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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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   101. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4374920)
The WAR in the (2) is simply a combination of the details stated prior to the summary.
WAR is nothing other than the articulation of a set of value stats which have been expressed via a single unit of measure, to enable their combination. If you don't object to that, you don't object to WAR.
   102. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:55 PM (#4374921)
Tom - Can I ask for your response to #91?
   103. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:56 PM (#4374922)
How do I choose who to sign without evaluating their contributions in some common unit of measure?


What does your team look like? Who is your CF? Does he cover a lot of ground defensively to make up for Sluggy's sloth? What kind of pitching staff do you have? Are they primarily ground ballers or do they rely on their OF's to chase down balls in the gaps? What does your farm system look like? Is there a reasonable defensive replacement OF in AAA, not much of a prospect but good enough to fill in for Sluggy when you have a late lead, or is your best young player a hammer of a 1B who could PH late and hit a few homers if you need them?

None of those bits of knowledge have anything to do with WAR.
   104. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4374924)
WAR is nothing other than the articulation of a set of value stats which have been expressed via a single unit of measure, to enable their combination. If you don't object to that, you don't object to WAR.


Then let me be clear; I don't object to (2) because you've provided the more useful, worthwhile data, so the oversimplification of the combined display can be properly ignored.
   105. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4374925)
Those are all useful bits of knowledge.

However, if you can't compare Sluggy and Speedy, you don't know how wide the difference between them is, and how much consideration you need to give to team construction as compared to player quality. Getting the right player is always a matter of balancing the need to get the best player with the need to get the player who fits the team the best. You are right that we need to consider the latter problem, but you can't ignore the former problem.
   106. JJ1986 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:01 PM (#4374927)
It's neither the first nor the last time a guy with less stat-nerd chachet loses and MVP race.


Trout didn't just have more stat-nerd cachet. He had a better year.
   107. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:01 PM (#4374928)
Then let me be clear; I don't object to (2) because you've provided the more useful, worthwhile data, so the oversimplification of the combined display can be properly ignored.
You aren't actually ignoring it. If you look at 10 + 2 and don't see "12" as well as 10 + 2, you are probably illiterate. It is important, in comparing a 10 + 2 player to a 7 + 3 player, to compare 10 and 7, to compare 2 and 3, and to compare 12 and 10.
   108. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:02 PM (#4374929)
You are right that we need to consider the latter problem, but you can't ignore the former problem.


I don't suggest that we should ignore the former problem. I simply think that trying to shoehorn the former problem into a single value number like WAR so oversimplifies the math that it becomes meaningless. You have to value and evaluate the player. You don't need to cram it into a single number; ever. And cramming it into a single number creates false confidence and false precision, such that eventually you have folks arguing that a 1 WAR difference between disparate players on drastically differing rosters is the difference between MVP yeses or nos.
   109. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4374930)
I don't suggest that we should ignore the former problem. I simply think that trying to shoehorn the former problem into a single value number like WAR so oversimplifies the math that it becomes meaningless.
You need the methodology that can produce the "single value number" in order to do the comparison.

A methodology that can't produce a single value number also can't do the comparison.
   110. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4374931)
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 don't object to any of it; you may project Nick Swisher to do anything you like. Just don't pretend it's anything other than estimates built on estimates. As to preferring one over the other, as Sam said, the granularity is far more preferable than the blunt tool. (I've also noticed that you've moved away from using WAR at all, which is a good thing; the fact that this thing is sold as telling us how many wins each player is responsible for is a complete oversell.)

I still don't see what it has to do with front office decisions. The choice for the Indians is not to sign Nick Swisher at +27 RAR for one year as opposed to Outfielder X at +21 RAR for one year. The choice is to sign Nick Swisher for four years, or trade a couple of AA ball pitchers for Denard Span on a short-term contract, or plug in some kid from AAA, or any number of other things. Coming up with a very rough estimate of Nick Swisher's value for 2013 is only a small part of that equation.

That's my basic objection to the whole concept: Baseball is really complicated. It's too complicated to reduce each player to a single number and think that answers any important questions.
   111. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4374932)
Trout didn't just have more stat-nerd cachet. He had a better year.


Sure. And Miggy won the triple crown. Post-season awards aren't always about statistical performance.
   112. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:05 PM (#4374933)
You need the methodology that can produce the "single value number" in order to do the comparison.


We're talking past one another at this point. I believe I've made my position pretty clear.
   113. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:08 PM (#4374934)
Slash stats allow me to assess how a player I don't see play very often contributes to his team (or fails to)


Quick, which player was the better offensive player?

a) 326/399/564/83 RBIs

Or

b) 333/393/606/139 RBIs?

Wait, player A hit leadoff a lot while stealing 49/54 bases and grounding into only 7 double plays, while player B hit cleanup and was 4/5 on steals. while grounding into 28 double plays. Player A played in a pitchers park in a tougher division while player played in a hitters park in a weaker division.

Still maintain that slash lines are all the meaningful data you need to evaluate players you haven't seen?

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.


Who watches any player on a daily basis? Can you really watch all of Mike Trouts games and Miguel Cabreras games and know which one is the more valuable offensive player? You couldn't tell us who had the higher OBP without recording data, and likely couldn't come close to guessing ther batting or slugging averages.

Through out this thread you continuously use components of WAR as measures, you clearly believe in measuring offensive and defensive contributions and estimating heir impact in wins for their team. You just don't like summing those contributions in a singe number because it hides data. So what? So do BA, RBIs, pitchers Wins, ERA, etc, every single one is an imperfect summary of a player skill. The difference is that WAR hides less data and has far fewer imperfections than all of the standard stats.

I mean you and the author don't even believe that the vast majority of pitchers have little control over their BABIP, a concept that is about as solidly proven as gravity and evolution by this point (and easily disprovable if it wasn't so true). You and the author should create your own baseball Truther society to deny all sabermetric principles and studies, when you have free time away from attempts to prove man walked with dinosaurs and NASA faked the moon landings.
   114. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:09 PM (#4374935)
I don't object to any of it; you may project Nick Swisher to do anything you like. Just don't pretend it's anything other than estimates built on estimates.
This is unresponsive, and your anti-intellectual tactic of repeating basic facts about statistical methods with a sneer as if that is somehow an argument is seriously bothersome. Anyone with any understanding of statistics knows when they are working with estimates. If you want to object to modern social science in its entirety because it uses "estimates", I guess I can't stop you, but I wish you'd stop arguing like you're in front of an audience of idiots who don't understand how statistics work.
The choice is to sign Nick Swisher for four years, or trade a couple of AA ball pitchers for Denard Span on a short-term contract, or plug in some kid from AAA, or any number of other things. Coming up with a very rough estimate of Nick Swisher's value for 2013 is only a small part of that equation.
It is indeed. But it is also a necessary part of that equation, and previously you were saying it was useless. I agree with the quoted text in its entirety, and you have completely shifted your position from unreasonable to reasonable.
   115. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:17 PM (#4374937)
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.
Yeah, this is nutty. We can often get value from subjective observations, but the idea that we can consistently and confidently evaluate player value without numbers is a load of crap.
   116. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:19 PM (#4374939)
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.


Why? It so wonderfully captures the detachment of sportswriters and people like you from reality. Especially the phrase "hard core believers". LOL. If Trout had lost to Cano, it wouldn't have been so beautiful. I mean we all knw how imprecise WAR is, so you can make the case that Trout might not have been that good defensively, etc. and Cano had certain intangibles that could narrow a 20% gap.

But Cabrera trailing by so much? LOL, its should be the Most Narrative Award (and still a travesty).

WAR exposed Miggy for being the out maker, rally killer, gloved butcher he was. He produced the highest most shiny stats, but gave back a bunch of runs in much less obvious ways,, but WAR caught him.

