74; Larry Walker is 81; Trammell is 91; Raines and Reuschel are tied at 97 and Smoltz is 100. What does it say about WAR that these players are unlikely to be elected by the BBWAA?


War for pitchers is useless... and is weighted for current pitchers anyway(and if you use fangraphs, even more so)

Bagwell would be in if it wasn't for swirling roid rumors. Walker perfectly illustrates the problem with a counting stat, never playing a full season, along with Coors discount. Trammell is the perfect example of why we need a stat like War. He was good at every aspect of the game, but wasn't a Ozzie like defender or a Ripken like hitter so he gets squeezed out. Raines and Whitaker also fit that description.(Raines gets dinged for being the second best leadoff hitter of all time though)

Have you never heard someone argue that "RBIs are meaningless?"


I say it all the time. Without a rate component it has no value or meaning. If you can't tell me the percentage he drove in relative to league, what good does it tell me about his ability? It's a counting stat driven by opportunities. Do some guys do a very good job at it and others not? Of course, but just looking at RBI, the information to tell me that isn't there.
   61. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4374712)
Predictive Empirical Analysis, Circular Explanations
   62. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:05 PM (#4374718)
But that's not what the writer says. He says that he just knows who the best players are already, so why bother with WAR. The reason he doesn't like it isn't because he has a better way of evaluating a player's overall ability, like you do.


No, not really. The article is a direct response to Sam Miller's "WAR is the Answer" article from ESPN.com. He is explicitly debating a guy who is preaching WAR as the "answer" to all of baseball, and comparing people who don't need or use WAR to global warming denialists. You seem to be missing the entire point of the article in your rush to be morally offended that someone isn't taking your preferred stat as Word of God.

And now we just have a wordy "look at that dummy!"


It's ironic that you are accusing me of calling people "dummy" in a thread where I'm arguing in defense of an article asking stat absolutists to stop calling people who don't agree with their preferred stats idiots.

And all of your wordiness doesn't change that you are intentionally conflating two ideas, what driving in runs means to a team, and what an individual's RBI total says about his own ability. You're smart enough to understand the difference, so I have no idea why you are pretending otherwise.


I'm not conflating anything. When anyone talks about RBI, they're talking about a guy that drives in runs for his team. You're trying to turn that into a chicken-egg thing, maybe, but most people just mean "the guy that drives in the runs for the team. RBI is better tracked through SLG%, if you're interested in player evaluation, but it's not useless if you have RBI, a knowledge of the lineup constructions for his team, and his offensive environment.
   63. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:08 PM (#4374724)
Understanding if a FA contract was good or bad?


What does a casual fan care about that? If the Braves go out and resign Jeff Francoeur and he hits the game winning HR of Game 7 of the World Series, casual fans will call that contract good, no matter what.

The need to "properly value" contracts and such is derivative of fantasy baseball more than anything else. Most fans outside of fantasy are going to say "we signed a famous guy I've heard of, yay!"

And this is tangential to the point the article is making.
   64. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:11 PM (#4374732)
BTW, do you guys pronounce it war, like World War II, or waar, like car? I've always thought waar, since war is already a thing, but maybe I'm alone in that.

I pronounce it "whore," as in Aura and Mystique.
   65. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:15 PM (#4374737)
Understanding if a FA contract was good or bad?



WAR is inadequate for that task. At the very least, you need to consider a player's age and consistency, and then you have to make a projection about how likely he is to hold onto his skills. WAR doesn't do any of that. WAR doesn't care if a player is credited for being a 30-year-old great defensive centerfielder whose skills are likely to slip as he ages, or if he's a young player hitting gobs of doubles and triples who is likely to turn that into home run power.

Another way to look at it: Jose Bautista and Jamey Carroll had the same WAR last year. If they were on the free agent market this off-season, would they earn similar contracts? Should they?
   66. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:23 PM (#4374748)
Piggybacking Tom's point @65 - WAR doesn't really tell you anything useful about free agents outside of age, too. A SS with fantastic range and massive defensive value who can't hit may make sense for a team with an otherwise solid lineup and a bunch of young pitchers, or a ground ball heavy staff. Even if you lose some offense from the position. Raffy Belliard is sometimes the better pickup than Jeff Blauser. Or if you showed me two players with identical WAR, but one played 3B and one played the OF, I'd tell you in a heartbeat that the 3B option is more valuable to the Braves of 2013.

WAR gives you none of that.
   67. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:28 PM (#4374755)

WAR is inadequate for that task. At the very least, you need to consider a player's age and consistency, and then you have to make a projection about how likely he is to hold onto his skills. WAR doesn't do any of that. WAR doesn't care if a player is credited for being a 30-year-old great defensive centerfielder whose skills are likely to slip as he ages, or if he's a young player hitting gobs of doubles and triples who is likely to turn that into home run power.


Obviously you want to use projected WAR for a contract not last year's.

   68. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4374758)
Understanding if a FA contract was good or bad?


Rickey and Tom took that comment to mean at the time of the signing, I took it to mean evaluating the contract after the fact.

They were right on it's flaw at evaluating a signing at the time of the signing, but war is perfectly useful tool for evaluating whether a signing was good after it's over.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:32 PM (#4374761)
Piggybacking Tom's point @65 - WAR doesn't really tell you anything useful about free agents outside of age, too. A SS with fantastic range and massive defensive value who can't hit may make sense for a team with an otherwise solid lineup and a bunch of young pitchers, or a ground ball heavy staff. Even if you lose some offense from the position. Raffy Belliard is sometimes the better pickup than Jeff Blauser. Or if you showed me two players with identical WAR, but one played 3B and one played the OF, I'd tell you in a heartbeat that the 3B option is more valuable to the Braves of 2013.

WAR gives you none of that.


To properly evaluate player acquisition and valuation, you have to attempt to put all players on a similar scale.

If you're trying to figure out whether the Braves should use their limited funds sign a #3 SP, or a slick fielding 3B with an average bat, or a slugging LF with atrocious D, you have to compare their vastly different abilities, and the contribution each makes to run scoring and run prevention.

WAR is far from perfect, but at least it gives you a framework to make the comparison.
   70. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4374766)
Rickey and Tom took that comment to mean at the time of the signing, I took it to mean evaluating the contract after the fact.

They were right on it's flaw at evaluating a signing at the time of the signing, but war is perfectly useful tool for evaluating whether a signing was good after it's over.


Well, before hand, you'd use projected WAR, which is based on past WAR, age, trends, and a bunch of other stuff. After the fact, you'd use actuals.

If you don't like the WAR stat, you could achieve the same end by simulating 10,000 seasons with and w/o a player, and estimate his value to a particular team.

But somehow, when deciding to spend talent or dollars to acquire a player, you have to try and assess how many more wins he'll contribute to your team.
   71. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4374773)
WAR is not a statistic, it's a methodology. There are different implementations of this methodology, which produce different statistics. (Win Shares is a WAR, for instance.)

It's a methodology aimed at expressing all of the different player contributions to wins in commensurate ways. For comparing players, it's highly useful, and it's very difficult to make these sorts of comparisons without using some sort of WAR-like method.
   72. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:38 PM (#4374777)
If you're trying to figure out whether the Braves should use their limited funds sign a #3 SP, or a slick fielding 3B with an average bat, or a slugging LF with atrocious D, you have to compare their vastly different abilities, and the contribution each makes to run scoring and run prevention.


If you're trying to compare a hitter to a pitcher using WAR, you've already done it wrong. Any front office who doesn't drill the crosstabs and depends on a all-in-one spitball stat like WAR is already behind the curve.
   73. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:40 PM (#4374780)
Any front office who doesn't drill the crosstabs and depends on a all-in-one spitball stat like WAR is already behind the curve.
But you need to use a WAR methodology to bring those "crosstabs" together.
   74. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:44 PM (#4374791)
But you need to use a WAR methodology to bring those "crosstabs" together.


