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Friday, March 27, 2020

JAWS and the 2020 bWAR Update, Part 3

No pitcher took it in the JAWS quite as hard as position players Ernie Lombardi and Josh Donaldson did via Baseball-Reference’s latest update to its version of WAR, which I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks unpacking — at least when I wasn’t stocking my freezer and my pantry while reading the grim COVID-19 news. B-Ref’s latest influx of data resulted in alterations to five different areas of the metric that affected players as far back as 1904 and as recently as last season. Lombardi, a Hall of Fame catcher, lost a whopping 7.3 WAR due to the introduction of detailed play-by-play baserunning and caught stealing data from the 1930s and ’40s, while Donaldson lost 3.8 WAR due to a change in the way Defensive Runs Saved is calculated. By comparison, the largest swing for a pitcher, either positive or negative, was the 2.2 WAR gained by Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.

B-Ref’s version of WAR is different from that of FanGraphs, particularly when it comes to pitching; it’s based on actual runs allowed, with adjustments for the qualify of the offenses faced and the defenses behind it, where the FanGraphs version is driven by the Fielding Independent Pitching categories as well as infield flies. As bWAR is the currency for JAWS, it’s of particular interest to me, even at a time when the Hall itself is closed due to the pandemic. I’ve grazed by the pitchers in my two recent updates, mentioning a few tidbits here and there while trying to avoid a typical Jaffe-length 3,000 word epic, but in this installment I’ll take a closer look at the those most affected. To review, here are the five areas where B-Ref’s WAR update has incorporated new (or recently unearthed) data, ordered for chronological effect:

New Retrosheet Game Logs (1904-07)
Caught Stealing Totals from Game Logs (1926-40)
Baserunning and Double Plays from play-by-play data (1931-47)
Defensive Runs Saved changes (2013-19)
Park factor changes (2018)

Jaffe’s tour through the changes that have taken place concerning bWAR now stops for some thoughts on its meaning concerning pitching statistics.

 

QLE Posted: March 27, 2020 at 01:18 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: jaws, jay jaffe, war

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

JAWS and the 2020 bWAR Update, Part 2

Josh Donaldson is one of the game’s elite two-way players, but like the late Ernie Lombardi, he received rude treatment when it came to Baseball-Reference’s latest update to its version of WAR. Last week I began a breakdown of B-Ref’s influx of new data, which resulted in alterations to five different areas of its version of WAR, some aspects of which affect players as far back as 1904 and others as recent as last season. The introduction of detailed play-by-play baserunning and caught stealing data from the 1930s and ’40s, for example, cost Lombardi — a heavy-hitting Hall of Fame catcher who played from 1934-47 — a whopping 7.3 WAR. Donaldson took the largest hit among contemporary players, losing 3.8 WAR via changes in the way Defensive Run Saved is calculated. For the 34-year-old third baseman, the loss adds a bit of insult to the injury of this delayed season, which won’t make it any easier for him to build what is admittedly a long-shot case for the Hall of Fame.

B-Ref’s version of WAR is different from that of FanGraphs, but as bWAR is the currency for JAWS, it’s of particular interest to me. While the Hall of Fame itself is as closed right now as any museum due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hall arguments are never out of season, nor is taking stock of greatness, particularly when it provides a diversion from considering stockpiles of toilet paper and shortages of N95 masks. B-Ref’s adjustments are hardly unprecedented for the site, which adds new data annually. The earliest boundaries for game logs and play-by-play data have moved backwards by decades over the years, for example, and last year’s big-ticket addition was a major update to catchers’ defensive statistics for the 1890-1952 period.

Reordered for their chronological effect, this year’s update has incorporated the following:

New Retrosheet Game Logs (1904-07)
Caught Stealing Totals from Game Logs (1926-40)
Baserunning and Double Plays from play-by-play data (1931-47)
Defensive Runs Saved changes (2013-19)
Park factor changes (2018)

The second half of an article from a couple of days ago- a consideration of the meaning of the changes to bWAR for both past and present players.

 

QLE Posted: March 24, 2020 at 12:55 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: jaws, jay jaffe, war

Saturday, March 21, 2020

JAWS and the 2020 bWAR Update, Part 1

Poor Ernie Lombardi. The heavyset and heavy-hitting Hall of Fame catcher, who owns two of the position’s eight batting titles, was the player hardest-hit by Baseball-Reference’s latest update to their version of Wins Above Replacement. B-Ref rolled out a whole series of adjustments, both to current players and long-retired ones, into one big release earlier this week, which it explained via a Twitter thread on Tuesday morning and expounded upon at the site. Thanks to additional play-by-play baserunning and caught stealing data, Lombardi, whose career spanned from 1931-47, saw his career WAR total drop from 46.8 to 39.5. Well, he didn’t actually see it, as he’s been dead since 1977, but you know what I mean.

B-Ref’s version of WAR is different from that of FanGraphs, of course, though you may have noticed that our site also updated its Defensive Runs Saved totals after Sports Info Solutions made major changes to its flagship stat, in part to account for defensive shifting. I’ll get to that aspect in a separate follow-up post, but for the moment my concern is how the B-Ref changes affect my JAWS system for Hall of Fame evaluations. The overall answer is “not a whole lot,” though individual player WAR and JAWS, and thus the standards at each position, have shifted a bit, creating a ripple effect throughout my system. With no new baseball for the foreseeable future, it’s worth taking an inventory of these changes, in part because they give us a chance to dig into some baseball history and provide a bit of an escape from our current realities.

Incidentally, the Hall of Fame itself closed indefinitely as of Sunday, March 15, and has already canceled its 2020 Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, which was scheduled for May 22-24. Among other things, that weekend was to feature a seven-inning legends game featuring Hall of Famers and former major leaguers and a “Night at the Museum” program. Induction Weekend, scheduled for July 24-27, is still on the calendar and will hopefully take place as planned, but right now, there are no guarantees. Given that the advanced ages of many Hall of Famers put them at the highest risk for COVID-19 infections, attendance among the game’s legends could be more sparse than usual.

Lombardi’s 7.3-WAR change was the largest of any position player in either direction, positive or negative (you can view the full spreadsheet here via Google Docs). His total is one of just five — from among 19,682 players in all dating back to the birth of the National Association in 1871 — that moved by at least four wins in either direction. Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan, whose 5.1-WAR jump was the third-highest swing, was one of a handful of other denizens of Cooperstown among the 43 position players whose career WARs changed by at least 2.5.

Some notes on the calibration of bWAR that just took place, and its meaning.

 

QLE Posted: March 21, 2020 at 02:18 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, jaws, jay jaffe, war

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

We Provide Leverage: A Thought Experiment

Last week, when giving our playoff odds a quick once-over, I stumbled across something interesting. In translating from player statistics to our projections, we strip out the impact of reliever leverage. That seems intuitively weird, so I wanted to delve into the thinking behind it and see if I could find a workaround.

First, a quick recap of the issue. When we calculate WAR for relievers, we include the impact of leverage. This makes sense — the last reliever off the bench is mostly pitching in blowouts, so their contribution, good or bad, is less important than the closer’s. If you used a dominant reliever in a mop-up role, they’d be far less valuable than if they got to pitch in games where the outcome was uncertain.

How do we adjust for leverage? It’s reasonably straightforward. Take a reliever’s gmLI, which you can find in the Win Probability section. Kirby Yates, for example, had a gmLI of 2.16 last year. gmLI is the average leverage index when a pitcher enters the game. You can find a recap of leverage index here, but it’s essentially a measure of how important a given plate appearance is. A leverage index of 1 means that the situation is exactly as important as the average plate appearance, 2 means the situation is twice as important, and so on.

With a reliever’s gmLI in hand, we use a conversion formula. Take the gmLI, add one, and divide the result by two. That gives you the number to multiply the reliever’s “raw” WAR by to arrive at the WAR you’ll see in our stats. Let’s use Yates again as an example. His gmLI was 2.16. Adding 1 gives us 3.16. We then divide by 2 and arrive at 1.58. Yates’s “raw” WAR last year (which you can calculate using the method here), which isn’t displayed anywhere on our website, was 2.15. Multiply that by 1.58, and we get the 3.4 number you’ll see on his player page.

A consideration of a very delicate topic- and one that can be rather contentious indeed.

 

QLE Posted: February 25, 2020 at 01:14 AM | 52 comment(s)
  Beats: leverage, relievers, war

 

 

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