Trout also had shiny stats, but in the tougher to see and appreciate skills he created many more runs than Miggy, by doing little things that WAR measured and valued.

You and the dumb sportswriters just got up to get another beer everything Miggy grounded into two outs.

   117. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:20 PM (#4374940)
Based on my observations of a dozen or so 2004 Red Barons games, Jim Rushford was a five-tool player who would have been another Frank Thomas if given half a chance.
   118. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:29 PM (#4374941)
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.

Yeah, this is nutty. We can often get value from subjective observations, but the idea that we can consistently and confidently evaluate player value without numbers is a load of crap.


Lets say you watched every Tigers game. Without tracing stats, could you really know that Cabrera was a better hitter than Fielder? The difference between Miggy (.330/44/139) and Prince (.313/30/108) was approx 1 HR every other week*. Without tracking stats, can you really tell the difference?

*Turn 13 Prince outs into HR and his slash line is .336/43/128, the last number assumes 1.5 RBI per extra HR.
   119. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4374943)
I don't suggest that we should ignore the former problem. I simply think that trying to shoehorn the former problem into a single value number like WAR so oversimplifies the math that it becomes meaningless. You have to value and evaluate the player. You don't need to cram it into a single number; ever. And cramming it into a single number creates false confidence and false precision, such that eventually you have folks arguing that a 1 WAR difference between disparate players on drastically differing rosters is the difference between MVP yeses or nos.

If I change the numbers and make Sluggy a 150 OPS+ hitter, he becomes so radically better than Speedy that all you need is the single number.

WAR can't tell you if a 4 WAR player is better than a 3.5 WAR players, but it sure as hell can tell you that a 4 WAR player is better than a 1 WAR player.

Having a contextual framework, and a common unit of measurement helps you evaluate all the other factors (when necessary) by suggesting what orders of magnitude you're dealing with.
   120. DA Baracus Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4374945)
Has anyone measured whether pro athletes really experience this in pressure situations?


It can be done. Some NFL and soccer teams put heart monitors on their players during practices and games.
   121. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:10 PM (#4374954)
Who watches any player on a daily basis?


Baseball beat writers.
   122. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:20 PM (#4374958)
This is unresponsive, and your anti-intellectual tactic of repeating basic facts about statistical methods with a sneer as if that is somehow an argument is seriously bothersome. Anyone with any understanding of statistics knows when they are working with estimates. If you want to object to modern social science in its entirety because it uses "estimates", I guess I can't stop you, but I wish you'd stop arguing like you're in front of an audience of idiots who don't understand how statistics work.


I am genuinely sorry you feel that way. I certainly didn't intend my answer to be insulting.

But the fact that we are talking about estimates seems to be the whole crux of the matter, isn't it? You think you can take estimates of the values of Nick Swisher's past seasons with regard to hitting, fielding, baserunning, positional value and whatnot, add them together, apply some forward thinking, and come up with a reasonable estimate of his value for 2013. You ask me if I object to various ways of presenting it, and my answer is: No, I have no objection at all, because I don't think it has a whole lot to do with reality. It's all guesswork.

Look, Bbref thinks Swisher was five runs better than average on defense in 2012, and six runs below average in 2011. Fangraphs think he was 3.7 runs above average in 2012 and 6.9 runs above average in 2011. And you think we can come up with a reasonable estimate for the value of his defense in 2013? Those guys know way more about baseball than I do, and they can't figure out if Swisher is getting worse or getting better. So why should I have an opinion about the best way to present that information?

I don't think it's anti-intellectual to remind people that we really don't know all that much about the accuracy of these numbers. I don't think it's anti-intellectual to acknowledge the limits of our intellect.

   123. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:21 PM (#4374960)
You and the dumb sportswriters just got up to get another beer everything Miggy grounded into two outs.


You are an arrogant son of a #####, huh? The least you could do is perhaps read for comprehension before spewing out at the mouth like this.

I have stated already that Trout was the better player. Dumbass.
   124. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:25 PM (#4374961)
I don't think it's anti-intellectual to remind people that we really don't know all that much about the accuracy of these numbers. I don't think it's anti-intellectual to acknowledge the limits of our intellect.
Absolutely I agree.
You ask me if I object to various ways of presenting it, and my answer is: No, I have no objection at all, because I don't think it has a whole lot to do with reality. It's all guesswork.
This is the thing I was objecting to. "Estimate" != "guesswork".

Estimates are logically derived, rigorously argued attempts to model reality. Reducing them to guesswork is both wrong as a matter of description and disrespectful to the people who've put in the work to create these estimates.

Now, estimates can be very, very wrong. I don't mean all estimates are good estimates. If you have a specific argument regarding a specific estimate or a specific method of estimating, that would be a useful contribution. Objecting to the entire process of estimating, that's not.
   125. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:28 PM (#4374964)
Look, Bbref thinks Swisher was five runs better than average on defense in 2012, and six runs below average in 2011. Fangraphs think he was 3.7 runs above average in 2012 and 6.9 runs above average in 2011. And you think we can come up with a reasonable estimate for the value of his defense in 2013?
Yes! Those numbers are very, very close to each other. We're looking at a range of about 10 runs. He's probably within 5 runs of average. That's super useful for estimating his defensive value.
   126. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:38 PM (#4374967)
Yes! Those numbers are very, very close to each other. We're looking at a range of about 10 runs. He's probably within 5 runs of average. That's super useful for estimating his defensive value.

Exactly. Those numbers tell you he's probably averagish. Most years we'll expect him to be +/- 5.

Just b/c estimates have an error range, doesn't make them guesses. Our offensive projections have error ranges too.

All projections of value should incorporate error ranges. Many of them do. The CAIRO projections explicitly state various percentiles of performance.
   127. Mayor Blomberg Posted: February 23, 2013 at 08:08 PM (#4374970)
For me the useful thing about this article was to discover that WAR believes that Rick Reuschel > Bob Feller. Nor sure what to make of that. (Yes, I know that WAR credits no war credits, but still.)
   128. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 08:23 PM (#4374973)
Yes! Those numbers are very, very close to each other. We're looking at a range of about 10 runs. He's probably within 5 runs of average.


Break out the champagne folks, we have a possible value with of +/- 5 "runs." How could we have ever evaluated Nick Swisher's defense otherwise?
   129. zenbitz Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4374987)
Whats the standard error in runs on offense? Pitching? Its not that far from 5.
The purpose of war is to put offense, defense (including positional adjustment), and baserunning on the same scale.

   130. Hank G. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:24 PM (#4374992)
94:
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.


I disagree. People have been doing this since the first argument about which of two players was better. It was just done in a more haphazard way.
   131. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:35 PM (#4374996)
I disagree. People have been doing this since the first argument about which of two players was better. It was just done in a more haphazard way.


Not really, no. It's still just as haphazard as before. But now we want to pretend it's not. That's the whole damned problem.
   132. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:28 AM (#4375037)
Heart rates: They used to do this on some poker broadcasts. Not athletes obviously but high pressure situations. Not that I watched a lot (much less have the data) but it seemed the top guy's heart rates still went up an appreciable amount.

I'm sure cycling teams, etc. do this but they don't really have many high pressure situations -- they have work at insane levels for bursts of time that of course send heart rates through the roof (e.g. sprints). Those moments coincide with high pressure situations but they're not being asked to come through in the clutch exactly they're being asked to work harder than the other sprinters.

I disagree. People have been doing this since the first argument about which of two players was better. It was just done in a more haphazard way.

It was mainly done in a useless way.

"Player A's defense and baserunning make up for the hitting gap with B."

"There's no way his defense could be good enough to make up a gap of (20 points of OPS+, 60 points of OPS, 30 points of BA, 12 HR, 39 RBI or whatever you feel like plugging in)."

"Can too."

"Can not."

"Idiot."

"Moron."

At least now we can get to the point of

"See, it's perfectly reasonable to think A's defense and baserunning make up the gap, WAR says so."

"That just proves that WAR's defense and baserunning numbers are wrong."

"Does not."

"Does too."

"Idiot."

"Moron."

It's called the advance of science.
   133. shoewizard Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:39 AM (#4375050)
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


CFB, you wrote this on page 1. BP's OBI% is simpy the percentage of all runners on base batted in.

Whats so incomprehensible about that ?

Here is the top 20, Min 300 PA's (258 PLayers in all) LINK


Hamilton 22.2%
Cabrera 21.4
Gonzalez 21.1 (Boston PA's only)
Hunter 20.8
Lee 20.5
Nelson 20.3
Colvin 20.2
Ruiz 20
Headley 19.9
Craig 19.8
Montero 19.7
Lucroy 19.4
Soriano 19.4
Longoria 19.4
Arencibia 19.4
Inge 19.2
Butler 18.9
C. Gonzalez 18.7
A Ramiriez 18.7
Posey 18.4

There are quite a number of guys on this top 20 list that I would not put anywhere near the top 20 most valuable hitters, top 20 "best" hitters, or even top 20 "best RBI men"....yet here it is, in a very simple, comprehensible stat.


Other players of interest

42nd Trout 17.3


The Yankees were especially bad as a team

The BEST Yankee, Swisher, clocked in at 16.5 %, 64th overall

Tex 15.5% 95th
Granderson 14.9% 118th
Cano 12.8% 184th
Jeter 12.6% 188th
A Rod 11.0 230th
Martin 10.6% 236th

Thats stunning really.....if just one or two off those guys cracked the top 50 their offense would have looked a bit different perhaps.

And of course...Jeff Franceour, 9.6%, 246th out of 258 with 300 PA or more.

   134. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 24, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4375091)
CFB, you wrote this on page 1. BP's OBI% is simpy the percentage of all runners on base batted in.

Whats so incomprehensible about that ?

Does it account for players who had an unusual percentage of their runners on base on first base? Or those who saw a lot of runners actually in scoring position? Is it adjusted for ballparks? Does it account for the baserunning ability of the runners on base?

It's not nearly as illustrative of pure "RBI skills", as you pretend it is.

There are quite a number of guys on this top 20 list that I would not put anywhere near the top 20 most valuable hitters, top 20 "best" hitters, or even top 20 "best RBI men"....yet here it is, in a very simple, comprehensible stat.

And those guys weren't on the list last year. And probably won't be on the list next year. OBI% is prone to huge year-to-year variations, with little rhyme or reason. But over time, the best hitters tend to end up at the top. There is really nothing there that you aren't better off figuring out from raw hitting stats.
   135. DanG Posted: February 24, 2013 at 10:54 AM (#4375097)
If you're measuring a player's value for a season, aren't players who hit better when there's the opportunity to drive in somebody providing value beyond their raw hitting stats?
   136. bobm Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:08 AM (#4375103)
Does it account for players who had an unusual percentage of their runners on base on first base? Or those who saw a lot of runners actually in scoring position? Is it adjusted for ballparks? Does it account for the baserunning ability of the runners on base? 

BP reports the runners on base and scored by base for each batter.

It is not RBI%+. That does not make it useless .
   137. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4375110)
If you're measuring a player's value for a season, aren't players who hit better when there's the opportunity to drive in somebody providing value beyond their raw hitting stats?

If you want to measure situational value, just go with WPA. RBI and OBI% really add nothing of value that isn't already captured there. I mean it's still mostly useless, but at least it's comprehensive.

It is not RBI%+. That does not make it useless .

No, being a glorified random number generator takes care of that.
   138. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4375119)
No, being a glorified random number generator takes care of that.


The sport of baseball is a glorified random number generator.
   139. bobm Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4375138)
No, being a glorified random number generator takes care of that.

The sport of baseball is a glorified random number generator.


http://xkcd.com/904/
   140. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4375150)
WAR is just wins.


This is what people mean by arrogance. War is a structure that attempts to qualify the totality of a players performance in a wins like system. To claim it is wins, is ridiculous, the accuracy is not even close to being there, and outside of Win Shares, none of the systems even start with wins as the baseline.

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.


It also exposed the flaws of War. To think for a second that there is a 4 win difference between those two performances is nuts. Yes Trout was the Most valuable player last year, but it wasn't a 4 win difference.

You can reject defensive measurements that said Trout was otherworldly and Cabrera bad, and Trout still crushes Miggy.


Not really, to get the "crush" you have to accept the positional adjustments applied to the two, the park factors that says that Anaheim was an unwordly great pitchers park, and that Tiger stadium was a hitters park. Etc.... The difference between the two was ultimately in the hard to see areas(Park adjustments, the fact that there is no positive benefits for playing everyday with war if you are average or less defensively, and positional adjustments) As it stands, Miggy put up the better offense over the course of the 162 game season, Trout just gains ground by better defense, park adjustments, positional adjustments and the silliness of a system that thinks there is no benefit to a guy who puts on a uniform 20+ times over the other guy.

Trout should have been the MVP, but war believers that push this 4 win difference is the ones who need to take a step back.

CFB, you wrote this on page 1. BP's OBI% is simpy the percentage of all runners on base batted in.

It doesn't tell the full story, and the masses don't care for it. I would have no problem with it, provided it doesn't try any weird ####, like using the expected run matrix and comparing that player to average and coming up with a decimal number that doesn't really give any 'meaning' to a casual fan. On top of that, for some reason obi ignores homeruns, and I really, really hate any stat that use RBI and ignores homeruns (absolute dumbest stat ever created is the Rbi+Runs-HR stat that some people like to tout out. This makes productive outs to be the greatest stat ever invented in comparison)

Eventually someone is going to come up with the proper rbi stat, which is to assign .25 bases to every remaining base of the runners on, including a full 1 for the batter, and then track batters advanced, batters scored, and total opportunities. Until that day arrives you are going to have the stat nerds doing everything with the expected run scoring matrix, and not one normal person giving a rats ass about it.



Does it account for players who had an unusual percentage of their runners on base on first base? Or those who saw a lot of runners actually in scoring position? Is it adjusted for ballparks? Does it account for the baserunning ability of the runners on base?


You can't expect everything, no stat in existence accounts for baserunning ability of runners on base. In fact no stat accounts for any variable involving the quality of players involved. That is one of the big flaws with WPA and the theoretical break even point of sb/sb% it's based upon assuming everyone else is average.

That link he gave has obi for men on first, second and third along with overall percentage so it has some of the information you are asking for if you look at it close enough.


If you want to measure situational value, just go with WPA.

If you want to act like you have had half your brain removed, use WPA for anything. It's gotta be on the short list of Worst Stat ever created, while grounded in a basic logical framework(it's a toss up between this or productive outs)
   141. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM (#4375156)
the fact that there is no positive benefits for playing everyday with war if you are average or less defensively

This is completely untrue. WAR is a counting stat. As long as the totality of your contributions is above replacement level, playing more games will increase your WAR total. If Cabrera had played 15% less, at the same rate he did, he'd have 15% less WAR.

Maybe you shouldn't criticize a system you clearly don't fully understand.

If you want to act like you have had half your brain removed, use WPA for anything. It's gotta be on the short list of Worst Stat ever created

Oh I agree. And it still runs circles around OBI%, which is really all you need to know about OBI%.
   142. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:03 PM (#4375159)
the fact that there is no positive benefits for playing everyday with war if you are average or less defensively
This is the opposite of a fact.
   143. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:08 PM (#4375164)
This is completely untrue. WAR is a counting stat. As long as the totality of your contributions is above replacement level, playing more games will increase your WAR total. If Cabrera had played 15% less, at the same rate he did, he'd have 15% less WAR.

Maybe you shouldn't criticize a system you clearly don't fully understand.




War does not do what you think it does. If you understood it, you would realize that a player who plays league average defense for 162 games is considered to be lesser defensive player than a guy who played one game and was slightly above average. Simple as that. I'm talking only about the defensive component, I don't give a rats ass about the offensive component here. War is a totality of several numbers including defense. It doesn't reward playing in the field everyday, it's a clear flaw in the system. Same goes for baserunning.


Considering that everyone on here defending war has stated that war is the summation of running, defense, offense etc, the fact that it clearly fails on defense and running is a problem. I know why they do it that way, but it still doesn't change the fact that it exaggerates the difference between a player like Cabrera vs Trout.

Win Shares is the one system that seems to have the gap correctly 35 for Trout, 30 for Cabrera.

   144. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4375175)
War does not do what you think it does. If you understood it, you would realize that a player who plays league average defense for 162 games is considered to be lesser defensive player than a guy who played one game and was slightly above average. Simple as that. I'm talking only about the defensive component, I don't give a rats ass about the offensive component here. War is a totality of several numbers including defense. It doesn't reward playing in the field everyday, it's a clear flaw in the system. Same goes for baserunning.

That's just completely wrong. The value for playing time is included in the replacement level component. An average player who plays a lot racks up more value than an excellent part-timer.

You saying so doesn't mean it's not there.
   145. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4375180)
It doesn't reward playing in the field everyday, it's a clear flaw in the system. Same goes for baserunning.

One, it's not true - adequacy in defense is already rewarded in positional offensive replacement level. Why would we double-count being average?

Second, replacement level for defense is very high, adequate defensive players are a dime a dozen if you don't care how they hit.
   146. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4375181)
That's just completely wrong. The value for playing time is included in the replacement level component. An average player who plays a lot racks up more value than an excellent part-timer.


Again, in the defense component it does not. A player who is purely average defensively gains absolutely no value whether he plays 1 game or 162 games. His defense component is exactly the same.

A hitter can hit below average and gain value for every game he plays, but only on the offense side of the ball. A player who plays in the field for the team doesn't get that same generosity.
   147. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4375183)
One, it's not true - adequacy in defense is already rewarded in positional offensive replacement level. Why would we double-count being average?

Second, replacement level for defense is very high, adequate defensive players are a dime a dozen if you don't care how they hit.


Again. I know why they do it the way they do it, but it then overstates the value when you have two players, one a below average defender at a non-premium position who played 150+ games versus a guy who was good defensively but only played 110 games.

Second, there is no replacement level for defense, they are using league average for defense and baserunning. They use that standard because the theory is if you hit at replacement level, you have to perform at league average to be worth anything. A replacement level hitter wouldn't get playing time if he was also a replacement (which doesn't exist in war) level defender.
   148. JJ1986 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4375185)
Again, in the defense component it does not. A player who is purely average defensively gains absolutely no value whether he plays 1 game or 162 games. His defense component is exactly the same.

A hitter can hit below average and gain value for every game he plays, but only on the offense side of the ball. A player who plays in the field for the team doesn't get that same generosity.


The replacement component is not part of the offensive component. I think it was when WAR was first introduced, but now it's independent of offense and defense.
   149. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4375193)
The replacement component is not part of the offensive component. I think it was when WAR was first introduced, but now it's independent of offense and defense.


Huh? Replacement is the level that the maker of war determines as the baseline for whether a player is performing above. It's has to part of the component or else there wouldn't be any negative numbers possible. The fact that a player can put up a negative oWar is proof that replacement is part of the offensive component.

If you are talking about rBat that is different, that is relative to average.

But here is what they say about dWar A defensive measure of wins above replacement, but given only the defensive stats of the player and his position adjustment. For this calculation we use a replacement level on defense is the league average.
   150. JJ1986 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4375198)
Huh? Replacement is the level that the maker of war determines as the baseline for whether a player is performing above. It's has to part of the component or else there wouldn't be any negative numbers possible. The fact that a player can put up a negative oWar is proof that replacement is part of the offensive component.

If you are talking about rBat that is different, that is relative to average.


Except oWAR and dWAR aren't quite components of WAR. They're groupings of a few components, and oWAR includes the replacement level one. In WAR (overall), the offense and replacement level are separate.
   151. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4375203)
Second, there is no replacement level for defense, they are using league average for defense and baserunning. They use that standard because the theory is if you hit at replacement level, you have to perform at league average to be worth anything. A replacement level hitter wouldn't get playing time if he was also a replacement (which doesn't exist in war) level defender.

Replacement level isn't just about offense or defense; it's a combination. An average hitter who's unplayable on defense is roughly replacement level.
   152. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:58 PM (#4375211)
Replacement level isn't just about offense or defense; it's a combination. An average hitter who's unplayable on defense is roughly replacement level.


Again, I know why they chose to do that, but I feel it unfairly penalizes below average defenders who play everyday compared to above average defenders who only play 110 games. If Trout had 150+ games this wouldn't have been an issue, but it is an issue because it makes the assumption that a below average defender doesn't provide value by just being in the lineup everyday.

As far as I'm concerned, a guy who posts exactly replacement level offense, and slightly below average level defense, but who(for whatever reason) is in the lineup 150 games of the year, is a plus to the team. By war he wouldn't be, by war he would be considered inferior to the guy who went 1-5, but made several good defensive plays in his one and only game of the year. There is value to being able to play in the field everyday that war doesn't account for. (and I'm not sure how it would account for it to be honest.)

Again. Trout should have been the MVP, but I feel that War overstates it because of (several reasons actually) how it accounts for defense. I think Win Shares nailed the discrepency in their value pretty accurately.
   153. GuyM Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:02 PM (#4375214)
Second, there is no replacement level for defense, they are using league average for defense and baserunning. They use that standard because the theory is if you hit at replacement level, you have to perform at league average to be worth anything.

Everyone is basically right here. Eric and JJ are correct that in WAR, technically, replacement is a combined offensive/defensive metric. There are no separate replacement levels for offense and defense. But it is also true in practice that the average replacement level player is far below average on offense and about average defensively. A player who provides average defense with very weak hitting is not delivering any value, as WAR correctly tabulates.
   154. GuyM Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:06 PM (#4375217)
a guy who posts exactly replacement level offense, and slightly below average level defense, but who(for whatever reason) is in the lineup 150 games of the year, is a plus to the team.

No, this player has negative value. If replacement level is set correctly, better players are available at the league minimum salary. (In the short term, this might not be true for a specific team, but that's likely a managment failure.)
   155. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:23 PM (#4375224)
No, this player has negative value. If replacement level is set correctly, better players are available at the league minimum salary. (In the short term, this might not be true for a specific team, but that's likely a managment failure.)


And I don't agree with that. Of course my point is to illustrate the problem I have with using average defense, not really this particular player. There is value to the team in knowing who is going to play everyday at a position. There is value in a below average defender who plays farther left on the defensive spectrum than he should in order to help the team get a better player in the lineup. Any system that punishes a player who is a better defender than a butcher, but is worse than average, is not a system that I can fully support.

As I said, Trout should have been the MVP, but war in my opinion, overstates the difference.

   156. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4375229)
Any system that punishes a player who is a better defender than a butcher, but is worse than average, is not a system that I can fully support.

Why?

A below average defender who can't hit at all is worthless. There are plenty of average to above average defenders who can't hit.

There is value to the team in knowing who is going to play everyday at a position.

There is no value in knowing you'll have a below replacement level player in there every day. There is no value in being able to pencil in Yuniesky Betancourt for 150 games of -1 WAR.

You're better off throwing a bunch of random minor leaguers and waiver wire pick ups at the position.
   157. BDC Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:58 PM (#4375234)
To claim it is wins, is ridiculous

Just curious (I have no interest in arguing over whether WAR is any good; I find all this stuff equally interesting):

Are the various WARs occasionally reconciled with team wins? I can see why WAR might not track team wins with absolute precision (after all, Pythag doesn't), but does it come close enough to make sense as roughly valid?

Last year (per B-Ref) the Rangers had 18.6 batters' WAR and 23.4 pitchers' WAR for a total of 42; they won 93 games, which would put replacement level at 51 (I know that's not how it's calculated; just working it backwards to take an initial rough look).

Oakland had 18.6 and 23 for, heck, round that up to 42; they won 94, (implicit) replacement would be 52.

The Angels had 37.9 and 2.6 (cripes!) for 41, rounded up; they won 89, replacement level 48.

Seattle: 14.2, 13.6, total 28, 75 wins and 47.

The minor discrepancies, as I said, are neither here nor there; looks to me like a replacement-level ballclub would win ~50 games. Sound right? is that an assumption in the system? The Astros had a total of 7.5 WAR as a team last year and won 55, which is in the range as well.

One implication of a pretty stable team baseline is that yes, WAR is apportioning actual wins, at least in practical terms. It may be apportioning them incorrectly, but players have to have some kind of value, and some have to contribute more than others, and WAR is a serious and reasonable attempt to do so.
   158. zenbitz Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4375236)
But that's just a quibble. Replacement level for defense is just a parameter. One that's particularly hard to define objectively.
   159. JJ1986 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 03:08 PM (#4375239)
And I don't agree with that. Of course my point is to illustrate the problem I have with using average defense, not really this particular player. There is value to the team in knowing who is going to play everyday at a position. There is value in a below average defender who plays farther left on the defensive spectrum than he should in order to help the team get a better player in the lineup. Any system that punishes a player who is a better defender than a butcher, but is worse than average, is not a system that I can fully support.


This all means that you think replacement level is too high (or at least replacement level at premium defensive positions). It has nothing to do with the offense/defense distribution.
   160. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 24, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4375242)
This is what people mean by arrogance. War is a structure that attempts to qualify the totality of a players performance in a wins like system. To claim it is wins, is ridiculous, the accuracy is not even close to being there, and outside of Win Shares, none of the systems even start with wins as the baseline.


Stop trying to lawyer the language and change the argument when you can't rebut it..

WAR is wins.Theoretical wins sure, but wins are always theoretical in how we, sportswriters, GMs and fans use them during analysis of players past or potential contributions. Even if the wins are estimates, and the accuracy isn't perfect, WAR is just the a framework built around the most eternal concept and question in baseball...

As I wrote ad nauseum in that post (and which you ignored so you could cherry pick) GMs and fans from the beginnings of baseball have tried to quantify the contributions of players as Wins. Virtually every baseball roster decision in history is based on the WAR framework, how many wins player A would add (theoretically obviously) over player B, or an easily available replacement.. Fans have argued forever over how many wins players contributed or will contribute, whether they do so in circumspect ways (he was the key to our championship, he's the missing peace this team needs) or directly.

As it stands, Miggy put up the better offense over the course of the 162 game season,


Wrong. Miggy 47 bRuns on offense, Trout 65 bRuns on offense. Offense includes base-running and double plays, unless you play some odd variant of baseball where what happens after the bat hits the ball is just "theoretical", LOL.

Offense is the component in in WAR that has the most accurate measure of value, and Miggy isn't particularly close.

And you don't believe in park adjustments? You think the best hitters of the 90s were all Colorado Rockies, who just had the misfortune to lose their batting eye when they were traded?

Even if you think park adjustments were wrong for Anaheim and Detroit, you have a long way to go to show Miggy as the better offensive player. The park adjustments would have to be nearly as large in the opposite direction.

Detroit's park factor for hitters in 2012 was 104, for the last three years? 104.

Anaheim's park factor for hitters was 91 in 2012. For last 3 years? 92.

LOL, good luck with that argument. And then you can quantify what WAR doesn't, the fact that Trout played in the west against tougher teams on average than Miggy did in the central.

Trout just gains ground by better defense, park adjustments, positional adjustments and the silliness of a system that thinks there is no benefit to a guy who puts on a uniform 20+ times over the other guy.


Again this is ludicrous. You found one minor adjustment of little consequence that you didn't like, and make ridiculous assertions like this. If Miggy played 20 less games, his WAR declines by a similar amount. If Trout isn't sent down for 20 games out of spring training, his WAR is most likely even higher (he hit .400 in AAA while awaiting callup).

Sure WAR is imprecise. Sure the fact it uses single season defensive measurements that don't have the sample sizes to get the accuracy (from a predictive standpoint) single season hitting samples give. So Mike Trout may not have been an all time great defensive center fielder. And Miggy may not have been as bad as he looks.

But Mike deserves the WAR that was measured, just like Maris deserved the 61 home runs he hit. Within the framework of the measurements we used, both excelled, whether either can ever duplicate their seasons again.

   161. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2013 at 03:28 PM (#4375245)
Stop trying to lawyer the language and change the argument when you can't rebut it..


Not trying. The point is that the arrogance to say something as moronic as "War is wins" is exactly what this article is talking about the arrogance put forth by the war disciples. They can't see anything other than their pet stat.

I like war, even with all it's flaws, but I don't adhere to it religiously, there are clear discrepencies in my opinion, the difference between Trout and Cabrera is a textbook example of the flaws with war and the strength of war.

Sure WAR is imprecise. Sure the fact it uses single season defensive measurements that don't have the sample sizes to get the accuracy (from a predictive standpoint) single season hitting samples give. So Mike Trout may not have been an all time great defensive center fielder. And Miggy may not have been as bad as he looks.


And I don't quibble with their rating of either players defense. My quibble is that it punishes everyday players when compared to a guy who played fewer games.

If Miggy played 20 less games, his WAR declines by a similar amount. If Trout isn't sent down for 20 games out of spring training, his WAR is most likely even higher (he hit .400 in AAA while awaiting callup).


Again, win shares does a better job of showing what is the real quality difference between the two seasons. I think War overstates it, because it doesn't give credit for just being in the lineup. It's not Trout's fault, but MVP isn't a blame game, it's based upon what happened in the past, regardless of the reason it happened.

And I have no problem with Mike getting the war that was measured(for the most part) my point is in comparing the two, Miggy is losing ground for being out on the field 20 more games, by the mere fact he was on the field. He is losing war defensively, every single extra game he plays, for being less than an average defender, not a butcher, but a less than average fielder.
   162. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 24, 2013 at 03:59 PM (#4375254)
I think War overstates it, because it doesn't give credit for just being in the lineup.

Yes it does; that's what Rrep is. It just doesn't give as much credit as you seem to want it to.
   163. BDC Posted: February 24, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4375266)
He is losing war defensively, every single extra game he plays, for being less than an average defender, not a butcher, but a less than average fielder

But isn't that how every manager has evaluated less-than-average defenders since the dawn of managers? You either tolerate the guy if his bat allows, move him if his bat allows, or, well, replace him.
   164. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 24, 2013 at 04:48 PM (#4375275)
Not trying. The point is that the arrogance to say something as moronic as "War is wins" is exactly what this article is talking about the arrogance put forth by the war disciples. They can't see anything other than their pet stat.


The reason KT is reacting so violently here is because the critique is so clearly and obviously true about him.
   165. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4375284)
The reason KT is reacting so violently here is because the critique is so clearly and obviously true about him.

Well, clearly you are an expert when it comes to arrogance...
   166. JJ1986 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:10 PM (#4375287)
He is losing war defensively, every single extra game he plays, for being less than an average defender, not a butcher, but a less than average fielder


No, he is not losing "war defensively". He is losing defensive runs relative to average and gaining replacement runs. If he were an average hitter, he'd be gaining WAR.
   167. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4375293)
I think this is what CFB is saying: If Cabrera had played 20 more games at DH instead of in the field, his WAR would be higher, despite the fact that he was doing less. He suffers for playing games in the field.
   168. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:23 PM (#4375295)
CFB, all you are doing is arguing with the notion of a replacement level player which means you're just saying b-r sets it too high. But the zero point isn't going to change the gap. Fangraphs has a lower replacement level than b-r and they put the gap at 3 wins (they put Trout's defense about 1 win lower than b-r).

But, even so, let's buy your argument. Trout started 138 games, Cabrera started 154. It's only a 16 game gap. Just how many WINS do you think 16 extra games of playing time can be worth? That's 10% of a season. Even if you put replacement level down at 0 wins that doesn't add up to 1 win for an average player. There's simply no way you can significantly reduce the gap between Trout and Cabrera with greater rewards for playing time. So if you think the gap was substantially smaller than 3-4 wins, you've got much bigger problems with WAR.

And look at the nature of your arguments -- "I feel this", "I think that", "I believe Win Shares has it about right" -- based on nothing to back it up. At least lay out the components of win shares and how they differ from bWAR and fWAR.

As to park factors, have you looked at the raw stats for Anaheim the last 3 years? In 2012, the Angels scored 71 more runs on the road and hit 23 more HR. Their opponents score 81 more runs and hit 28 more HR. That's a one run per game difference. 2010 and 11 are not as extreme but the gap is on the order of 50-60 runs and 15 HR. Those are big park effects, why should they be ignored?

And I always find this one kinda entertaining:

MT road: 951 OPS
MC road: 913 OPS

MT home: 976 OPS
MC home: 1094 OPS

One of these guys numbers benefited hugely from his home park and it wasn't Trout.
   169. JJ1986 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:25 PM (#4375297)
I think this is what CFB is saying: If Cabrera had played 20 more games at DH instead of in the field, his WAR would be higher, despite the fact that he was doing less. He suffers for playing games in the field.


If he is, then it's not right. Cabrera was something like -10 defensively on the season which is less than the positional adjustment between 3B and DH. I thought he was talking about a theoretical sub-replacement level player, though.
   170. GuyM Posted: February 24, 2013 at 05:25 PM (#4375298)
He is losing war defensively, every single extra game he plays, for being less than an average defender, not a butcher, but a less than average fielder.

Right. You seem to think that providing average defense, absent a decent bat, has value. This is demonstrably false. Think about it: every single starting SS in AAA is a much better fielder than probably 80% of all MLB infielders. Every starting CF in AAA is a better fielder than probably 2/3 of MLB OF. It just isn't a scarce comodity.

Or imagine baseball were like the NFL, with separate hitting and fielding squads. Hitting quality would be somewhat better. But fielding would be vastly better, an enormous upgrade. Probably 70% of all current starters would lose their jobs.
   171. Don Malcolm Posted: February 24, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4375328)
Right. You seem to think that providing average defense, absent a decent bat, has value. This is demonstrably false. Think about it: every single starting SS in AAA is a much better fielder than probably 80% of all MLB infielders. Every starting CF in AAA is a better fielder than probably 2/3 of MLB OF. It just isn't a scarce comodity.

Or imagine baseball were like the NFL, with separate hitting and fielding squads. Hitting quality would be somewhat better. But fielding would be vastly better, an enormous upgrade. Probably 70% of all current starters would lose their jobs.


Intriguing, but how do you demonstrate this empirically? And what would the impact of such an arrangement be on overall run scoring levels?

Those are big park effects, why should they be ignored?


Because they are systematically exaggerated in the way they have been computed since they were first invented? Because if we take a look at the variations in measurement of these values based on differing assumptions, they tend to strongly regress to the mean? And when we do that, we find that the difference between these two players (who we'll have to be hearing about until the end of recorded time, apparently...) is a good bit less than 3-4 wins?

Note we aren't proposing to "ignore" park factors, but when we look more closely at them, we find that they aren't quite the "mirror of truth" that many seem to believe they are. This is another instance of a good idea/theory running itself off the rails. There are pretty straightforward ways to adjust/correct for this situation; one day, perhaps, they will take hold.
   172. Josh1 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 07:13 PM (#4375342)
He is losing war defensively, every single extra game he plays, for being less than an average defender, not a butcher, but a less than average fielder


Cardsfanboy, I think you are misunderstanding how the replacement baseline operates. Replacement in WAR is set as the overall level of offense plus defense possessed by freely available talent at a position. A replacement level 3B may be a -22 hitter and an average fielder, he could be a -18 hitter and a -4 fielder, or he could be a league average hitter and a -22 fielder -- the configuration of the value is irrelevant as long as the sum is the correct value of freely availabletalent. AROM's system defaults to displaying a certain configuration of talent -- average defense and bad hitting -- but he could just as easily shift the offensive baseline a little higher and the defensive baseline a little lower, and it wouldn't change a single result in the system. It's just a convention to use the average defense / bad hitter paradigm as a way of looking at the data, because that configuration of replacement level talent is common. You could if you wanted use a different convention of a -4 fielder who is a 4 run better hitter than the current offensive replacement level, and Cabrera and Trout would wind up with the exact same number of WAR. The distinction for how you attribute replacement level value between offense and defense is entirely irrelevant.

A player who is below average defensively but above replacement overall loses fielding runs with each game played but gains replacement runs and batting runs at a faster rate than he loses fielding runs. He adds total value with every game played. You could shift down the defensive replacement level and up the offensive replacement level and get the same player accumulating a positive defensive value but an offsetting lower amount of offensive value than he did before; he would accumulate the same total value as he did before.
   173. Josh1 Posted: February 24, 2013 at 08:03 PM (#4375364)
I've also wondered about what the game would look like if it had separate offensive and defensive teams like the NFL. I suspect there would be no turnover among offensive stars, as essentially every above average hitter -- regardless of defense -- is in MLB now (which also speaks to DH replacement level). Maybe the lower 30% or so of current offensive players, the typical or below average middle infielders and catchers, would be replaced my minor league corner players. Over time there would probably be a shift toward developing a few more offense only Dunn types, but overall the upper half of the league on the offensive side wouldn't change much.

On the defensive side, initially I think GuyM is right that maybe 20%-35% of current players would still play defense. All the corner players would be replaced, but some up the middle players could keep their jobs. Over time, however, the sport would start to generate true defense-only players, who would over time take away 100% of the defensive slots. All outfielders might look like less muscular cornerbacks whose main skill is sprinting. First basemen might look like NBA guards, tall and quick. I suspect middle infielders and catchers, those already somewhat selected for defense, would change the least in appearance.
   174. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4375592)
The reason people hate RBI is because "old school baseball men" love it so much, not because it's not useful if deployed rationally.


No. The reason I can't stand rbi is because they are almost totally a function of power (most simply represented by SLG, though breaking it down into BA and ISO actually works a bit better when explaining rbi) and opportunity (most simply represented by AB with runners on base)

If you've got SLG, rbi add nothing of value.
   175. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4375603)
There is no value in knowing you'll have a below replacement level player in there every day. There is no value in being able to pencil in Yuniesky Betancourt for 150 games of -1 WAR.

You're better off throwing a bunch of random minor leaguers and waiver wire pick ups at the position


This is the polar opposite of right. There's no guarantee that a replacement level player will perform at replacement level. This is not finance, where a risk-free interest rate is obtainable. Risk-free replacement level performance is not available in the marketplace -- a fundamental flaw in the model.
   176. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4375604)
#17 I've checked -- though my study was more than a decade ago and limited by the data at hand.

As always, there are a handful of players who meet a definition of clutch/choke, provided you set the line at 95% confidence. And that is completely predictable even if there is no such thing as clutch hitting ability.

I don't have the study handy, but I do have the top hitters from the 1990s in late/close.

The best of the 90s in late close are (by hand so I may have missed somebody): Pretty much a who's who of hitters from the 90s, though perhaps not in the precise order you'd expect.

Edgar Martinez  .341/.482/.523
Barry Bonds     .293
/.455/.554
Mark McGwire    .254
/.440/.561
Jeff Bagwell    .294
/.444/.534
Tony Gwynn      .371
/.435/.517
Frank Thomas    .290
/.438/.487
Ken Griffey     .285
/.394/.532
Rafael Palmeiro .286
/.365/.539
Albert Belle    .279
/.376/.522
Gary Sheffield  .281
/.409/.463
Jim Thome       .259
/.388/.485
Mike Piazza     .283
/.379/.497 


(No it's not by OPS. It's by OBP*1.7+SLG)

A related study by David Grabiner suggests that good left-handed hitters with large platoon splits will tend to show up as slight choke hitters. They're more likely to see good LHP in a high leverage situation and be left in there to face the pitcher.

I'm agnostic on the subject. As I'm sure you know my standard response to anybody who brings up clutch is to ask them for a definition so I can actually run a study on the matter.

When I've looked at RISP, late close and various other definitions what I've consistently found is that a small number of players perform better or worse in the situation under study. That overall stats and situational stats aren't perfectly correlated (but are very highly correlated) and that the number of runs/wins at stake are vanishingly small.

No surprise really. No offensive metric is more precise than 5 runs (for a full-time player) and the primary source of error is clutch/timing (word choice is dependent on religious view of the situation)

All that to say is that OBP and SLG explain almost spot on 89% of the variance in team runs scored. Trying to build a winning team by focusing on the timing aspect (even supposing you could correctly identify the players with clutch ability) is not going to work.

   177. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4375605)
If you've got SLG, rbi add nothing of value.

As descriptors of what happened in actual baseball games, RBI add a lot of value. The decision about whether to care about what happened in modeled baseball games, as opposed to what happened in actual baseball games is a philosophical choice, not a mandate.

   178. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4375611)
near calculation is better than the TB*OBP approach.


For individuals yes. The difference is in the noise at the team level, but the basic problem with the multiplicative approach is that (using example from back in the day) a HR hit by Frank Thomas shows up as considerably more valuable than one hit by Joe Carter.

(From an old usenet post)

Doubt this? Take any of Joe Carter's seasons. Calculate the runs created. Then add a 1-1 with a HR and recalculate the RC. Repeat with any of Frank Thomas'. To pick one year at not random, in 1995 that extra HR is worth around 1.43 for Carter and 2.02 runs for Thomas.

For extreme players the error that this created gets very large.

I find it easy to make this point to strat players. Mike Admas' 2011 card has zip against left. Chapman's card has a whole pile of walks (but no hits). If (as one guy in my lague does) you use OBP*SLG they come out as equal.
   179. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM (#4375612)
the basic problem with the multiplicative approach is that (using example from back in the day) a HR hit by Frank Thomas shows up as considerably more valuable than one hit by Joe Carter.

The standard solution to this is to combine the player with eight average teammates, isn't it? Probably doesn't completely eliminate the effect, but reduces it a lot.
   180. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4375619)
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.


I agree with all of this.

With Ryan I think what should be highlighted is that he pitched forever, which has value. Yes, his 112 ERA+ is no great shakes for a HOFer, but he maintained that ERA+ over 5400 innings. Which leads me back to your conclusion: very good pitcher, a deserving HOFer, but not in the discussion for all-time great. I agree one doesn't need WAR to get there.

I'm not a huge WAR supporter as people know, but I do find it useful in setting a baseline or ballpark figure of a player's value. In this case I want to know how much bulk value Ryan had over his career by posting 5400 innings of a 112 ERA+ with the defenses behind him. WAR tells me 77. That's useful to me.
   181. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4375625)
This is the polar opposite of right. There's no guarantee that a replacement level player will perform at replacement level. This is not finance, where a risk-free interest rate is obtainable. Risk-free replacement level performance is not available in the marketplace -- a fundamental flaw in the model.

No, you fundamentally don't understand. Certainty is a bad thing at or below replacement level.

At or below replacement level, you don't want risk-free, you want risky. You want the highest variance you can get.

If I have a choice of 2 players who project as equivalent, one who has 4000 MLB PAs, and one that just got off the boat from Cuba, who I have fragmentary stats and a cursory scouting report on, I'll pick the unknown guy every time.

The unknown guy may turn out to be good. If not, discard him and replace.

Variance is your friend when the expected outcome is bad.

There is negative value in locking in sucky performance.
   182. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM (#4375626)
War for pitchers is useless


Repeating this doesn't make it true. I happen to prefer (the old versions) of Support Neutral W/L to WAR, but the two are highly correlated. WAR's handling of defensive support is potentially problematic, but that's something that can be argued on a case by case basis.

Now if you're talking Fangraph's WAR, fine. This is a fine example of smart people coming up with something silly.
   183. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4375636)
Which necessarily argues for the inaccuracy of any or all of them.


Well it's important to understand the standard error of any given metric. I know that you just can't evaluate a player's offensive contribution more precisely than +/- 5 runs and their defensive contribution is more contentious -- though best I can tell the standard error of the estimates (taking the consensus of the best metrics that are generally available) is on the order of 7 runs.

I've argued for a long time that presenting the results to a single decimal place (with no indication of the standard error) is asserting more precision than the methodology supports (and that's true whether you're talking Fangraphs WAR, BBRef's WAR, Win shares ...), but that's not the same thing as inaccurate.
   184. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4375650)
No, you fundamentally don't understand. Certainty is a bad thing at or below replacement level.

At or below replacement level, you don't want risk-free, you want risky. You want the highest variance you can get.


I do understand that.

The WAR model presumes that replacement level talent that will perform at the replacement level is available in the marketplace. It isn't.

That doesn't really matter if we're simply using the tool to evaluate performance ex post, as we can just call "replacement level" the level we're using as our baseline. If we're using the tool for any ex ante discussion, it absolutely does matter that there's no such thing as risk-free replacement level production available in the marketplace.

The point you raise is valid, but needs the important assumption that the expected value of production is the same. Sure, if one guy projects at an expected value of -1 WAR, with zero variance and another guy projects at an EV of -1 WAR with a lot of variance, it may be that you'll trade the shot at a 5 WAR year for the risk of a -5 WAR year. I don't think the answer is as clear cut as you suggest, though -- a team may be at a point or have the type of roster that makes it just take the sure mediocrity and not take the risk of disaster.

Under no circumstances should you take a guy with a big upside/big downside, but an expected value of -2 WAR, over a risk-free -1 WAR.
   185. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4375659)
Intriguing, but how do you demonstrate this empirically?


The idea of an offense/defense platoon baseball game is actually interesting, in theory (though I'll stick with baseball, in the NL, with no DH's in reality, thanks much.) Why would you need to have 9 hitters in your offensive platoon? Why not go with 9 defenders but just five really fantastic hitters? And if you do that, and you're literally only sending the top 150 or so hitters to the plate in a season, why not give the defense a bit of a break and drop a rover/4th OF into the mix as well?
   186. GuyM Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4375668)
The idea of an offense/defense platoon baseball game is actually interesting, in theory

It's a thought experiment, to illustrate how much more scarce offensive talent is than fielding talent. The idea wasn't to design a new game. Though of course if someone wants to imagine a new sport using bats and balls, it's a free country....

As for what scoring levels would look like, with slightly better hitters and much better fielders, it's an interesting question. If you thought that BABIP might drop by 20 points (about the amount it rose in 1993-94 with the juiced ball), that would reduce scoring by about .5 runs/game for each team -- a big drop. But I dont' know if a 20-point drop is realistic. My guess is scoring would decline a bit overall, maybe .2 runs/game.
   187. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:34 PM (#4375671)
#154 It's also worth noting that a players may have a true talent of "replacement level" (whatever definition you use. And simply have a bad year.

The year to variation in offensive output for a regular player is on the order of 14 runs. IOW it's completely predictable that some teams will get -14 value over replacement (or worse) from a position.
   188. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4375676)
Are the various WARs occasionally reconciled with team wins?


Win shares is. But the way that James gets there is (to put it mildly) extremely questionable.

BB-Ref's reconciles at a teams pythag. Actually that's not correct either. It reconciles at the pythag given the predicted runs scored from offensive events. Fangraphs WAR reconciles at pythag for "runs created" and projected runs allowed given the team defense and the parts of pitching (ie Ks/BBs and HR) that have no defensive influence.

   189. BDC Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:41 PM (#4375677)
I suspect that two-platoon baseball would be a fact by now if it really made a lot of sense. The existence of the DH tends to show that. But there are many big-leaguers who would play both ways at every other position but pitcher, and nothing really to be gained by "resting" them for the half-inning their platoon is off duty.

Put another way (and more germane to the discussion, those scarce good-offense players that GuyM is talking about are very often damn good defensive players too. Of the top 20 players in B-Ref's rField last year, 12 had OPS+ above 100 (and a couple of others, like Michael Bourn and Brett Lawrie, were basically league-average hitters). There's just no advantage to be gained from two platoons: even at SS or C, enough of the guys can hit to make it impractical. Perhaps one, at the outside two flexible "extra DHs" for great fielders might make some sense, but it's not like the guys who play DH right now are a phenomenal offensive contingent: guys hanging around in the minors with great hitting potential and no position are very thin on the ground.
   190. BDC Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4375680)
BB-Ref's reconciles at a teams pythag. Actually that's not correct either. It reconciles at the pythag given the predicted runs scored from offensive events. Fangraphs WAR reconciles at pythag for "runs created" and projected runs allowed given the team defense and the parts of pitching (ie Ks/BBs and HR) that have no defensive influence

Thanks – that's very interesting. I knew that Win Shares starts with actual wins (I remember Bill James's explanation of why that sometimes produced weird results, and how he chalked it up to hell, they won those games anyway, live with it :)

It's interesting to think of a team composed truly of replacement players. I mean, the 2012 Astros come damn close. If there aren't guys hanging around the tryout camps who can hit better than Brian Bogusevic did last year, then the art of scouting is clearly in trouble …
   191. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:50 PM (#4375683)
#167 That would be true of below aver 1B/corner OF being compared to DHs. But it's not true of Cabrera -- who played third.

It's a tricky method issue. One that is actually handled better in a Win Shares structure (all defensive contributions are positive, just an issue of how much)
   192. GuyM Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:54 PM (#4375685)
But there are many big-leaguers who would play both ways at every other position but pitcher,

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "many." But virtually no corner OFs or 1B would have jobs on defense, and a decent number of 3B and 2B would lose their fielding jobs too. On offense the impact would be smaller, but a fair number of MI and C wouldn't hit.

And FYI, you can't use rField to measure defensive value -- you have to add the position adjustment.
   193. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4375687)
If there aren't guys hanging around the tryout camps who can hit better than Brian Bogusevic did last year, then the art of scouting is clearly in trouble …


No actual team will ever field a squad of replacement level players - by which I mean a team of freely available, near break-even talent level AAA journeymen. Because that makes no damned sense for a baseball franchise to do. You're either going to field above-replacement level talent, and pay the premium, or you're going to cut the bottom out of the rebuild and play whatever projectable talent you might have in your system, in order to get them reps and experience toward building "the next good MLB squad" for your franchise.
   194. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4375688)
(all defensive contributions are positive, just an issue of how much)


As they should be. WAR adds together two concepts that aren't really even in the same units (though they claim to be) -- all batting events count, but only certain fielding events count. Fielding is expressed in something akin to "marginal runs," batting is expressed in "runs."

At its most fundamental level, Miguel Cabrera stood where a "third baseman" usually stands, with minor adjustments by his manager, and turned balls that would have been hits had he not been standing there, into outs. He, therefore, prevented runs.(*) How could his fielding value, on the same scale as his batting value, therefore be negative? That fundamentally doesn't work.

(*) He may not have prevented runs that other fielders wouldn't have prevented, but that's a different concept than batting runs, where we don't measure things at the margin, we simply measure things.
   195. BDC Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4375694)
And FYI, you can't use rField to measure defensive value -- you have to add the position adjustment

My bad, I thought that was the one that did take that into account (that must be dWAR or something).

And I dunno about "no corner outfielders." I guess there's an almost endless supply of young centerfielders who would effectively fill all OF spots, though there are some pretty good major-league RFs around.

No actual team will ever field a squad of replacement level players

Not in an era with a draft and cost control of younger players, I agree. I think it pretty much was done sometimes back in the dark ages (by Connie Mack after a fire sale, e.g.) But yes, even the Marlins have Giancarlo Stanton, and as long as they're paying him damn all, why bother to replace him.
   196. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:11 PM (#4375702)
No actual team will ever field a squad of replacement level players - by which I mean a team of freely available, near break-even talent level AAA journeymen. Because that makes no damned sense for a baseball franchise to do. You're either going to field above-replacement level talent, and pay the premium, or you're going to cut the bottom out of the rebuild and play whatever projectable talent you might have in your system, in order to get them reps and experience toward building "the next good MLB squad" for your franchise.

It makes sense if all the players will have higher future expected WAR by putting up 0 WAR in the major leagues this year, as opposed to playing in the minor leagues.
   197. smileyy Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:32 PM (#4375719)
Or someone could create a new statistical acronym that spells out LOVE.


LOVE stinks.
   198. GuyM Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:34 PM (#4375721)
As they should be. WAR adds together two concepts that aren't really even in the same units (though they claim to be) -- all batting events count, but only certain fielding events count. Fielding is expressed in something akin to "marginal runs," batting is expressed in "runs."

This is wrong. Cabrera's Rbat last year was 52 runs. I assure you that is not Cabrera's total runs created. It is his runs above average.

So much passion, so little information. What's that about?
   199. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:56 PM (#4375737)
This is wrong. Cabrera's Rbat last year was 52 runs. I assure you that is not Cabrera's total runs created. It is his runs above average.

Expressing Rbat in terms of average doesn't change the fact that the inputs on offense are what the player did, while the inputs on defense (Defensive Runs Saved) are what the player did versus what other players did or were expected to do. If you hit a double, you are credited for a double even if 99% of MLBers would have hit the same pitch for a double. If you field a routine ground ball that 99% of MLBers would have fielded you get (essentially) no credit. One's a direct measurement, the other is a measurement of marginal impact.

That's the asymmetry I was referring to.

   200. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:02 PM (#4375746)
#179 Dave Tate came up with a solution (one that Bill James adopted. Probably without knowing that Tate had got there a decade earlier). Calculated team runs created. Calculate team runs created with the player's stats removed. Credit the player with the difference between the two totals. It's called marginal lineup value.

It's an awful lot of work, and doesn't address other minor issues with the runs created metric (for instance including DPs with no adjustment for opportunity. This is actually worse than not including them at all. Plus provably incorrect weights for sac bunts.)
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