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How Many Baseball Writers Have Called or E-mailed to Talk to Me About What Goes Into WAR? Zero.

Posted by admin on September 30, 2012

You may have heard that the AL MVP is between a player who may win the Triple Crown and a player who most (if not all) of the stathead-friendly sites say is the best player in the league this year. There have been a number of articles being written by veteran writers about how stupid WAR is--complaining it's incomprehensible, stupid, meaningless, dumb, formulas are different, etc. etc.

Here are a couple of recent examples:

Here is Bill Madden in the New York Daily News

Here is Jerry Green in the Detroit News

Now I'm painting the baseball media with a broad brush, but each of these types of articles gets my hackles up. I'm a fellow card-carrying-member of the BBWAA and one would think that I would be afforded some professional courtesy before having a stat we produce being berated in print.

Not a single member of the print media, the broadcast media or radio has reached out to me to learn more about WAR since this MVP controversy has erupted. Not one. First, I apologize to the curious and hard working media members who put in the time to study the game and its analysis in detail. You know who you are, and I appreciate your hard work. I'm sure many have taken the time to read our exhaustive introduction to WAR. But in the last two months not a single person has called or e-mailed asking for more information and that includes Bill Madden and Jerry Green.

So if you are a member of the media who is skeptical about WAR and want to get some questions answered. Or if you are a radio or tv host want to talk to me on the air or on the record to excoriate me for WAR's failings. Let me know. I'll appear on any radio show to discuss WAR and make time for any writer who wants to learn something about it or debate its merits.

Here is my contact information.

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 10:09 pm and is filed under Advanced Stats, Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

167 Responses to “How Many Baseball Writers Have Called or E-mailed to Talk to Me About What Goes Into WAR? Zero.”

  1. Hi,

    I read Bill Madden & was so happy. I am so sick of the Espn & Sabrisation of sports. There is no such thing as a walk off anything! That is just espn with its buffonish jargon trying to brainwash the general public. People are so brainwashed they call these stadiums by the names of companies with deep pockets not realizing everytime they use that company's name all they are doing is giving free advertising to those companies. Pluto is a Planet no matter what 9 idiots who got in a room & said its not & lets issue a press release to that fact & somehow got people believing it.
    Now to WAR & all these modern Sabrstats. For 100+ years AVG HR & RBI were the categories, now because a few guys start some new trend everyone has to glare in amazement as to the glory of WAR. Well people such as Madden & myself do glare in amazement but our glare is the what did you smoke glare rather than a glare of admiration!
    Its even funnier when you try to retro fit these made up stats onto the legends of the game in the past! I could imagine the conversation.

    Hey Ted Williams do you know your WAR stats

    TW - In WW2 or KOREA?

    Now dont get me wrong if you & your friends & followers like these new stats that is fine & your business & I have no problem with a site like this using them as I can ignore them & come for the stats I want. Where I & it seems like Madden have the problem is when it is shoved down the rest of our throats like Jim Jones Kool Aid & we dont want it. Leave WAR to the WAR Crowd & leave the rest of us in Peace :-)

    Sincerely

    JB

  2. Great write up Sean. Thanks.

    In my experience, a lot of the anger directed towards WAR seems to be born of plain and simple ignorance of what the stat is. I remember somebody in the crowd at the Phoenix SABR conference complaining that OPS was a horrible stat because "it's just batting average multiplied by two". My eyes went cross when I heard that.

    Understand what you're arguing against BEFORE you argue.

  3. Either JB is the greatest troll of all time or sad face.

    There is no in between.

  4. I dont understand what WAR is so I must attack it.

  5. I'm not sure if I should be depressed or speechless that this post spawned that comment.

  6. I dont know if I should be frustrated after reading the article or more enamoured by JB's post...

    man oh man.

  7. Can you explain what revisions to the formula went into effect within the last year that retroactively reduced Albert Pujols' 2003 WAR from 10.9 to 8.4?

    I understand there is some variation as the normalized standards evolve, but 2.5 wins is a massive drop. Both his defense and offense were dropped >1 run.

    Incidentally, FanGraphs revised the same 2003 Pujols season from 9.0 to 10.1 WAR.

    I'm generally quick to embrace new advanced metrics, but it's hard to put stock in WAR when there's a chance that it will be drastically revised many years after the fact.

  8. I agree with Bob Loblaw as he lobs his law bomb.

    JB: Either you deserve mad props or GTFO. Leave this website to "the WAR crowd." I'll bet you think the pitcher with the most wins should win the Cy Young, too?

  9. I agree with your article, but isn't it possible that the media may have just read your "exhaustive intro to WAR"? You would need know if they did, and if you believe it explains the formulas enough you couldn't complain if they assumed they understood WAR by reading it. After all, it was directly from your site.

    Personally I believe saber metrics are helping to understand the game and what really effects the success of a player. But I have not called or emailed you either, rather just done my own research to reach the explanations from you and other sites explaining the statistics. Should my opinion because of this research be ignored because I haven't spoken to you personally?

  10. One of the main complaints I've heard against WAR is that the different versions of the stat -- fWAR and bWAR, for instance -- are often slightly different from person to person. I've heard a pro-Miggy defender use this argument like "WAR can't even agree how good each player has been this year, therefore it's useless."

    That's a strawman argument. There are different types of WAR, sure, but it's not like one version has Trout at 7.0, Miggy at 6.0 and the other version has Trout at 6.0 and Miggy at 7.0 All versions have Trout higher than Miggy, significantly so (by about 4 wins, on average). This entire debate is ludicrous. The WAR stat may have its shortcomings, but not 4 wins' worth.

  11. The formula seems way too complicated. Kinda like the NFL quarterback rating system, except that I can figure out if I have it front of me. I'd rather just look at the team's actual win-loss record with and without a particular player.

  12. Then you clearly don't care about who is actually the most valuable player across an entire season, Tim.

  13. " ...but our glare is the what did you smoke glare rather than a glare of admiration!"

    That is the best thing ever.

  14. jb lost me when he complains about "the free advertising" we are "brainwashed" into giving calling stadiums by their corporate sponsor's names. that "free" advertising comes with an upfront fee-the naming rights. sounds like jb is subscribing to the "47%" argument translated to sports.

  15. A better debate than Trout vs. Cabrera for MVP would be which of JB's black = white side rants is more hilariously bizarre--the one about Pluto being a planet, or the one about corporations getting "free" advertising by paying millions of dollars for stadium naming rights.

  16. Bill Madden in the New York Daily News

    "that Cabrera must be penalized for his slowness afoot and supposed defensive shortcomings"

    Click that link to the rest of this "news"paper. It is farcical in the least and an outrage for anyone who takes this award seriously to discover that someone who is employed as a "writer" on MLB by such a publication is allowed to actually vote for the MVP.

    Hardcore pornography is less obscene than this because it does not try to masquerade as serious content. You "know it when you see it" and the porn content does not try to deny the reality of what you see.

    This filth does.

  17. Bob Loblaw Says:

    Either JB is the greatest troll of all time or sad face.

    There is no in between.

    Yes there is! Its called having your own thoughts!

    Whipstache Says:
    September 30th, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I agree with Bob Loblaw as he lobs his law bomb.

    JB: Either you deserve mad props or GTFO. Leave this website to "the WAR crowd." I'll bet you think the pitcher with the most wins should win the Cy Young, too?

    Why should I leave it to the WAR crowd! I dont care if you use WAR just like you shouldnt care if I place no value on it. By the way sad comeback with most wins argument. You have to take into effect Wins win % % of Team Wins ERA etc Strikeouts I use as a tie breaker as I would go for lower walks as the main thing it to get them out weather its a ground ball or a K. But I will say 13-12 not Cy Young worthy.

    jb lost me when he complains about "the free advertising" we are "brainwashed" into giving calling stadiums by their corporate sponsor's names. that "free" advertising comes with an upfront fee-the naming rights. sounds like jb is subscribing to the "47%" argument translated to sports.

    47% Um no. Yes they pay millions to the Owners not a dime to us the fans! Notice I didnt say anything about the Teams or Owners calling it by the corporate name. I also have No Problems with them spending their money as they wish. Its more how easily people can be told what to do & say nowadays. Last year the company that bought the name to Giants stadium actually ran ads telling people not to use that other name (Giants Stadium ) as it would be bad luck for your team if you do! I know a guy that has a fit when I call it Giants Stadium & when I say how much did they pay you he says they paid the Giants & Jets. Well when the Giants & Jets call it by the company name that is their right just dont try to tell me to do the same. Now dont get me wrong if 1 of those companies tomm wanted to pay me to say the name I would be happy to negotiate a price :-)

    As for my political beliefs I think the dems & reps are both screwing up America! Vote Independent!

  18. Jason Winter Says:

    "that Cabrera must be penalized for his slowness afoot and supposed defensive shortcomings"

    FWIW... Miggy has only a -0.2 dWAR this year, the best of his career.

    And hey, he's 80% on SB attempts! :)

  19. JB, you just embarrassed yourself. Seriously. WAR is a complex statistic, because it actually determines the best player. It is the very definition of the Most Valuable Player - whoever delivers the most wins above a typical replacement player is the most valuable. The team record is irrelevant here, as this is about one player, and one player can't carry a team in baseball. Put Bonds in 2004 on the 2003 Tigers, and they will still suck ass, but that doesn't make him any less incredible.
    RBI is a team-based statistic. If your teammates get on a lot in front of you, and you have someone good protecting you, you will drive in a lot of runs. If no one gets on base, then you don't drive in as many. This isn't complicated to figure out. Next, batting average is literally the most overrated statistic in baseball, and it's nice that a lot of people are finally figuring this out. Slugging% is FAR more important, as it shows what the player is actually doing when he connects with the ball. A guy that hits .350 with a .425 slugging% is pretty much a singles hitter. Someone that has a ..290 avg and a .600 slugging% is going to be a far more productive hitter, and do much more for the team, because he is averaging far more bases. He is also scaring the pitcher much more so than the singles hitter. If anything, slugging% should be changed to be the new batting average. Makes more sense. This is the great thing about WAR. It takes other factors into account. Got a guy that sluggs .700 but can't field or run the bases to save his life? WAR will take that all into account and drop his win output accordingly, something batting avg and rbi totals don't show. If you simply go on the "flashy" stats like RBI and avg to determine who the best player is, then you don't really give a crap who the best player really is. You just don't want to go through the work of determining the accurate answer, because the process is too difficult for you. This is a real statistic. if we were to go on your logic, then in 2001, Sammy Sosa should have been the mvp over Bonds because he drove in more runs. Never mind the fact that he also created nearly 70 more outs than Bonds, or that he needed an extra 100+at-bats to get that total, and got on base some forty fewer times(therefore creating fewer run opportunities). I also like how you brought up Ted Williams too lol. Ted Williams didn't know what WAR was. What he DID know was that slugging% and on-base% were more important than simply having a high batting avg, and it showed, as he is second or third all time in career slugging, and holds the all-time record for on-base%, over .480 for his career. He lost MVPs to Joe Dimaggio, someone who, as good as he was, was never as good as Ted Williams. Buuuutt he had those flashy stats that impress simplistic thinkers. You should not talk so audaciously cocky about something you clearly have no grasp of.

  20. WAR is an invented statistic whose only meaning is assigned by mathematicians, who periodically revise that meaning. So, "the definitive" stat becomes...what? New and improved, and EVEN MORE definitive?

    Different versions of WAR can assess the same player during the same time period differently. We are just supposed to ignore this, apparently. How to resolve the conflict, though? Human judgment is O-U-T, because computer-generated calculations so complex it takes a Stats degree to understand them, now get to decide. Now what?

    The MVP should be decided by who "feels" like the MVP. If that conflicts with WAR, so be it. Better human beings make decisions that aren't 100% right than have computers calculating "indisputable" results.

    Otherwise, let's just play a handful of games for a statistical sample, then let the computers model the rest of the season, picking the winners, both team and individual.

    P.S. I'm not science-hostile. I work in a technical field, and have a degrees in Applied Mathematics and Engineering.

  21. I'm new to this debate, so sorry if this is a silly question, but I'm trying to understand:

    Is WAR purely an individual stat and cannot be applied to teams? And if so, why not? Why would WAR fail once you start applying it to an entire lineup?

    Here's what I mean: the 2012 Reds position players have a total WAR of 15.3, while the Astros' is 2.0. Doesn't this mean if these players were swapped, then the Reds would be doing 13 games worse, but would still be 82-76, in second place in the NL Central and one game out of the Wild Card?

    Likewise, according to WAR, if you swapped the 2009 Giants (88-74) position players with the 2009 Pirates (69-93) players, the Giants would have won 7 extra games, and would have made the playoffs by tying for first place in the NL West, despite having a lineup lacking a .300 hitter or any player who hit more than 12 HRs?

    And I didn't cherry-pick these--you can do this pretty much every year (swap the 2011 Phils lineup with the Marlins lineup, the 2010 Rangers lineup with the Indians lineup, etc.).

    Or am I missing something here? Is there something inherent to the WAR stat that those "wins" apply on an individual player level, but they cannot be applied on a team level, to see how good you are performing as a team? Why can two players be judged ("Player A has a WAR 10 games higher than Player B, so he's clearly better"), but two teams cannot be judged on WAR the same way? And if it fails once a number of players are aggregated, why should it be trusted individually?

  22. #21, yes, it is designed, so you that you could estimate the effect of such a swap in that way.

  23. I generally like WAR as it's a very helpful value statistic and I believe statistics like WAR are gradually gaining some acceptance in the mainstream media. Those who deride advanced statistics, do so out of ignorance and a reluctance to modify how they've looked at baseball for their whole lives.

    This all being said, I do have a few concerns with baseball-reference's WAR that I think hold it back a bit:

    1) As others have commented, the updates to WAR that have significantly revised totals can undermine WAR's usefulness. It's difficult to put a ton of stock in a statistic when in a couple of years, the number may be vastly different. Obviously, it's a work in progress, but it speaks to a certain subjectivity.

    2) This may be a personal preference, but it would be nice if the offensive and defensive WAR totals added up to the total WAR. I understand that they are scaled by the position, but I don't see why they can't be streamlined and still scaled by position.

    3) I sometimes wonder about the positional adjustments, particularly for catcher. It seems that catchers, even that all time best, are getting a very short shrift. Catcher is an extremely difficult position to play, and it's particularly difficult to remain productive over a long period, and thus I think WAR needs to make a better adjustment to reflect the rigors and expectations of the position. The fact that Johnny Bench is the catcher with the highest career WAR ever, and that he's just 45th among position players in career WAR just a tick above Lou Whitaker (who I do believe is vastly underrated), doesn't seem right all.

  24. Charles Saeger Says:

    @23 Another thing that would be nice to see is WAR turned into a won-loss record.

  25. Wow, people here get real defensive about WAR. I think you've got to be able to explain it without just linking to some giant, incomprehensible formula. With the NFL quarterback rating, there's actually a page on the NFL web site that explains how to do it, and I can go to that page and figure out someone's quarterback rating on my own if I wanted to. Usually, it just mirrors touchdown to interception ratio, so it's kind of a waste of time. With WAR, I have yet to see an explanation I can understand, that will actually show me how to compute the stat myself. So I can't really endorse if I don't know how it's computed. I think if you can explain it in a way people understand, maybe Bill Madden and other sportswriters will buy into it.

  26. Thanks, Sean. That's interesting.

    That means that the Angels would be up by 2 games over the Rangers if they'd swapped pitching staffs with the Royals. The Dodgers would have clinched a Wild Card by now if they'd swapped lineups/fielders with the Padres, and the Braves would be just a game behind the Nationals if they had the Rockies' pitchers instead.

  27. #25, Does that bother you? In each case you are completely missing the park factors involved. Look at the home road stats of the lineups and staffs and you'll see that it starts to make some sense.

  28. Other "invented statistics":

    Batting Average - arbitrary determination of a batters percentage times that he gets a hit. Arbitrarily excludes good things like bases on balls from the numerator; Arbitrarily excludes both good and bad things from the denominator (at bats), like bases on balls and sacrifice hits and outs (totally arbitrary to exclude those, as they are a result, in fact, of hitting the ball!). Arbitrary; invented.

    RBI - arbitrary determination of when a batter should be credited for runs that cross the plate as a result of his plate apperance. Arbitrarily excludes things like runs that cross as a result of a GIDP. Arbitrary; invented.

    Earned Run Average - arbitrary determination of when a pitcher should be credited with a run that crosses the plate. In many cases, arbitrarily ignores who is actually pitching when such run crosses the plate. Arbitrarily excludes runs that the official scorer decides would not have scored "but for" an error. Arbitrary; invented.

    WHIP - arbitrary determination of how good a pitcher is at preventing baserunners; arbitrarily uses innings pitched in the denominator, even though walks and hits would be better measured against total batters faced. Arbitrary; invented.

    Save - not going to waste my time here, but... Arbitrary; invented by some stupid sportswriter who set out to ruin baseball.

  29. "I'd rather just look at the team's actual win-loss record with and without a particular player."

    Braves when Craig Kimbrel pitches: 57-5
    Braves without Kimbrel pitching: 36-61

    Kimbrel for MVP!

  30. Jim Bouldin Says:

    The New York Daily News is a piece of crap and Jerry Green is clearly biased, writing for a Detroit outlet. So I wouldn't pay much heed to these two. You're always going to have reactionaries, I mean it's America after all.

    Having said that, WAR does appear to have a number of issues, both philosophical and numerical that are either less than clear or downright questionable. I'm all for advanced statistics that can bring better insight to the game, but WAR is not the be-all end-all by any means. And no offense, but I don't think the WAR explanations are all that great here.

    The thing that bothers me as much as anything on this issue is why people are so exercised over who wins the MVP and other player awards. It's a team game, who cares? I'm a big Tiger fan and could not care less if Cabrera wins the MVP or not. Give the damn award to both of them if it's so close, and be done with it.

  31. Bob, not to mention the official scorer gets to arbitrarily decide what a "hit" is, and can change his mind later if he wants. That's a lot like the idea of replacement players, it seems to me. The scorer decides what the outcome of that play would be with normal defense; the normal fielder is replacement level. I hope the scorer is at least relying on experience, but is that any better than relying on batted ball data? Are umpires better at calling pitches and the vast variety of plays than well-placed cameras? Park factors are older than NY and Boston fans wondering how much good a swap of DiMaggio and Williams would do for their numbers. It's just easier to take another look at plays and put things in more categories now. Knowing Ichiro isn't a good player anymore doesn't mean it isn't still a lot of fun to watch him. Most times, WAR just enriches our understanding of good performance. It's when we ignore most of what a player does and just remember a few moments that we are surprised, and unless you're watching every atbat of every game, you need help to evaluate the stats regardless.

  32. Just wanted to say I'm in full support of Sean and JB both. Part of the fun of being a fan is interpreting the stats the way you want to, but the professional sportswriters should at least try to understand all the relevant information. Also, I recently cut a naming rights deal with a local business, so as far as I'm concerned the Mets play in Famous Bagel Buffet Stadium.

  33. I do think dWAR can be questionable, especially if you look at historical dWAR numbers, but oWAR is fairly legitimate if you consider ballpark factors, OPS(and its adjustment), and baserunning numbers since they are not factored into a player's OPS. What cracks me up about the debate is the pro-Cabrera camp always brings up the argument that the Angels would be much better off without Trout than the Tigers with Cabrera and that cannot be proven unless both were out for the same number of games this season. Certainly a lot of Reds fans understandably believed they could struggle without Votto's bat, but they stepped up in his abscence. What can be proven is the Angels were 6-14 before Trout was called up. I'm by no means saying he is "carrying" them, that concept only works in basketball, but to say they'd just be fine without him is spinning an argument that works against facts.

  34. Honestly if someone was incredibly against SABRmetrics, I am not sure why that person would even come to a sports-reference site other than to raise grief. I think in football you can "watch the games" and make a better judgment on players than utilizing stats but in baseball to use an example of the MVP race in each league, who has the time to sit and watch 162 games for multiple teams? Or even 100 games?

  35. Bob M

    Why I come to this site is for a few reasons. 1 being it doesnt freeze up my comp like espn does when I need a quick stat or to see last nights scores or to check a stat. 2 I like the nice simple clean layout of the site. As for the comment "to raise grief" I have been using this site for a few years now & that is the First comment I have ever posted so if I just wanted to raise grief I could have done that many times in the past few years. Also while I dont like the sabr stats it seems to have been glossed over that I dont care if you like them & use them I just dont want them shoved down my throat. I never said those stats should be removed from the site either.

    Nick

    You embarrass yourself when you type comments like that onto a public website. See you cannot make a factual debate so you have to lower yourself to a personal attack.
    You say how I dont undertstand WAR but the people who create it also dont have a full grasp on it otherwise it would not change as much as it has & seems to be a stat that can be tweaked or adjusted again as need be.
    I also like how you brought up Ted Williams too lol. Ted Williams didn't know what WAR was. What he DID know was that slugging% and on-base% were more important than simply having a high batting avg,

    I Never said Slugging & OBP were NOT viable stats!

    and it showed, as he is second or third all time in career slugging, and holds the all-time record for on-base%, over .480 for his career. He lost MVPs to Joe Dimaggio, someone who, as good as he was, was never as good as Ted Williams.

    Dont start that WAR as the Dimaggio people will start going crazy but I do agree on Teddy. Joe never got IT totally back after coming back from the war. Ted got IT back TWICE after coming back from Wars. Imagine Ted's numbers (yes those Old numbers like HR RBI & even Career Hits) if you factor almost 5 Years lost to war

    Buuuutt he had those flashy stats that impress simplistic thinkers. You should not talk so audaciously cocky about something you clearly have no grasp of.

    Its not Cocky & you have no grasp of my points from your reply.

  36. But here's the thing about WAR, it's a Sabrstats that uses a point system to predict that a player will be better, or worse, depending on the player, will be than a replacement. Yet If a player has a solid WAR, let's about 30-40 in a matter of 7-10 years or so, and if that players gets injured, and being replaced with someone like a Babe Ruth or Albert Pujols for example, then the WAR becoomes invalid. I'm not saying that WAR is a bad stat or unimportant. But if it based on a prediction, than how can it be made to be so important if it's based solely on that?

  37. Matt,

    The replacement player isn't an actual player so your hypothetical doesn't make sense.

  38. Joe,

    It is based on the idea that a player being better than a replacement. Yet who knows who that player could be. It's based on a prediction. So it still isn't all that significant than what many make it out to be.

  39. Sports have data and that data can be manipulated 1000 ways or more. If you want to buy into the advanced stats, or newly created stats you can. Or you can only validate those on the walls of The Hall of Fame. When WAR shows up it will carry the weight and validate the stat your looking for. MLB also does not validate the stat. So the goal should be to get them to validate and use the stat then more people will jump on board. Secondly, the stat does not take into effect the actual team accomplishment does it? I believe this is part of the award. Andre Dawson in 1987, as much as I love the Hawk was on a last place team. MVP's should play on teams at or near the top because the accomplishments they achieve are far more meaningful.

    One last note . . . stats are not everything, some things are beyond the reach of a stat. If numbers and probability were everything, last years World Champions would never had made it to the playoffs.

  40. A lot of the anti-stats comments in this thread are great examples of Poe's Law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

  41. Jim Bouldin Says:

    Unfortunately so Neil.

    TP, stats are not "manipulated" so as to achieve a pre-conceived result, but to address certain analytical problems that can arise. And statistical variables are not like a buffet that you pick and choose from according to your preferences. Rather, you go with the one(s) that does/do the best job of explaining the phenomenon being investigated, for which there are definite principles on how to proceed.

    And MLB doesn't "validate" anything. Statisticians and data analysts decide on relative merits of different statistics and statistical procedures. If they fail, they fail on those grounds, not because somebody, including MLB, has decided they like them or not.

    There's nothing wrong with trying to come up with new statistics to explain things. The devil is in the details of how that's done.

  42. Re posts #27 and #28.

    Sports is unreal. The rules are created by people. Therefore, all stats have some element of being "invented."

    However, Batting Average, RBIs, and Wins are based on actual events governed by rules that are out in the open. Agree with the rules or not, they are refined, narrowly-defined, and highly specific. Those requiring calculation are based on simple arithmetic and rudimentary algebra. A middle-schooler can calculate and comprehend everything.

    WAR is fabricated by mathematicians who arbitrarily choose what they believe should be the most important factors. WAR is not simply another "infield fly rule": The basis for WAR is complex calculations that are incomprehensible to anyone without statistical training and a good computer.

    The reaction of WAR supporters is fascinating. It is the greatest statistic ever, and it defines, absolutely, the best player! So, it's the DUTY and OBLIGATION of every fan and writer to understand WAR, and if we can't, simply to accept it: "Pay not attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!"

  43. Ron Johnson Says:

    Regarding different version of WAR giving different results:

    There's a reason why Sean and Sean (and others) say that WAR is where the discussion starts and not where it ends. The standard error is somewhere around 11 runs for a full-time player (roughly the same for both major versions. A tad higher for Win Shares, but it's not hopeless)

    The best we can do is to look at as many good metrics as is possible. The neat thing about WAR is that because it's modular you can pop out (say) plus/minus (defensive component) and pop in PMR or ... Or you can use EQR to get your batting+baserunning component. You can see how changing the assumptions affects the results.

    Also most simply, remember that a difference of .5 wins though large is comfortably within method error.

  44. I have been a sabermetrician since reading Bill James seminal abstracts in the early 1980's, but I can see JB's point: I'm frustrated that a lot of people treat WAR as if they are Newtonian Principles. They are not. Until we solve the defensive equation, it is more a theory that approximates the truth as we hope to view it, not something set in stone. So I can see why people don't want that shoved down their throat.

    Sure, this year there is a 4 win difference, but per the comments above, what if the difference was only 0.1? Given the changes we have seen before, WAR leaders can and will change over time, and we probably won't have a really good hand on it until at least FIELDf/x is up and running and we have a good number of years of data to analyze and understand.

    WAR should be treated like other baseball stats right now: part of the big picture, maybe a big part, but still just part of the tableau that we can view to make our own judgement on who was the most valuable player was. I don't think we are anywhere near a definitive gauge of value yet, though we have made great strides (key word is "definitive").

    However, JB, these advanced stats are far enough along that they give a much better picture of just how good a player is relative to another player. Regular folks should take the time to learn more about them, about how they are better. BA, RBI, and such are still good stats, but understood within the context of why there is also deficiencies in how they are being interpreted by the general public. Sure, you need a stats master's degree to understand all the stuff in the black box, but I think any baseball fan can understand the concept of adding up for each player how much they did that represents a win or a fractional win, then comparing the total for each player.

    I mean, people could have just stuck with Newtonian Principles, as they had worked for a long, long time, but as we better understood our world, eventually Einstein came up with a much better model that incorporated Newton, but found much better metrics and equations to explain everything. WAR helps expands our understanding of the baseball world, much like Einstein's work helped expand our understanding of our world.

  45. "The best we can do is to look at as many good metrics as is possible. The neat thing about WAR is that because it's modular you can pop out (say) plus/minus (defensive component) and pop in PMR or ... Or you can use EQR to get your batting+baserunning component. You can see how changing the assumptions affects the results. "

    A lot of complicated, SABR-invented stats justifying more of the same.

    "Good metrics": who gets to decide what is good? SABR guys? Who made them the Ultimate Arbiters of All That is Good in Baseball?
    "Modular...pop out...pop in"; "You can see how changing the assumptions affects the results": in other words, WAR lacks the simple rigor of BA and OBP and ERA. No "definitive" statistic that can be calculated in so many different ways is reliable.

    Old saying: "If people don't understand your conclusion, and you have to work overtime to justify it, you probably have the wrong conclusion."

  46. Ron Johnson Says:

    #37 Replacement level has been set through three primary methods. When Bill James first came up with the concept (though not the name -- 1983 Abstract IIRC) he set the level the level expansion teams have generally played at. IE a team of replacement players should be expected to go 52-110.

    Keith Woolner (VORP) initially set replacement level at the level that backups actually played at.

    Keith also wrote a long article about finding where replacement level should be assuming baseball talent is normally distributed (and only the extreme right of the curve gets as far as A ball)

    A fairly simple way to look at what you can expect from a replacement level player is to look at everybody who signs a minor league contract before the season starts. (I'm not talking about players who still have options or those who don't need an option to keep them in the minors)

  47. Ron Johnson Says:

    ""Good metrics": who gets to decide what is good? "

    When I say good metrics, I'm talking about metrics which have small standard errors. If you can't do a decent job of modeling team runs scored then you can forget about getting the method adopted.

    There's a secondary test. Runs created works reasonably well at the team level (though there are methods that have much smaller standard errors than runs created. One of them is woba and WAR's offensive component starts out as woba)

    It doesn't work all that well at the individual level. It has known issues with extreme players (which you can mostly get around with a fair amount of work. At which point you have what Dave Tate called Marginal Lineup Value)

  48. There is a page here that spells out all the contributions to WAR:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2012-value-batting.shtml

    For all the debate about what "replacement", the difference between Trout and Cabrera there is neglible (Cabrera up 23-21). All this says is that Cabrera has played a little bit more as Trout was in the minors for the first 20 Angels games.

    Their batting contributions are similar (Trout up 51-50) as they have similar OPS+'s (Trout 168 and Cabrera 164). Cabrera (.325/.390/.601) has a slightly better raw batting line but Trout (.321/.395/.557) plays in a more pitcher-friendly park. The positional adjustment between 3B and CF-LF is negligible (+1 for MC, -1 for MT).

    The Trout advantage in WAR is all about baserunning and defense. Trout leads the AL in Stolen Bases and has a 92% success rate (!) for a 9 run advantage. And Trout has a huge defensive advantage (27 runs there). And Cabrera leads the league in GIDP's if you think that's important (6 runs).

    So, the WAR framework is the start of the discussion, not the end. If you don't like the answer, which part do you disagree with? How does Cabrera make up the 42 runs of defense, baserunning and gidp's?

  49. Ron Johnson Says:

    #44 Color me extremely skeptical that we'll ever have a truly definitive value -- as in a tenth of a win is significant.

    You probably can't get the standard error of team runs scored under (roughly) 15 runs unless you account for timing (I say timing because it's more than just clutch. The simplest way to look at it though is that single, home run is worth more than home run, single -- and yes, if the next guy triples or homers ...) and accounting for timing gets into what amounts to the stathead's version of the holy wars.

    And even with field f/x I'm doubtful we'll get the one true value. We can chop the error on the defensive side simply by knowing how often a team shifts and by getting a better handle on discretionary plays (IE the play is always an out, but multiple fielders can make the play. Every so often one player takes an usual number of those chances) but I'm pretty sure the best we can do is something in the 4-5 run range (I think it's about 7 right now)

    The problem on the defensive side is sample size. There's no meaningful signal on something like 70% of balls in play (Greg Luzinski and young Rickey Henderson both make the play or "nobody" makes the play) and it's really hard to adjust for unequal distribution of tough chances.

  50. Ron Johnson Says:

    #48 It's worth noting that Trout has gotten an extra ~40 PAs due to batting order position.

    WAR attempts to deal with this by capping how much anybody can get in playing time adjustment, but this won't affect Trout because of his missing month.

    It's no biggie, but it is worth noting.

  51. Maybe someone should point out to Jerry Green that, even if the Tigers make the postseason and the Angels don't, it's likely that LA will have put together a better record while playing in a much tougher division.

  52. According to the Rfield stat which comprises WAR, Tony Gwynn was one of the worst outfielders ever in 1989 (-23 rField). Far worse than Manny ever was! In '91, Gwynn turned it around and was a +28 - far better than Clemente or Mays ever was!

    When one of the components (Rfield) is obviously broken (inconsistent, subjective, and in Gwynn's case - completely mindless), it's difficult to take the stat seriously.

    I like what WAR is trying to do, but the fielding metrics are an absolute joke.

  53. I fully understand WAR (both variations) and most (all?) advanced statistics and prove as much in my writing, but I also fully understand that there is NO single stat that measures the entirety of a player's impact on the field and in the clubhouse for his team.

    Baseball-Reference is an AMAZING tool (that I have been using since the very beginning), but no matter how advanced the statistics get, I still don't believe that we will ever be able to point to one statistic - be it WAR or something not created yet - to make a definitive answer on which player is the "Most Valuable" in some instances.

    I'm not saying that as of today Trout wouldn't be my MVP pick, but I am saying that to discount/ignore what Cabrera is doing, to completely discount RBI (while trumpeting runs scored as some have been doing out there in the Twitter-verse, etc.) or to say that Trout IS WITHOUT QUESTIONS worth "X" number of runs more on defense this season, end of discussion, is flawed. It isn't looking at the entirety of each individual player's impact on roster construction, etc.

    As Joe Posnanski and a few others (Geoff Baker locally here in Seattle) have pointed out, the DISCUSSION/DEBATE is GOOD!

    Keep up the great work, Sean.

  54. Lyle Spencer Says:

    I've been fascinated by WAR and the whole debate. What I'm finding is that it increasingly lines up remarkably well with my eye-test evaluations of players. I'm guessing Trout will lose the MVP vote primarily because he leads off and isn't in position to drive in nearly as many runs as Cabrera. RBIs always have and always will weigh heavily with voters. Cabrera is a great hitter, but Trout is clearly the superior all-around player. My main complaint with WAR is that it can't quantify one of the most important elements of the game -- how a catcher calls a game and manages a pitching staff. I don't think Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, to name two current examples, get enough defensive credit in their WAR ratings. Their value defensively seems impossible to measure.

  55. I sympathize with Sean's annoyance and appreciate his effort to address the concern that WAR is mystifying to some people.

    But the complaints about WAR in this MVP debate are really just a smokescreen. Even sticking to more traditional stats and facts, it's easy to see that Trout is more valuable. And the "argument" that Triple Crown should automatically equal MVP is really just an expression of not wanting to think about the matter.

    How is it that Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins, Ichiro Suzuki, Barry Larkin, Terry Pendleton, Rickey Henderson, Kirk Gibson, Willie McGee, etc., ad infinitum, were able to win MVP Awards without being anywhere near the leadership in HRs or RBI? Why does no one question that Joe Morgan was the best player in 1975-76, even though he didn't lead in any Triple Crown category, and won his first MVP with 17 HRs and 94 RBI?

    It's because, when we're not distracted by the mystical aura of a possible Triple Crown, *everyone* will acknowledge that there's more to baseball than those three categories.

    Another point, so wisely made by Joe Posnanski, is that every previous Triple Crown winner also led his league in WAR. That's a pretty big coincidence for the WAR-hating, Triple-Crown-loving crowd to explain away.

  56. Ron J @49

    Where did you come up with the 70% as an estimation of % of batted balls where quality of defense comes into play? I've gotten fascinated with this as I decided one day to keep count of all plays in a game that had anything whatsover to do with defense and was surprised at how often it doesn't even matter. What I'm saying is anyone in the league can catch cans-of-corn fly balls and three-hoppers to the shortstop.

    Was 70% just a guess on your part? I would put the number as even higher than that.

  57. oops 70% as an estimation of % of balls where defense *DOESN'T* come into play. Sorry.

  58. John Austin - your answer is those players played on teams that won divisions, and made the playoffs. In several occasions won it all. Although I realize the MVP vote happens before playoffs those players showed value all the way through.

  59. @2- OPS isn't a horrible stat because 'it's just batting average multiplied by two.'
    It' s a horrible stat because it counts hits twice.

  60. Re # 55

    The reaction of WAR fans to this year's MVP candidates is instructive.

    To WAR fans, everything is pure numbers. Unless it's numbers you disagree with; in which case, the numbers are invalid, because they don't accurately portray reality. Because you say so. And anybody who distrusts WAR cannot themselves be trusted. Case closed.

    Well. OK.

    It reminds me of the obsession with GWRBI about 25 years ago. At least the rules for GWRBI were simpler to understand than WAR, and didn't get constantly revised.

  61. Joey Votto has one of the top 10 WAR this year in the NL, yet his team's winning percentage was actually better without him when he went on the DL for an extended time. Stuff like that makes me question the WAR stat.
    I also think OPS is wrong, because both on-base percentage and slugging percentage include singles, so they're counted twice. Just add walks, and hit by pitch to the total bases and divide by plate appearances and it would probably be a better stat.

  62. Two concerns I have with WAR: (1) it cannot be proven/disproven, so it is always dealing in the land of hypothetical. To play God with one stat does not make sense. (2) MVP is a value-judgment not a statistic. WAR cannot showcase intangibles. For example, Posey has carried the Giants after Melky got suspended. That will never show in a boxscore the impact of losing the #3 hitter of a team (and AVG leader at the time). Yet numbers show how absurd Posey has hit after the suspension especially playing the catcher position. He absolutely carried the Giants. Yet he is 5th in WAR.

    Too many layers in baseball to be summarized by a single equation that cannot even be agreed upon.

  63. I'm not sure where the discussion with double-counting comes from. Hitting a HR also increases your AVG and RBI totals (as well as helping your R, OBP, SLG). So the triple crown is bad? If one were to point out that the offensive contribution used a linear weights algorithm that treated all plate appearance outcomes differently would that calm your concerns? Or would there be complaints that the metric was too complicated?

    Buster Posey is tied for 3rd in WAR this morning, just 0.3 behind the league leader. That's a very small margin -- especially with uncertainties over quantifying the adjustment for catchers. Nobody in the world would begrudge an MVP vote for Posey.

    The issue with Trout/Cabrera is that the gap is so large. Trout leads 10.7 to 6.8. As I said above, the two have very similar batting numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG and OPS+) so this is all about baserunning and defense. One can quibble about accuracy of the defensive numbers but 4 WAR is a lot. Plus the numbers don't contradict what people can see with their eyes (Trout is a great defender, while Cabrera is serviceable but mediocre).

    Ironically, if this was 20 years ago, Trout might have been touted as being an amazing "all-around player" who does great things that "don't show up in the numbers" but now that there's been some effort to quantify some of those numbers the pendulum swings the other way.

  64. Ron Johnson Says:

    OPS isn't precisely horrid, we just have better formulas. I personally use OPS (plus mental adjustments for speed, park, OBP, etc) for in-season stuff (or at least I used to. Since I can get in-season OPS+ leaders with no effort these days I tend to start there)

    OBP and SLG weighted properly explain ~89% of the variation in team runs scored. The precise weighting depends on the offensive context (the higher the offensive context the greater the relative importance of OBP. OBP*1.5 + SLG works best for the NL 1968 and it's more like OBP*2.25+SLG for Colorado at the height of sillyball. OBP*1.7+SLG is a decent general choice. If anybody is wondering, the way OPS+ works it values a single point of OBP ~20% more than a single point of SLG. )

  65. TP@58 -- If you're taking that road, please check the records of the Angels and Tigers. Better yet, check the teams' records with Trout and with Cabrera:

    -- Angels with Trout, 81-56, .591
    -- Tigers with Cabrera, 86-73, .541

    Look, I'm both a Tigers fan and a Cabrera fan, and I'll be thrilled if he wins the Triple Crown. It doesn't change the fact that, this year, Trout has put more wins on the board.

    A Triple Crown is a rare and wondrous feat unto itself -- *much* more memorable than a mere MVP. But it's not magic. If Miggy had, say, 5 less HRs and 10 more doubles, that performance would be *exactly* as valuable as what he's actually done, but nobody would be claiming that he HAS TO be the MVP because of it.

  66. I think the defensive numbers probably need to be regressed more, but it may be possible Gwynn had fluctuations in defense, just as he did in batting. He didn't hit the same exact way every year. Some of it would be luck on batted ball distribution, positioning, etc., but there are the actual plays made just as there are the actual hits. Even if he made the plays he should have, it could be even more variable than hitting the ball at a lot of people one year and having a bad BABIP. He doesn't get nearly as many OF chances as atbats.

  67. What I don't get about the anti-WAR crowd (or anti-anything that has to do with advanced thinking) really boils down to the whole "I don't understand it, so I don't like it" line of thinking. Are you going to TRY to understand it? I don't think anyone is arguing that WAR is a perfect stat and that every MVP should be chosen on the basis of it: is there REALLY that big of a difference if Player A has 8.8 WAR and Player B has 8.6? But the old guard automatically says, "computers are ruining the game" without even attempting to understand what exactly is being calculated. The funny part is, aren't most teams using sabermetric principles to run the organization these days?

    But even if you look at it from a traditional statistical perspective, the idea that Trout should be MVP is far from ludicrous. If you dropped him in the batting lineup and he produced at the same level that he is now, he'd have more chances for RBI, which the older crowd loves. The season he's having is right in line with one of Rickey Henderson's better years (of which they were many). But let me guess, Rickey only bat .279 for his career, so he was an overrated leadoff man.

  68. That should be "of which there were many" - my mistake!

  69. Ron Johnson Says:

    #66 I know the first adjusted range factor system (Pete Palmer's) had temendous problems with players who split time between multiple positions.

    Just looking at the Padres CF situation in 1988, Marvell Wynne graded out as average with a range factor of 2.75 and an unremarkable assist total. Gwynn made far fewer plays than this in 1989. Stands to reason that his CF numbers wouldn't look very good. (And you'd expect the numbers to go down with a shift from right to center. He's being compared to a better group of defenders

    But I'm not sure what's going on with his defensive numbers in right. The raw range factor and assist totals look more or less in line with his 1988 numbers.

    One thing that's interesting: We have much more information about balls in play in 1989 (4471 plays where we have the location in 1989 as opposed to 1895 in 1988) meaning that there is more guessing about the distribution of chances in 1988 (TotalZone attempts to adjust for opportunities) and yet it's the 1989 rating that's the outlier.

  70. #67.
    "Understanding" WAR means understanding the mathematics, not the explanations of the mathematician who invented it. It's like saying you're a car repair expert because you've read owner's manuals and Chilton publications.

    I'm a mathematician by training, and I find the equations contrived. I find the inventors' explanations inadequate, their rationale presumptuous.

    As for the "wide difference" of WAR between Trout and Cabrera, Cabrera is having an "average" sort of year defensively (according to WAR guys' definitions), but is heavily penalized for being in slightly-negative territory. In other words, his -0.3 is doubled before being added to his Offensive War. Trout, who plays a much less challenging position, has his high WAR added straight-up.

    Who decides these factors? SABR guys. If they're called on it? They give complicated explanations based on other SABR stats. And if someone disagrees? They are, as #67 says, the "anti-WAR crowd (or anti-anything that has to do with advanced thinking)."

    In other words, it is so because I say so, and anyone who disagrees is a bigoted ignoramus.

    Charming.

  71. Ron Johnson Says:

    #70 What equations do you find contrived? What specifically do you find inadequate about Sean's explanations? (Mind you, I hacked through Pete Palmer's explanations and that was mighty tough slogging) and what specifically so you find presumptuous about the rationale.

    Honest question. Sean's got a strong mathematical background so I'm doubtful he's making theoretical errors. If the issue is bad writing, cool. I'm sure Sean would appreciate constructive criticism.

    As for positional adjustment they're not based on how hard a position is to play (and there is no agreement as to how difficult 3B is. No shortage of attempts to stuff an extra bat there -- though it's become a lot less common in recent years) but rather the offensive levels. Generally speaking, third basemen backup third basemen out-hit backup CF by a small margin. The precise method of calculating positional adjustment is spelled out.

  72. Sean Forman Says:

    Mark,

    I am a mathematician by training as well and created the formulas. Thank you for your feedback. Nothing is doubled up on the defensive numbers. I'm not sure why you think that is so. The runs are all added together and none doubly so.

    Regarding the difficulty of 3B and CF. We have CF as very slightly more difficult and the quality of play for players moving from those positions from others bears that out.

    I'm not responsible for the tone of the other writers, so I'm happy to clarify any issues you see.

  73. I do not understand WAR, but I am curious as to how much it takes batting average with RISP? I've always thought that a better stat than RBIs. I am also wondering how much it takes runs into account (since that is how you win a game). I don't want to argue Miggy/Trout as I'm biased and hope "singles" hitter Joe Mauer steals the batting title (and triple crown) from him.

  74. Sean,
    Thanks for your thoughtful and respectful response. However, I am left wondering about the numbers. Even if they're not additive, they give every appearance of being so.

    Trout: oWAR, dWAR, WAR: 8.6, 2.3, 10.9.
    Cabrera: oWAR, dWAR, WAR: 7.4, -0.2, 6.8

    In other words, to the casual fan who is into stats and making reasonable assumptions, it gives every appearance of simple addition:
    Trout WAR = oWAR + dWAR
    Cabrera WAR = oWAR + 2*dWAR. Since dWAR is negative, it *appears* to be a huge penalty for being slightly below average on defense.

    We can go 'round and 'round with numbers all we want. That's part of baseball. However, I think that WAR is flawed because it cannot capture visceral reactions.

    If WAR = absolute reality, at a gut-instinct level, with everything on the line, the opposition should cheer if Miguel Cabrera replaces Mike Trout in the lineup.

    Maybe that's your feeling, and you're welcome to it. But it's not mine.

  75. Ron Johnson Says:

    Further to #71. One of the issues regarding assumptions and what have you is that we've been having these discussions for literally decades.

    I don't think Sean is guilty of skipping a step here or there because it's familiar ground, but then it's familiar ground to me.

  76. Whoops.

    Cabrera WAR = oWAR + 3*dWAR

    Excuse the error in presentation.

  77. Ron Johnson Says:

    #73 BA with RISP is in fact of minor significance in explaining team runs score (so for that matter is ISO with runners on) but it's tricky to incorporate directly.

    First of all there's the issue of distribution of chances.

    Then: runner on second, single is very far from being an automatic rbi. A runner on second rarely scores on an infield single. And the runner only scores ~60% of the time on a single to left or right (don't recall the numbers on a single to center).

    Personally I advocate using WPA (available at BB-REF) rather than RISP. Not as a direct value indicator (it has too many issues beyond the player's direct control to be useful as a value metric) but kind of a tie breaker.

  78. Sean Forman Says:

    WAR does not equal oWAR + dWAR

    dWAR = position + defense
    oWAR = position + batting + baserunning + replacement

    When adding together you are double-counting the runs due to position.

    Cabrera is +2 due to position and Trout is about zero due to time at the corners.

  79. #77. WPA sounds very interesting, especially with the example I found on the internet. Very surprised at the low % of scoring from second on a single - especially when I would guess scoring from second with two outs to be very high (+80%).
    As far as distribution of chances, I thought RISP would balance that out, whereas RBIs need opportunities, RISP measures avg when actually given the chance to do so - no matter how many times.

  80. "Don't criticize what you can't understand,
    For the times they are a-changin'."
    --- Bob Dylan, master of WAR

  81. #77 said "BA with RISP is in fact of minor significance in explaining team runs score". This comment I found to be sort of ironic, in that, here in Chicago, one of the factors that's been pointed to in the recent collapse of the White Sox is that for the past six (?) weeks of the season, as a team, they hit about .192 with RISP, free-falling from 1st in that stat. The Sox situational hitting was awful, and it showed a basic truth in baseball, in that it's hard to win if you can't score.

  82. Western Fan Says:

    If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, for the first time in 47 years, it would be ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS for him not be the MVP. Period. I am a professional statistician, and this "WAR" statistic is way, way too complex & confusing. Perhaps it's a fun number to examine, but it is just plain nonsense as a criterion for a ("the") major batting award. Batting Average, Home Runs, RBI's; this is Baseball...

  83. I love this debate! Seems like in the last 20 years we've gone from "How could Ted Williams NOT win the MVP in 1942 and 1947- HE WON THE TRIPLE CROWN!!!!" to 'ehh, triple crown, not that big a deal.' Beyond WAR, why should Mike Trout win the MVP? Because if it's just WAR I have two words for you...Ben Zobrist.

  84. Ed Dykhuizen Says:

    JB and others arguing vehemently against WAR perfectly demonstrate the conservative mindset. I'm not talking about political conservatism necessarily (though the two often coincide).

    The conservative mindset is terrified of change -- any change, even change that has no material effect on their lives (like using WAR in MVP discussions). Anything that might question in any way the things they're accustomed to threatens their whole existence.

    Conservative-mindset types believe 100% in many things that they've been told are true. They desperately do not want to give those things any further analysis. They want those things to be True with a capital T, and these Truths provide the security that they need to get through the day. They cannot live with doubt. They're just not strong enough for it, mentally or emotionally.

    JB perfectly illustrates the irrational rage that bursts forth when any of Truths that the conservative-mindset types depend on get questioned. He goes off in a violent spasm of tangents against anything that represents changes to things he's used to knowing. It's almost too perfect that he is still angry about Pluto no longer being a planet. Of course, that has nothing to do with baseball, but that doesn't matter to him. It's the perfect conservative-mindset argument, which in this case goes "I've always known Pluto is a planet. I have never considered that that could change, so therefore it can never change. It doesn't matter who's telling me that it has changed, even if it's astrophysicists who know way more about it than I do. They must be wrong. I must maintain that nothing I know as True is allowed to change! At all costs!"

    It's sad, really. If you can't accept change, you can't accept progress. Nothing can ever get better, because you're stuck cowering in your own little rut, frantically fighting off anything that could possibly challenge anything you thought you knew.

    Those of us with the courage to accept that change isn't always bad, and that progress is possible, will always have to battle the people with conservative mindsets. We'll never be able to convince them of anything through logic, because, in their fits of frantic defensiveness, they will engage in every possible logical contortion to fight it off. All we can do is make change, show them the positive results, and then make them think they were behind it after all. Or make them forget they were ever against it. They'll never, ever recognize they might have been wrong. That is also anathema to the conservative mindset.

    I realize that this is a bit grandiose for a silly argument about baseball stats. But I've noticed it in pretty much every discourse in society -- it's always a battle between people saying "Hey, you know, this new idea might make some sense" and the people saying "No! No! Change bad! AAAAH!"

  85. The media panders to the masses.

    ...The same masses who, when taken as a whole and left to their own devices, would on average likely struggle to calculate a player's batting average. All the while possessing a quite natural fear and distrust for the misunderstood. Almost like a replacement level intelligence, if you will.

  86. WAR..... sigh

    I think both sides are wrong to an extent....

    Most of the stock that the geezers and casual fans put into the "baseball card stats" (runs,rbi's HR's,wins) are based on nostalgia. They don't really consider the FACT that most of those stats are more a product of a team than a player. They are also afraid of the newer stats because, let's face it, most people aren't really that bright. (or they are lazy) and anything that involves having to "understand" something, well, to heck with that!!!

    That being said, the pro WAR crowd CAN be a bit overzealous with their praise. It's a good stat and I like it. But at the present stage of defensive understanding I think it's more of a loose starting point for a discussion (especially involving pitching and ,catchers/ 1st baseman defense).
    like say "Yeah, he's having a great year 4 WAR in only 350 PA's!!!" then you follow that up with some discussion. I don't think that when someone says : " No, Pujols is obviously the better player because he had an 8 WAR year and Gonzalez only had a 7.5..." that they are helping things that much. I don't think WAR is THE superstat. It's a nice thumbnail guide if you need a quick number to judge a season.

    HOWEVER, there IS something to be said for the quality and depth of sabr stats. They ARE, to put it mildly, simply better than counting stats. They look closer, dig deeper and try harder to find out who is performing better and why.

    Remember, new ideas are rarely accepted by the old guard. That's not how science works, what happens is that a few people start to teach the new guard and eventually the old guard dies off leaving the new ideas to become the status quo.

    P.S. Here is something that stuck in my craw,as it were; When applying a logarithm to a number of like things, be it soda companies, traffic patterns or baseball players, the actual numbers used as the "floor" or say "replacement level" don't matter, because they are applied equally to EVERY SINGLE PLAYER AT THAT POSITION. It doesn't matter if replacement level is a .300 hitting .900 OPS guy with a 25 UZR and 8 baserunning, or a .120 hitting .560 OPS guy with a -42 UZR and -20 baserunning. If applied equally to all the players, you will get an accurate depiction of who performed better AT THAT POSITION. Now, if want to talk about positional weighting.... You COULD argue, that weighting is unfair due to the old standby "well why is it that SS is weighed more than RF?" but that doesn't hold weight really. lol and here's why: (hypothetical not real player numbers)

    player A has this slash line .295/.390/.500
    player B has the same slash .295/.390/.500

    and for the sake of argument, both play stellar defense and have stolen 15-19 bases

    player A is a SS, player B is a right fielder , who has more value?

    obviously the SS because there are a heck of a lot more guys who can play RF and put up that sort of slashline than play SS.

    if you count them exactly the same then you aren't giving an accurate picture of their value and performance.

    is MVP just who had the best year strictly on offense? is it the guy who had the best september on a playoff team? is it the guy who got the most triple crown stats? or is it the guy who performed the best hitting,fielding and on the base paths?

    Personally, I've always been in favor of giving the MVP to the guy who had the best overall season, even if he played a lousy team (not his fault). You can provide the most value and your team can lose. and you can provide the least value and your team can win the world series.

    These awards are really kinda meaningless ..... except they aren't, they are voted on by the SAME GROUP WHO ,oddly enough, VOTES FOR THE FRIGGIN HOF!!! and boy they sure like to use those awards they voted on as a guide on who gets in don't they?

    bahhhhh, if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown and wins the MVP, good for him, he was the best hitter this season. BUT, Trout probably had the best year overall.

  87. Ron Johnson Says:

    #81 When I say minor I do mean minor. Nearly a decade ago I took a look at the assertion that rbis are a function of power and opportunity.

    Turns out to be closer to the truth than I or anybody else making that assertion expected. There's a ~98% correlation between career rbi and (career SLG * career at bats with runners on). And the bulk of the variation comes from batting order position. (IOW if you adjust for batting order positions -- there are a few guys who "always" batted leadoff or "always" batted in the heart of the order) then it approaches 99%.

    But when I looked at modeling a season's RBI totals I found that situational stats just weren't all that important.

    The best simple estimate (Tom Ruane came up with a better one, because he took into account the actual distribution of baserunners -- the primary source of error in mine) I could come up with was:

    ABROB*(SLG*1.09-BA*.66) (ABROB is at bats with runners on base)

    Standard error is somewhere around 8 RBI.

    When I look at the White Sox and RBI this year, both Viciedo and Ramirez had driven in a lot more runs than expected (given their power this year and opportunities). If they regressed (only one player -- Joe Carter -- consistently drove in more runs than expected. IOW their unexpectedly high RBI totals probably weren't an ability) well you'd expect run scoring to be something of an issue, clutch stats or no.

  88. Lets take a deeper look into team WAR. The same components that go into calculating the players WAR are used and therefore shouldn't team WAR's be reflective. In many cases team WAR appears to be a good representation. The Giants, Braves and Yankees rank 3, 4 and 5 in WAR and ended up (in different order) 3, 4 and 5 in Wins.

    However, if we look at two teams where the WAR and Wins correlation are not in line. They would be the 93 win Orioles (15.1 WAR ranking 26th out of 30) and the 89 win Angels (38 WAR #1 ranking). It appears that two components that might be over-vauled are fielding and base-running. I am not saying that they are important, but maybe, just maybe the assigned ratio of value might not be right. The Angels have the 2nd highest fielding and highest base-running values. The Orioles, on the other hand, have some of the lowest fielding and base-running values. The Tigers also have very poor fielding and base-running values. Maybe that is why a 66 win Twins team has a better WAR than the Orioles, Tigers and Rays.

    So before you just blindly say that WAR is the be-all, end-all and that anyone challenging solely using it is a "world is flat" person, maybe you should get Wins-Above-Replacement to represent actual Win for the team.

  89. "Value" is always in the eyes of beholders and is not a fixed number. There have been clear winners over the years and clear controversies, too. Only last year the NL winner (pre urine samples) was very controversial with legitimate arguments (and stats to back them up) presented for at least two leading contenders. The only "fixed" aspect of MVP awards since their inauguration is that all measurements have been impossible to standardize. Should a DH be eligible? Are pitchers eligible? Are batting statistics the sine qua non? Does one's position factor in? Is a player being recognized for his value to his team or independent of that? Can a player from a team with a losing record get any respect (let alone votes)?

    This year's AL race fits the profile of past results perfectly. One player is superb all around while the other is feared (and has been most of his career) when he comes to the plate. One player's superb performance could not propel his team in to the playoffs; the other's overall season and, especially, his final push did indeed help his team rally to reach the post-season.

  90. One thing that is troubling is the different revisions, for example last season this site listed Matt Kemp with 10.0 WAR and Ryan Braun with 7.7. If you would have hoped the writers lean on that, then without question Kemp should have won. Now, with the updated WAR it shows Kemp with 7.8 and Braun at 7.7, saying they were the same. When I see something like that I have to question relying on WAR. Why shouldn't I think the same thing will happen next May with an update showing Trout and Cabrera were basically equal?

    Another thing I have noticed is that both sides seems equally extreme, for every old school guy who cant look past the triple crown there is a SABR person who just quotes WAR without knowing how it is made up or question anything in it.

    I for one have to question the Angel's park factor this year which is giving Trout an OPS+ lead (169 to 167) even though his raw OPS is way, way behind Cabrera (44 points). I don't know how you cant question that, and the reason is because Angel Stadium is now Petco Park (92 multi-year park factor) and a worse hitter environment than Oakland? I believe the park factor number includes more than just the home stadium, but just 4 years ago Angel Stadium had a 99 park factor?

    I dont understand how everyone can just say Trout and Cabrera are equal on offense and Trout gets the edge from defense and baserunning? Cabrera is clearly better on offense, just look at the "old school" numbers. Yes Cabrera has more PAs but that is good thing for an MVP race, and he has more everything except SBs (H, 2B, HR, AVE, same OVP, SLG). Are 42 net SBs worth more than 65 total bases?

    I would still support Trout but I have to question the numbers, I don't think they are equal on offense and the reason WAR is showing they are is due to the Angel Stadium park factor which is magnified by Trout's home/road splits .976/.942 (so this 'pitcher's park' is not affecting Trout at all)

    And one more thing, I really hate that whenever I try to look into WAR all I see are verbal explanations which seem to try to cater to people who are scared of numbers. It is very, very difficult to just see all the equations. Why cant you just publish a Mathcad sheet with all equations and variables for people who just want to see that. It seems like when its about to get rigorous everyone just says something like this is complicated so dont worry about it. I want to be able to calculate WAR and come up with the EXACT values I see on this site, and then maybe adjust it or see how sensitive the different values are on the output.

  91. Ron Johnson Says:

    #88 As I've mentioned in at least one other thread, WAR doesn't reconcile at the team win. Team WAR will add up to pythagorean wins. Actually even that's not quite right. They'll add up to pythagorean wins if you substitute predicted runs scored (given the offensive events) for actual runs scored.

    Given that there's a standard error of ~3.5 wins in pythagorean W/L and a standard error of something close to 14 runs between estimated runs scored and team runs scored it's completely predictable that team WAR won't add up.

  92. In reply to Ed Dykhuizen Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    JB and others arguing vehemently against WAR perfectly demonstrate the conservative mindset. I'm not talking about political conservatism necessarily (though the two often coincide).

    For the record I am an Independent & have an independent mindset so that throws off a lot of your whole post.

    The conservative mindset is terrified of change -- any change, even change that has no material effect on their lives (like using WAR in MVP discussions). Anything that might question in any way the things they're accustomed to threatens their whole existence.

    No not threatened by change. But refuse to have changes made by a few jammed down our throats. That is why the Pluto point.

    Conservative-mindset types believe 100% in many things that they've been told are true. They desperately do not want to give those things any further analysis. They want those things to be True with a capital T, and these Truths provide the security that they need to get through the day. They cannot live with doubt. They're just not strong enough for it, mentally or emotionally.

    That is a total wrong point! If you can show me a better way to do something (IE a solar powered car that is feasible id trade a gas guzzler tomm for it!) I am all for it! But if 9 guys got in a room & decided that everyone better like soda powered cars & they know better I would tell them to stick it & I would decide for myself. The people who are not strong enough mentally or emotionally are the one who love being controlled by & being told by others what to do in their lives.
    They are the people who hate people with their own thoughts because it shows their weaknesses that that conform & accept whatever is told to them & what way to think in life & how to live said such life.

    JB perfectly illustrates the irrational rage that bursts forth when any of Truths that the conservative-mindset types depend on get questioned.

    Irrational because you say so??? Am I threatening your glass house. Dont like someone that doesnt conform to what you have been told is right & wrong & are you like the millions that are just to lazy to think for themselves?

    He goes off in a violent spasm of tangents against anything that represents changes to things he's used to knowing. It's almost too perfect that he is still angry about Pluto no longer being a planet.

    Notice how its a violent spasm instead of an argument. Demonizing anyone who dares to criticize. Typical Liberal tactic. Read above comment & it is still a planet!

    Of course, that has nothing to do with baseball, but that doesn't matter to him.

    Using your logic no one is allowed to use anything but the said topic to demonstrate a point.

    It's the perfect conservative-mindset argument, which in this case goes "I've always known Pluto is a planet. I have never considered that that could change,
    so therefore it can never change.

    NEVER said cant change. But 9 guys in a room on a planet with 6 Billion People hmmm. I can prob get 18 scientists to say it still is.

    It doesn't matter who's telling me that it has changed, even if it's astrophysicists who know way more about it than I do. They must be wrong. I must maintain that nothing I know as True is allowed to change! At all costs!"

    Once again have to have a cookie cutter brain & go with the flow at all costs!

    It's sad, really. If you can't accept change, you can't accept progress.

    Once again making up facts as you go along. If I cant accept change why I do look up stats on the Internet instead of trotting down to the Library to look up outdated facts in the reference section????????????

    Nothing can ever get better, because you're stuck cowering in your own little rut, frantically fighting off anything that could possibly challenge anything you thought you knew.

    Notice the liberal demonizing tactics again. Using the word cowering if I dare speak against what you say is fact! Read above & see how wrong you are again!

    Those of us with the courage to accept that change isn't always bad,

    Once again If I dont agree on WAR or Pluto I cant accept ANY Change according to your mindset! But I wonder if when New Coke came out & your were told it was better did just just agree because Coke said so or were you in the millions who said Shove THIS Change? I can pick & choose what change I like & what I dont & people like you who get riled up when you dont get your way (btw from your tone you sound like a Liberal now I dont insist you are but just sounds that way) are the problems with society! For example Gay Marriage while its no one elses business if 2 people want to get married Liberals for some reason want to force people to like it & accept it even if its against their religion. I personally dont care but dont tell people against it they better like it (& in the same point dont try to stop them just because you dont like it). Oh wait thats not a baseball reference & according to your rules I can only use Baseball topics well seems like I dont follow your rules well. But the point being I dont like WAR & wont use it BUT I have no problem with people who do like it & use it just dont tell ME I better like it & use it & am out of touch or dont accept change if I dont.

    and that progress is possible, will always have to battle the people with conservative mindsets.

    Notice no mention of Independent mindsets. With Liberals & conservatives you have to be one or the other & thats that!

    We'll never be able to convince them of anything through logic, because, in their fits of frantic defensiveness,

    Notice the personal attacks when they dont get their way. Kind of like what certain politicians do when they dont get their way hmmmmm

    they will engage in every possible logical contortion to fight it off.

    Notice if you use Logic that threatens their view its contorted.

    All we can do is make change, show them the positive results, and then make them think they were behind it after all. Or make them forget they were ever against it. They'll never, ever recognize they might have been wrong. That is also anathema to the conservative mindset.

    See another point you are wrong on. If I am against something & then change my mind I DO admit when I was wrong & DO give credit where credit is due.

    I realize that this is a bit grandiose for a silly argument about baseball stats. But I've noticed it in pretty much every discourse in society -- it's always a battle between people saying "Hey, you know, this new idea might make some sense" and the people saying "No! No! Change bad! AAAAH!"

    If that was the whole point there would be no discussion!

    "Hey, you know, this new idea might make some sense"

    That is not shoving it down anyones throat! My whole point is when stuff is shoved down. It keeps being missed the point that I have no problem if other people like it & use it.

    Change is good a lot of times but there are times it is not so why not question change instead of just accepting it if you dont believe in the change being put to you (or trying to be crammed down your throat)

  93. Ron Johnson Says:

    #91 It's extremely important to understand that park factors aren't an ability adjustment. They're an attempt to put values in context. We don't need to know the reasons why, we just need to know that quite a few more runs have been scored in Angel road games than in home games.

    And that it's been pretty stable for the last 3 years (actually trending towards a more extreme pitcher's park).

    That Trout has hit better at home is unsurprising. Half-season stats are pretty noisy at the best of times.

    Now it just might be that the park factors for Trout are actually wrong. He did miss series in Minnesota, New York and Tampa Bay and home series against KC, Oakland and Baltimore. I don't think this actually moves the needle, but it might change things a tad.

    As for Kemp last year, change of defensive system is the primary difference. BIS sees him as below average, TotalZone (and Gold Glove voters) saw him as well above average.

  94. Brett Johnston Says:

    A few things that I always try to keep in mind

    1) people that vote on baseball awards are writers where the game may or may not their passion anymore
    2) at least one writer voted for neither Cal Ripken nor Tony Gwynn for the HOF
    3) the award is NOT the 'best player', it's most valuable. While this often runs in parallel, it doesn't have to. With Miguel Cabrera, the Tiger's likely don't make the playoffs; Without Trout, the Angels still don't make the playoffs
    4) sadly, 45% of all triple crown winners didn't take home the MVP and most would think that they are ripped off

    1947 Ted Williams BOS .343, 32 HR, 114 RBI lost to Joe DiMaggio - V NYY 141 G .315/.391/.522

    1942 Ted Williams BOS .356, 36 HR, 137 RBI lost to Joe Gordon - V NYY 147 G .322/.409/.491

    1934 Lou Gehrig NYY .363, 49 HR, 165 RBI lost to Mickey Cochrane - V DET 129 G .320/.428/.412

    1933 Chuck Klein PHI .368, 28 HR, 120 RBI lost to Carl Hubbell - V NYG 23-12 (5 SV), 1.66, 156 SO

    1922 (only one award given though, not one per league) Rogers Hornsby STL .401, 42 HR, 152 RBI lost to George Sisler - V SLB 142 G .420/.467/.594

    So, out of 11 Triple Crown award winners, 5 (45%!!!!) didn't win their league's MVP

  95. 3) the award is NOT the 'best player', it's most valuable. While this often runs in parallel, it doesn't have to. With Miguel Cabrera, the Tiger's likely don't make the playoffs; Without Trout, the Angels still don't make the playoffs

    Really? You are really going there? The Angels will finish with more wins in a much tougher division and you are arguing that Cabrera has done more for his team. The Tigers were a .500 team outside their division.

  96. Brett Johnston Says:

    is it IMPOSSIBLE that the Angels could have made the playoffs if they had Cabrera and not Trout.. (other than yet another 1b that has to play somewhere else), or equivalently, would the Tigers have had a better record if they didn't have Cabrera, but instead had Trout?

    And the difference in wins could be 1, could be 3.. It's not 15 games.
    I understand that the Central this year did remarkably poor and the Tigers had the bulk of their wins inside that poor division.

    I'm not saying Cabrera should win BECAUSE he's on a playoff team, or because he should win the triple crown, but more one of the things I've learned is people vote on whom they believe is Most Valuable, not the best hitter or best player.

    Mo Vaughn won, how many people really agreed with that choice?
    I thought he should have been 3rd at best.

  97. #93, yes we do need to know why, because if the reason is randomness then we should not give someone credit for benefiting from that. I fully understand the point of park factors, but they are used to compute OPS+ so they ARE an ability adjustment the way they are implemented.

    Why is Angel stadium slowly moving towards a pitchers park when the previous 20 years it was neutral? Multi-year park factors for the past 20 seasons:
    92
    92
    96
    99
    102
    101
    100
    98
    97
    98
    100
    101
    102
    99
    102
    102
    98
    99
    100
    102
    100

    Average = 99, so I would like to hear an explanation that can show me this current downward trend is not random noise. I am not saying it doesn't exist, just that I question the 92 number.

    and @95, I dont think he is saying Cabrera has done more for his team, just that literally if the Tigers had a replacement player instead of Cabrera they would go from playoffs to no playoffs, and if the Angels had a replacement player instead of Trout they would go from no playoffs to no playoffs. Now clearly there are other factors here out of their control and I don't think its that great of an argument, but if that is how you interpret MVP (clearly NOT MVP = best player) then it is not that ridiculous. I think by doing this you are admitting you think MVP best player, but to have this opinion is not that outrageous.

    Consider the world series MVP, should that go to
    1)T he player on the winning team where you could say if the team had a replacement player instead of this player they would have gone from World Series champ to World Series loser?
    2) Or should it just go the player with the best stats regardless of team?

    I would think most people would choose option 1, and if so you are at least acknowledging some value to the same interpretation of the regular season MVP.

  98. "so I would like to hear an explanation that can show me this current downward trend is not random noise. I am not saying it doesn't exist, just that I question the 92 number."

    Park factors aren't just about one park. They are about the relationship to other parks. So you can't go back 20 years because almost all the other teams in the league have changed parks in that time span. Other teams have made renovations during that time span. Its a noisy number but these are multi-year averages.

  99. Right but since 2009 the only other new stadium was Minnesota in the AL, and Angel Stadium went from 99 to 92

  100. Re #94 2) at least one writer voted for neither Cal Ripken nor Tony Gwynn for the HOF

    There has always been a few writers that just wont vote for anyone on the first ballot no matter how much of a no brainier with the thoughts no one deserves to get in on the first ballot.

  101. Ron Johnson Says:

    #97 Honestly it doesn't matter. The Angels are currently playing in an offensive context where fewer runs are required to create a net win than the Tigers are.

    Now if there's a big change in the park (so that multi-year park factors can't be used) then there's a real issue. As noisy as single year park factors are (and there's a good study on rec.sport.baseball by Harold Brooks on this matter. Good luck finding it with the new Google Groups though), they're the best we can do.

    Honestly, I like to re-run the numbers using single year and multi-year park factors just to get a sense of the range of uncertainty. It rarely makes a big difference.

  102. Problems with WAR... (1) While it does take a look at some of the intangibles, it ignores how clutch a player is. Sure Cabrera had more chances with RISP, but he also batted 25 pts higher in those situation. WAR doesn't look at that. He knocks in runs not only because of his teamates, he makes the best of his chances. Year after year, so it's not a fluke.

    In 2004 the Tigers scored 100 more runs than this years team. The number 3 spot batted .320, but only produced 95 RBI's. So if Cabrera was on the team, you are saying that he wouldn't have produced more (or just a few more because his BA is 10 pts higher)?

    2) The Smell Test. In Sept/Oct Trout has the 2nd highest WAR in the AL. Trout has increased his lead during this month over Cabrera even though the slash lines are: Trout .279/.389/.486/.876 Cabrera .339/.402/.688/1.089

    Trout's Defense and base-running was enough to make up the batting differential and then some? Another smell test. According to WAR Trout's 2012 season is the 10th best ever since 1950. For as impressive a season it is, there is no way you can honestly tell me that its the 10th best. The only players with better seasons since 1950?

    2 by Mantle, 2 by Mays, 2 by HGH Bonds, Yaz, Morgan and Ripken.

    You are telling me that ARod, Jeter, Pujols, McGwire, Chipper, Rose, Mathews, Griffey, Molitor, Yount, Murphy, Strawberry, Mattingly, Murray, Dawson, Gwynn, Brett, Rice, Bench, Canseco, Hamilton, Cabrera, Schmidt, Henderson and everyone other than the 6 guys above over the last 60 pluse years never matched or exceeded the value that Trout produced this year? Something smells really bad with WAR.

    Brad

  103. Ron Johnson Says:

    #99 There were changes made (capacity up a few hundred) and there was a new scoreboard installed on top of the CF fence (actually not sure when construction was finished). These kind of changes have been known to affect how a stadium plays.

    There's an argument to be made that the numbers for the players on the 2010 team are wrong, but I can't see it for this year.

    There's a different argument that there might be a different mix of pitchers being used home and road. Anybody who's interested in checking this is welcome to. I doubt it's happening.

    Stengel's Yankees really did use a different mix of pitchers, but these days basically pitchers go when its their turn.

  104. Ron Johnson Says:

    #102 RISP isn't intangible. It's a very tangible thing. Its importance is easy to overstate though.

    An extra 30 points of BA with RISP is worth somewhere around 2 runs (just under).

    RISP is simultaneously statistically significant in explaining team runs scored and not all that important.

  105. 30 points of BA with RISP sounds like about 5 hits? That certainly is worth more than 2 runs. In the AL this year, with RISP there have been 4736 hits and 7185 runs scored, or 1.5 runs/hit with RISP. So 30 points of BA with RISP should be worth about 7-8 runs.

    Still very minor

  106. Brad,

    You are REALLY, REALLY underselling Trout's year. There are only six seasons since 1950 with a 160+ OPS+ and 40+ SB that played CF, 3B, 2B, SS or C. Morgan x2, Kemp, Cedeno, Trout and HoJo.

    If you set SB>=0 then there are 89 such seasons.

    It really comes down to what you think of Trout's defense.

    If you think he's an average defender then credit him in 8.5 WAR, a good defender 9.5 WAR, a great defender 10.5 WAR.

    To say that Cabrera was more valuable you have to IMO

    1) Ignore the park factors completely
    2) Assume they were both average defenders
    3) Give Cabrera a big bonus for playing in a weak division and helping get his team into the playoffs
    4) Give him mad props for playing well in Sept.

    Regarding WAR for Sept/Oct. I'm not sure where you got that as we don't show it. And even if we did, you are looking only at batting. Players play half the game in the field you know.

  107. Another way to consider Trout's season. His 169 OPS+ which excludes defense and baserunning is the 44th highest among 2B, SS, C, 3B and CF since 1950. Even if we give him no credit for going 48 of 52 in SB and playing great defense, that puts him in the top 50 among that group.

  108. Ron Johnson Says:

    #105 I've checked it out. (but encourage you to do so as well). The way I got this value was to run multiple regressions. In this case using OBP, SLG and BA with RISP vs team runs per game. (And I ran it for the year I had data for 1992-2000 IIRC -- before BB-ref made it easy to get these numbers)

    Remember, it's not 5 extra hits. It's 5 hits in high leverage situations (at least with respect to run scoring. It may or not be high leverage when we're talking game situation). That leverage only takes you so far.

    Or if you like it's 5 hits in the high weight category and 5 fewer in the more frequent situation. Again, there's a limit to how much you can get from (timing, clutch, luck select according to what floats your boat)

  109. Ed Dykhuizen Says:

    JB, your reaction proves my point exactly. You misunderstood most of what I said, then flailed furiously through looney tangents to try to fight off what you thought my points were. It's OK, you can believe whatever you want, I really don't care. I was writing that more to the other folks.

  110. Apart from the nuts-and-bolts reasons, I find it hard to take WAR seriously, because WAR adherents deride all opposition as dishonest or intellectually defective.

    Why? Because I disagree with something that has numerous versions, which are constantly being revised, by as much as 30 to 40%. Irrelevant, say WAR-fans. Here's some more SABR-stats to prove why your objection is irrational. Take that!

    You think Trout is MVP? Fine. Based on WAR? Your decision. Support Trout.

    Two things to remember:
    1. Three decades ago, TPR and TPI were going to define the complete player. Today: TPR? TPI? What? ...Exactly.
    2. History's the real judge. Emotions are high right now. The real MVP won't necessarily be who won the trophy, but the one who is remembered as the most valuable, and it might not be the guy with the highest WAR. Unless, of course, revised calculations "discover" that he was, in fact, the WAR-champion.

  111. Mark,

    I think sabermetricians would applaud your skepticism. It was skepticism that led to all the improvements in those metrics you're talking about (and all the ones in between). Even today, there's multiple websites using similar WAR frameworks all competing against each other.

    I don't know what you're expecting. If you expect perfection, you're not going to get it. If you thing the MVP should be based on who "feels" like the MVP (see post #20), well accurate is that going to be? What if you feel something different later? If you want people who disagree with you on the internet to be more polite, then good luck with that. :-)

  112. #111
    DavidRF,

    I don't see any applause for my skepticism. In fact, I detect exactly the opposite. And no substantive responses (other than more SABR-stats) to skeptics like me who point out that multiple versions and constant revision don't exactly inspire confidence.

    You say seems to me that WAR *IS* being portrayed as close to perfection as it will get.

    So you'd cede your human reason to a machine? Baseball is a game, played by men. I'd rather trust my instincts than a computer.

    If, later, I decide I'm wrong, I'll know I made the wrong decision based on the data. At least I won't be kicking myself for suppressing my reason and handing my judgment to an equation (one of two, three, or however many versions of it, anyway) cooked up by some statistician, who might (as has happened) revise the formula and changed something by 30 or 40%.

    Life can't be broken down into numbers. Yesterday's definitive TPR/TPI is long forgotten, BA/HR/RBI are still around.

  113. Joe Garrison Says:

    READ THIS POST

    As I write this, let it be known that I have only read the opening post, and ZERO replies. So if what I have to write has already been written, I am very sorry for the duplication.

    Perhaps the reason no one has contacted Sean is that relatively no one uses WAR. Don't just count the media, but count their listeners, viewers, and readers. Count everyone. And when you do, hardly anyone has hear of this stat. The lack of use does not make WAR a bad stat, but it's just not mainstream. And the very very very very few who have heard of it... well... many many many of THOSE people have rejected it. Sorry, but it's true.

    The number of people who have picked up the phone offering free publicity is roughly the same number of people who have read about WAR, have a question or two, and is willing to give this new metric a chance once issues have been resolved or fuzziness has been clarified.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but almost everyone who follows baseball can be described in one of three ways in this discussion about WAR:

    Never heard of it,
    Read about it and don't like it,
    Read it, like it, but I wouldn't use it as my number one way of evaluating players. (It's just another tool)

    I won't get into the flaws of WAR here in this thread, as that is not the banner at the top.
    As a member of the media, my sole purpose in writing is an attempt to explain a lack of "buzz".

    It's just a guess, but I am pretty sure I have this one right.

  114. Jim Bouldin Says:

    "Life can't be broken down into numbers."

    Congratulations on nullifying the entire scientific enterprise with one assertion.

  115. Mark

    you sound like you don't understand. Go to the reference material here or on fangraphs and read up on the newer stats. It will help you understand that they aren't just made up nonsense. Most of them are better at describing performance than their baseball card counterparts.

    do you really think batting avg is better than OPS?

    do you really think a guy who drives in 130 RBI's for a first place team is better than a guy who drives in 98 runs for a last place team? don't you think the quality of the offense around him might affect that?

    Is WAR perfect? of course not, is it improving all the time? yep is it a BETTER number to look at to view TOTAL PLAYER VALUE than batting avg, rbi's and HR's? absolutely.

    Your argument is that the MVP is Most Valuable Hitter, but I seem to remember the word PLAYER in their somewhere. and that means defense and baserunning.

    Trout had a better year than Cabrera, played in a tougher division, AND his team won more games. Cabrera put up good numbers sure, but he didn't even have an elite season. He won some goofy old timey award based on stats that stuck during the horse and buggy days.

    That's like judging a science project by how pretty the poster is... or giving the NFL MVP to the best option QB

    learn the new stuff, it's not hard to understand, and it will open up your appreciation of true value.

    (I guess Beane taking another low payroll team to the playoffs isn't enough evidence? nor the FACT THAT EVERY TEAM IN BASEBALL HAS STATISTICIANS STUDYING THESE NUMBERS?)

  116. I just gave you some applause! You don't think competing algorithms striving to achieve the same goal is healthy and constructive? How does anyone claim that's perfect if they don't get the exactly same answer.

    Human reason is in algorithm. You've complained before that the algorithm changes, now you're complaining that it doesn't? If you don't understand it, then don't use it, but the contributions are clearly laid out on the contribution page (link above). You can look at the data and decide for yourself. If you don't want to understand it, then why are you complaining that you don't understand it? But your complaint is that the people who do understand it are overselling it so therefore it must be bad?

    Do you think the numbers will be revised in the future making Cabrera a better fielder and baserunner than Trout? I'd cite the two other competing websites that independently came up with the same conclusion but you don't want any evidence that involves baseball knowledge learned since WWII and this blog-post doesn't accept highlight videos.

    "Life can't be broken down into numbers. ... BA/HR/RBI are still around."

    I'm watching a recording of last night's Colbert Report as I read this. You crack me up. :-)

    MVP Voters have been using a WAR-like framework for decades even if they didn't know it. How many triple crown categories did Yogi Berra ever lead the league in? He never led the league in anything at all. Voters gave him 3 MVP's based on positional adjustment and defense. Maury Wills won an MVP with triple crown numbers of .299/6/48 because voters care about baserunning. Plenty of other examples, but none of this means anything to you today because... why?

    You can vote your gut feelings if you want. We've been through enough of these to know how things work. Its just like the Academy Awards, there's usually a "Should Win, Will Win" nature to these predictions. Sometimes they don't vote for the new guy because they don't have it set in their minds that he's good yet and think it might be a fluke. Sometimes they don't vote for the perennial candidate because he's had better years and they're sick of voting for him. Sometimes they vote for the guy with better teammates becaues his team went to the playoffs. Sometimes they don't vote for the guy who's teammates are too good because they would have won without him. Sometimes they don't vote for the guy who is a jerk off the field. Sometimes they do vote for the guy who WAS a jerk off the field because his rehabilitation makes a great story. Some of us come to baseball-reference.com to get away from all that but maybe that's just me. :-)

  117. I have offered good-faith reasons (as have others) about reasons for disagreeing with the validity of WAR.

    Not a single WAR fan has addressed these. One more time:
    1. Different versions permit significantly different outcomes for the same player during the same time period.
    2. Constant changes to the WAR equation;
    3. Opaqueness of WAR mathematics;
    4. Constant revisions allowing variations of 30 to 40 percent from previous results.

    In simple terms, the three items above define unreliability in a mathematical model: variations, deviations, unreliability.

    #114: You are, as I understand it, accusing me of being anti-science? If a scientist submitted WAR in a paper, given the constant revisions, he'd lose credibility rapidly. Scientists like consistency. WAR has none.

    #115: You're making a lot of assumptions about me personally and about what I'm thinking. You're as presumptuous as you are wrong.

  118. #116
    "Human reason is in algorithm."

    So, that's why Artificial Intelligence is so easy to program that everyone has it!

    I stopped reading there.

  119. One great thing about baseball is comparing players from different eras via statistics. Now, I know players are more athletic, and all the other arguments for players appear to be more athletic. But, true fans across generations ignore that for the most part and discuss Hits, Batting average, Home Runs, and RBI's. So, why bring in a new stat to muddle conversations between age groups. Miguel Cabrera IS the MVP!

  120. When Brandon Moss replaced Daric Barton the A's were 24-31. They were 70-37 after that. When Chris Carter replaced Kila Ka'aihue the A's were 37-40. They went 57-28 after that. But WAR tells us that Moss was worth 1.9 wins and Carter 0.9. Not even 3 wins. So WAR fails in the sense of giving us a real life picture of actual value. Does anybody really believe the A's win 91 games this year with Barton and Ka'aihue playing the whole season?

  121. Algorithms are written by people. There's no AI involved. This is not a learning algorithm.

    Your complaints:

    1. When the versions disagree, then you have a point. And if you understand what's going on you can analyze the biases of each implementation and see which one you agree with. But they don't disagree here. bb-ref says Trout is ahead 10.7 to 6.9. Fangraphs says Trout is ahead 10.3 to 7.3. BaseballProspectus uses a different scale, they have Trout up 9.0 to 6.1. Each of these websites would like nothing better than to outdo the other two.

    2. I'd cut you some slack on this one if the difference was in one of the more volatile numbers (fielding). But the fielding contribution only validates what people see with their own eyes. And even if you cut the difference in half, Trout has a big lead. Even if you remove it, Trout is still up. Post #106 already explained this to you (had you stopped reading then, too?). The batting part of WAR has changed very little since the early 70s. Run estimatation based on plate appearance outcomes is a solved problem. Very minor tweaks since then. Park factors are over 30 years old and their calculation hasn't changed much.

    3. There are a lot of details. They're all spelled out in the documentation. If you don't like summing them up into one number (a lot of people don't), look at the contributions page instead and cross-reference with other sites.

    4. See #1. A flukey fielding number is not the difference between these two. If you look at the contributions page, you can take outlier numbers into consideration.

    Did you stop reading again? Are we all wasting our time? Batting average and RBI still the king?

  122. "truth never triumphs, it's opponents just die off"- Max Planck one of the founders of quantum theory

  123. Like most fans who both love baseball and have an interest in advanced stats, I think the 2012 AL MVP vote will be very exciting. On the one hand, Trout clearly had the better all-around season as borne out by his outstanding top-ranked WAR.

    But ... the fan in me looks at Cabrera and how he did something historic - the first man in 45 years - FORTY-FIVE YEARS! - to win the Triple Crown, and there's something romantic about achieving a feat that puts him alongside Cobb, Gehrig, Williams, Mantle, Hornsby, etc.

    Yes, it's true AVG, HR, RBI are laughably inadequate at telling the whole picture of a batter's individual productivity but the Triple Crown is still nothing to spit at.

  124. Mark,

    1. Different versions permit significantly different outcomes for the same player during the same time period.

    WAR is a model that tries to spit out a 'value' based on different inputs and different weights on those inputs. The inputs and weights are determined by the philosophy and methodology behind that specific version of WAR. So it makes sense that different websites with different methodologies will have different WAR outcomes. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference both have clear, distinct philosophies behind their models and the validity of both are still debated in the statgeek community. If anyone you've talked to has claimed that any WAR stat is perfect or infallible, then they're wrong. I just don't see that many people doing that.

    If you could point out a specific philosophy, or a specific input, or a specific weight value that you disagree with, I have no doubt that many people will be willing to have a civil discussion regarding your concern. But to dismiss the entire concept of WAR because different models produce different results is a little silly.

  125. #119 is saying

    "leave me alone with your pockets, zippered dungarees and fancy horseless carriages!! they are a fad like jazz music and playing baseball at night!"

  126. Just putting this out there...

    Do y'all think the reason it took 45 years to see another Tri-Crown winner, is because in the DH era, there evolved an emphasis on power at the expense of making contact or getting on base?

    Intuitively, there is no more shame nowadays in taking a ferocious swing with a 2-strike count because the potential benefit of achieving an HR outweighs the risk of striking out. In the pre-DH era, most batters would do anything to not strike out, thus improving AVG or OBP.

    Also, I had a look back at the MVP voting tables for the years that the AL Tri-Crown winners did NOT also win MVP... If you want to be outraged, look at 1942 and 1947 AL when Williams lost both times even though his OPS was nearly 200 ahead of the MVP winner.

    It's sad that nothing much has changed in mainstream media attitudes some 60-70 years later: "If you don't talk to me or give me an interview, I'll screw you over at the end of the year during the MVP vote."

    Sad that the media was always sucking DiMaggio off for years and blindly ignoring the media-prickly Williams' historic greatness.

  127. 2. Constant changes to the WAR equation

    Even by scientific standards, modeling something this complicated requires a certain extent of trial-and-error. It's not always obvious what variables completely capture 'value' or what variables might conflate the end result. A revision means new information was discovered, and then included into the updated formula. Shouldn't that be a good thing?

    I don't know how many scientists you know, but those guys are constantly looking for ways to revise their stuff. There's nothing 'consistent' about the evolution of a research paper after going through peer-review.

  128. Outta Leftfield Says:

    David Cone and Michael Kay had a nice and very intelligent discussion of the Cabrera vs. Trout for MVP debate during Yankee game 162 last night. Cone in particular expressed his enthusiastic appreciation of WAR, with its ability to value defense along with hitting, and Michael Kay said it was time to advance the discussion beyond merely counting HR and RBI. Seems to me that RBI's have become an obsession of MVP voters for too long, so anything that breaks that logjam would be a plus. Anyway, not everyone in the media is anti-WAR, and it's nice to see smart former players like Cone speaking up for it.
    That said, I wouldn't be too mad at anyone who voted for Cabrera for MVP. I was a teenager when Yaz won his Triple Crown, and I'm not so young anymore. Winning one of those under current conditions is a rare achievement, and if somebody want's to reward Miggy for that rare achievement, the way they rewarded Maris for his HR record in 1961 when Mantle was clearly the better all-around player, I'm not going to say no.

  129. Trout and Miggy have had two of the best seasons you'll ever see. Voters can't go wrong with either.

    Sabermetrics is defined as "knowing something about baseball that was not previously known". That's great, we all can appreciate that.

    My question is, does WAR fit that criteria?

    The 7th post states that Pujols' 2003 WAR on BR has changed from 10.9 to 8.4 and on Fangraphs has revised the same season from 9.0 to 10.1. When combined, that's a 33% change to the value of Pujols' season (-23% on BR and + 10% on FG).

    33% would make a .300 hitter a .200 hitter. Now, I understand that WAR is a work in progress, as defined by the constant changes, but shouldn't that eliminate it from serious consideration until the kinks are worked out?

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sabr stats. I love looking at the game in new ways and I love the BR site in particular, but I think we are a long way from having an accurate one-stop shopping stat to quantify the true value of a baseball player.

  130. WAR is a nice idea that's been botched so far.

    Initially there was oWAR and dWAR and you could add the two together to get WAR. That made sense... after all you are either on offense or defense. Baserunning is part of offense. In the myriad of changes the WAR is calculated differently by different people. In addition even within this site it is a shifting number as changes and revisions are made to seasons long completed.

    It's become so poor that many people are fine with throwing the baby out right along with the bathwater. And that may actually be a reason that Trout will not win the MVP. Because the argument put forth on WAR is full of needless complications.

  131. Reddick's Jheri Curl Says:

    Look. Anyone decrying WAR has some mixture of either 3 points: 1) WAR doesn't work; 2) WAR is implausible for the average fan to understand/calculate; 3) they like additive/traditional stats.

    #1 is ignorant. #2 and #3 are totally rational positions - just ones that *shouldn't* result in an attack on the "new math." But we are people and this is the internet, so it does....

    Bill James has been quoted as saying that he recognizes that the HOF is not the "Hall of WAR" and I believe on some level the MVP has a similar charge. Look no further than Felix's Cy Young in 2010 to see the incorporation of advanced metrics into baseball. That said, you cannot begrudge a writer/fan if they think the Triple Crown winner and #3 AL WAR for a playoff team is a more deserving MVP candidate than the #1 AL WAR for a massively under-performing 3rd-place-in-their-own-division team.

    There is no debate the Mike Trout was the best player in baseball in 2012. But Bill James might say that the MVP is not necessarily the "Most WAR Player."

  132. Reddick's Jheri Curl Says:

    #117 (below):

    1. WAR uses statistical models which capture FAR more data than other methods and therefore need to have subjective calculations. Changes in these calculations can be helpful / unhelpful and can result in changing WARs - but that certainly doesn't mean that WAR < BA. That is a logical leap that you have not proven....

    2. Again, the vastness of the data allows for subjective judgment in what is included (park factors, how to measure defense, batted ball data, etc.) and what weights are given to each category of data.

    3. It is not opaque. It is complex - two very different concepts.

    4. Wait, this is 1 point disguised as 4 - right?

    Oh... and science is constantly being revised. Notable inclusions are the theory of gravity which existed for 100s of years pre-Einstein, the billions of $ managed by quantitative investment funds (which adjust their models) and astronomy, writ large.

    ----------
    I have offered good-faith reasons (as have others) about reasons for disagreeing with the validity of WAR.

    Not a single WAR fan has addressed these. One more time:
    1. Different versions permit significantly different outcomes for the same player during the same time period.
    2. Constant changes to the WAR equation;
    3. Opaqueness of WAR mathematics;
    4. Constant revisions allowing variations of 30 to 40 percent from previous results.

    In simple terms, the three items above define unreliability in a mathematical model: variations, deviations, unreliability.

    #114: You are, as I understand it, accusing me of being anti-science? If a scientist submitted WAR in a paper, given the constant revisions, he'd lose credibility rapidly. Scientists like consistency. WAR has none.

    #115: You're making a lot of assumptions about me personally and about what I'm thinking. You're as presumptuous as you are wrong.

  133. Ron Johnson Says:

    "1. Different versions permit significantly different outcomes for the same player during the same time period."

    Yup. We can't model offense more precisely than to within 14-15 runs when looking at the team level. That translates to something close to 5 runs for the individual (full-time) player,

    For most players the good offensive metrics will cluster around an area.

    But yeah, it's true that every now and then you'll get a fairly big difference.

    The big issue is on the defensive side. