Happy New Year friends, its your pal BeefLoaf and while we were goofing off (actually, I was laying around getting better from the flu) between Xmas and NYE, some folks were having quite the time slinging mud at each other over a calculation, a fairly new calculation to the baseball lexicon. That calculation is called Wins Above Replacement or WAR for short. You may or may not be sitting around asking, BeefLoaf…..what is this WAR, and why should I give a fuck? The fine folks at Fangraphs have an entire article to define it.
If you didn’t read that whole thing (and I couldn’t blame you if you didn’t), basically WAR is short hand to measure a baseball players value in a single number. That sounds pretty good right? Well, there are some problems……..
Well, it would seem to be pretty tough to use a single measure to value anything, right? It is, in fact, Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospect and Fangraphs (which are all terrific websites) all have versions of WAR….and they are ALL FUCKING DIFFERENT!!!! The fine folks at Baseball Reference lay it out there for you, if you care to read the differences.
Oh…now onto the controversy…..one Bruce Jenkins, from the San Francisco Chronicle and the possessor of one baseball Hall of Fame vote tweeted this…..
When I saw it, I was still pretty tired from the flu kicking my ass, but I was pretty sure it would start a shit storm……..I was right, but it is twitter, so not like it was shocking. Pocket protectors were flying everywhere and twitter was a mess with people deriding Jenkins. I’m probably the most number centric 108er, fuck, my career is in Accounting / Finance, so I sorta have to be. I’m the kinda guy that makes a spreadsheet to measure the values of baseball players across the fantasy baseball leagues I am going to draft. Chorizy-E and I have had our primary side-business (side hustle) in “Applied Mathematics” for years. So I am not a stranger to using numbers and I use WAR to describe a players season on the regular basis. I think it is terrific shorthand. I also think Bruce Jenkins is totally justified in his position.
YES, Bruce Jenkins is totally justified in his position…..Chorizy-E has often compared WAR to GPA (that’s Grade Point Average for those of you that can scarcely remember being in school), its a good approximation but it’s imperfect (as noted above by three different entities that calculate WAR three different ways, sometimes getting VERY DIFFERENT numbers). That’s fine, we don’t need it to be perfect to compare player X to player Y, when we are hanging out at the ballpark or hanging in the bar comparing players. It reminds me a bit of how people love OPS. OPS isn’t a real metric, it is two metrics smashed together, On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage. I don’t mind using it as short hand (same as WAR), but it’s also highly imperfect. That’s the benign side of the argument……BUT, what if some component or multiple components of those that make up WAR are wrong, or we value said components in correctly. I know everyone who has stayed with this post this long is probably thinking about defensive value as that seems to be the most erratic current measurement in the modern baseball statistics world, but what if it is something we think know…..yea, that could create some problems. So I don’t have a problem with Bruce Jenkins saying he doesn’t reference WAR when putting together a HOF ballot. Personally, I would at least give WAR (or is it WARS, since there are several of them?) a cursory glance in the process were I, yours truly, the BeefLoaf given a HOF vote, but truth be told, Idgaf about the HOF, I just like a good contrarian argument.