Why?
   75. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:49 PM (#4374797)
If you have information that one guy is 7.5X and 2.5Y, and someone else is 3.5X and 4.5Y, you need a method for converting X into Y to compare them. That's WAR.
   76. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4374801)
If you have information that one guy is 7.5X and 2.5Y, and someone else is 3.5X and 4.5Y, you need a method for converting X into Y to compare them. That's WAR.


Disagree. You ask yourself "what does my team need?" If your team needs X more than Y, you get guy one. If your team needs Y over X, you get guy two. It's false precision to pretend that X and Y are the same skill set.

EDIT: For the record, this is why I don't really use WAR too terribly often. Not because I'm just madly in love with those gauzy-framed stats of my youth, but because I don't like mixing offensive value and defensive value together as if they're merely differing brands of the same commodity.
   77. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4374805)
If your team needs X more than Y, you get guy one. If your team needs Y over X, you get guy two.
That's simply not true. If your club has a weak defense and a solid pitching staff, you still shouldn't trade Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorious. It's true that teams may choose a player with slightly less total projected value for roster fit reasons, but you have to know how much value you're losing in order to decide if it's the right choice. and that's where you need a WAR methodology.
   78. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:59 PM (#4374808)
There are different implementations of this methodology, which produce different statistics.


Which necessarily argues for the inaccuracy of any or all of them.

For comparing players, it's highly useful, and it's very difficult to make these sorts of comparisons without using some sort of WAR-like method.


I think people kind of elide over the fact that it's rare to have any practical use for one-to-one player comparisons expressed as a single number. In free agent acquisitions or trades, the projection is far more important than a backward-looking estimate of value. And as Sam notes, the needs of the team are also more important than that backwards value estimate.

I've asked this question before and never got a satisfactory answer: If I were in a major league front office, what would I use WAR for?
   79. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4374813)
Which necessarily argues for the inaccuracy of any or all of them.
All of them, of course. All value statistics are necessarily estimates, which are necessarily inaccurate. This is a very dumb argument. Surely you don't object to every method of measurement which involves estimation.
If I were in a major league front office, what would I use WAR for?
Any time you're comparing players, perhaps as possible free agent signings, you're going to use something like a WAR methodology. If you don't have a way of expressing X in terms of Y and Y in terms of Z and so on, you won't be able to effectively say much of anything about player value. Everyone uses nonce versions of WAR constantly.

The best articulation of WAR methodology that I go back to are the Bill James essays on the Jim Rice / Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly / Roger Clemens MVP races. And the New Historical Abstract essay on Griffey vs. Biggio. James articulated the WAR method better than anyone else.
   80. tfbg9 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4374815)
If I were in a major league front office, what would I use WAR for?


Err...defending your previous years' FA acquisitions? To ownership?
   81. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:15 PM (#4374825)
Disagree. You ask yourself "what does my team need?" If your team needs X more than Y, you get guy one. If your team needs Y over X, you get guy two. It's false precision to pretend that X and Y are the same skill set.

That's nonsense. It only applies if the players are equal in value.

Based on your argument the Indians would have been smarter giving $12M p.a. to Kyle Lohse rather than Bourn or Swisher b/c they "needed SP more".
   82. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:16 PM (#4374826)
I think people kind of elide over the fact that it's rare to have any practical use for one-to-one player comparisons expressed as a single number. In free agent acquisitions or trades, the projection is far more important than a backward-looking estimate of value.

Why do you keep pretending WAR can only be backward looking? For player acquisition everyone agrees you want to look at projected value (of which past value is a part, but only a part).
   83. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4374827)
I've asked this question before and never got a satisfactory answer: If I were in a major league front office, what would I use WAR for?


What do you need RBI for?

The components of war is what matters, war just takes those components and put it into a single overall number. From a front office perspective, I don't see any reason that they would need that. War is a way to simplify the overall numbers into one number for the fan.

Why do you keep pretending WAR can only be backward looking? For player acquisition everyone agrees you want to look at projected value (of which past value is a part, but only a part).


Because as a combined number, it really doesn't have value, even as a projection tool. It's the components that matter, not the final number.
   84. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4374828)
For player acquisition everyone agrees you want to look at projected value (of which past value is a part, but only a part).
Right. You can apply a WAR methodology to projections just as easily as to past statistics.
   85. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:18 PM (#4374829)
From a front office perspective, I don't see any reason that they would need that.
How could they not? If you want to figure out whether it's a good idea to offer a certain contract for someone, you want to know how much value they're projected to give you. If you don't have a method for estimating total value - which is what WAR is - how do you decide what makes a good contract for the club? You need more than a WAR methodology, but it's a necessary part of the process.
   86. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4374834)
I've asked this question before and never got a satisfactory answer: If I were in a major league front office, what would I use WAR for?


What do you need RBI for?

The components of war is what matters, war just takes those components and put it into a single overall number. From a front office perspective, I don't see any reason that they would need that. War is a way to simplify the overall numbers into one number for the fan.
   87. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4374855)
Because as a combined number, it really doesn't have value, even as a projection tool. It's the components that matter, not the final number.
But if you don't have a method for combining the numbers, or for producing commensurate numbers, you can't make full use of them. WAR is the method for producing commensurate numbers and combining them as needed.

WAR is mostly about expressing player value in terms of runs. If you're expressing the value of stolen bases in terms of runs, you're using a WAR method. If you're expressing the value of a hit prevented in terms of runs, you're using a WAR method.
   88. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:37 PM (#4374858)
The components of war is what matters, war just takes those components and put it into a single overall number. From a front office perspective, I don't see any reason that they would need that. War is a way to simplify the overall numbers into one number for the fan.

You need both. Predicted components, with deviation around those estimates, and a total.

What are you going to do with the fact that a player is +10 rBat, -2 rBaserunning, +1 rGIDP, and -4 rField if you don't add them up, at least implicitly?
   89. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:39 PM (#4374861)
What are you going to do with the fact that a player is +10 rBat, -2 rBaserunning, +1 rGIDP, and -4 rField if you don't add them up, at least implicitly?
If you have numbers that can be added up, you've already made use of a WAR methodology.

Without a WAR methodology, you'd have 9 home runs, 75 putouts, .274 batting average. Turning all of those into runs is the heart of WAR.
   90. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4374865)
Any time you're comparing players, perhaps as possible free agent signings, you're going to use something like a WAR methodology.


But "something like a WAR methodology" is a very different thing from the use of a single-number WAR. The Indians used "something like a WAR methodology" when they decided to trade for Tris Speaker, but that's not what that "WAR Is the Answer" article was talking about. That was specifically about assigning a single number to a player's value.

And that's my question: When would I have any use for that single numerical value?
   91. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:51 PM (#4374881)
And that's my question: When would I have any use for that single numerical value?
Just to be clear. Would you object to one, two, none, or all of these sentences?

1) I project Nick Swisher to +27 RAR
2) I project Nick Swisher to +15 Bat, -2 Run, +21 Rep, -8 Pos, +1 Def, +27 RAR
3) I project Nick Swisher to +15 Bat, -2 Run, +21 Rep, -8 Pos, +1 Def

I think that it's best to say (2) rather than (1). If your argument is that we should use WAR methodology, but we should always express ourselves in terms of WAR components rather than single-number WAR, I don't have a particular problem with that.

I think it would be silly to object to (2) but not (3). I'm just adding in the WAR "added up" number for ease of reading, rather than forcing the reading to do the obvious addition in her head. You don't object to that, right? And if you don't, you don't object to WAR. You object to expressions of WAR which don't also include information about its components.

EDIT: Took out the contract thing, it's immaterial to the question at hand.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:58 PM (#4374887)
And that's my question: When would I have any use for that single numerical value?

When you're deciding whether to trade Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius.
   93. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:59 PM (#4374890)
Just to be clear. Would you object to one, two, none, or all of these sentences?

1) I project Nick Swisher to +27 RAR, and as such I don't think he's good value at his likely contract.
2) I project Nick Swisher to +15 Bat, -2 Run, +21 Rep, -8 Pos, +1 Def, +27 RAR, and as such I don't think he's good value at his likely contract.
3) I project Nick Swisher to +15 Bat, -2 Run, +21 Rep, -8 Pos, +1 Def, and as such I don't think he's good value at his likely contract.

I think that it's best to say (2) rather than (1). If your argument is that we should use WAR methodology, but we should always express ourselves in terms of WAR components rather than single-number WAR, I don't have a particular problem with that.

I think it would be silly to object to (2) but not (3). I'm just adding in the WAR "added up" number for ease of reading, rather than forcing the reading to do the obvious addition in her head. You don't object to that, right? And if you don't, you don't object to WAR. You object to expressions of WAR which don't also include information about its components.


I would object to (1) as it simplifies complexity that needs to be understood in it's complexity.

I would not object to (2) or (3), as they at least leave the complexity in the equation.

I do object to the notion that what you are arguing here, this idea of "the WAR methodology," is equivalent to the original "WAR Is The Answer" article which drove this column above. I think your position and that of the writer here is far more aligned than your position and Harris's arguments from ESPN.
   94. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:01 PM (#4374891)
The Indians used "something like a WAR methodology" when they decided to trade for Tris Speaker
I doubt it. The idea of converting value to a single unit of measurement and comparing player value between different categories based on these units is not something that was active in old-time baseball. It's reasonably new.
   95. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4374893)
I would not object to (2) or (3), as they at least leave the complexity in the equation.
(2) includes WAR. You don't object to WAR. You object to certain kinds of expressions of WAR. That's completely different from what you've been saying all thread long.

Every stat, every measurement, every word can be used in dumb ways. WAR can be used in dumb ways. However, the WAR methodology is exceptionally useful for talking about baseball, you need to be clear and not talk about how much you dislike WAR when in fact you only object to a certain dumb expression of it.

I'd say that in expressing your opinion about WAR, you are simplifying a necessary complexity, when in fact you need to leave the complexity in the discussion.
   96. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:35 PM (#4374911)
(2) includes WAR. You don't object to WAR. You object to certain kinds of expressions of WAR. That's completely different from what you've been saying all thread long.

Every stat, every measurement, every word can be used in dumb ways. WAR can be used in dumb ways. However, the WAR methodology is exceptionally useful for talking about baseball, you need to be clear and not talk about how much you dislike WAR when in fact you only object to a certain dumb expression of it.


The WAR in the (2) is simply a combination of the details stated prior to the summary. If you leave in the crosstabs, I don't mind the executive summary, but I'm not going to look at it. I'm going to drill the crosstabs. What I dislike about WAR is twofold.

First, I dislike the idea of combining disparate elements of baseball skill into one "single unit of measure." Specifically, I hate the idea of taking offensive measurements, which we're pretty good at, and combining them linearly with defensive measurements, which we're better at than before, which gets to a point vaguely analogous to the high middle ages or something. We're still stupid about defense, just not as stupid as we were a few years back, and mushing defensive runs into a single equation with offensive runs falsifies the calculus. You're not building a better robot. You're building Frankenstien's monster. It is far better to maintain the complexity. The only reason I'm okay with your (2) is because it maintains the complexity at the beginning. (You can choose to ignore the RAR total if you like, and I would.)

Second, I dislike the arrogance with which WAR is deployed in baseball debates, this thread being exemplary of that in some ways. The article linked to above is an intellectually honest, perfectly rational and genuinely friendly and polite counter to Harris' rather silly bromide from ESPN. For his efforts, the guy has been called a "moron*" (@33) and a "dumb sportswriter" (@40). All while the people hurling mindless epithets at the guy for daring to not kowtow to the Holy Answerness That Is WAR accuse others of attempting to shut down debate.

I don't think that's out of bounds or unreasonable, and I think I've been clear on that throughout this thread.

I'd say that in expressing your opinion about WAR, you are simplifying a necessary complexity, when in fact you need to leave the complexity in the discussion.


Cute, but the punch was not landed. No points.
   97. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4374912)
Why should we care about WAR?

Maybe because ...

Every GM relies on WAR today.

Every GM in the history of baseball has relied on WAR.

Every fan in the history of baseball has measured players in WAR at one time or another.

WAR is just wins. Almost every single trade ever made has been made with the participants believing that making the trade would gain them more wins at some point in the future. Every GM looked at every player in the deal as someone who could or couldn't net them more wins than what they could easily acquire out of their minor league system, someone else's, or the waiver wire.

They used WAR with ther own methodologies for calculating values, but they used the WAR framework to make decisions.

Just like fans do with players. Their main interest is never whether their team is gained someone who will lead the league in batting average, RBIs, or "pitchers wins", its how many more wins does this new player bring the team.

Now that their are standardized versions of WAR that use reasonable value calculations it gives everyone fair and unbiased starting points to argue players values in wins from. That's pretty awesome. Nerds didn't work for years to custom design value measures in WAR to show Mike Trout in the best possible light and expose all of Miggys flaws. They created the best possible value measures, and those measures said Trout was great.

Just like any statistic you can quibble with WAR values, they should be starting points, not endpoints to analysis and discussion. But today's WAR measures are good enough there isn't a lot more ground to plow in many cases. You can reject defensive measurements that said Trout was otherworldly and Cabrera bad, and Trout still crushes Miggy. You throw out WARs measures of base running and defense altogether and Miggys bat was still barely more valuable than Trouts. Thatt clearly tells you Trout was more valuable, because any set of eyes will tell you Trout added so much more value on defense and base paths that Miggy would have to have crushed Triout at the plate to make up for it.

   98. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4374913)
When you're deciding whether to trade Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius.


Is it possible to object to that trade without using WAR? I think it is.
   99. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4374914)
But today's WAR measures are good enough there isn't a lot more ground to plow in many cases. You can reject defensive measurements that said Trout was otherworldly and Cabrera bad, and Trout still crushes Miggy. You throw out WARs measures of base running and defense altogether and Miggys bat was still barely more valuable than Trouts. Thatt clearly tells you Trout was more valuable, because any set of eyes will tell you Trout added so much more value on defense and base paths that Miggy would have to have crushed Triout at the plate to make up for it.


At the end of the day, I think this is what drives most hardcore WAR believers these days; the terrible, horrendous, crime against humanity that happened when the voters awarded Miguel Cabrera the 2012 MVP because he was a triple crown winner, over the beloved youngster, Mike Trout. Good god, son. Get over it. It's neither the first nor the last time a guy with less stat-nerd chachet loses and MVP race.
   100. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:50 PM (#4374919)
Is it possible to object to that trade without using WAR? I think it is.

How do you compare the value of a good-glove, no-hit SS to a pitching prospect w/o some projection (in a common unit) of how much value each will deliver over the next X years?

Even simpler, let's take away uncertainty. Let's say I know for sure the production of the only 2 available LF. They both available for a 3/20 contract, and are the same age, and I need a LF. For the next 3 years, Sluggy Slotherton will have a 120 OPS+ with poor baserunning and average defense, with Speedy Gloverton will put up a 90 OPS+ with good baserunning and excellent defense.

How do I choose who to sign without evaluating their contributions in some common unit of measure?
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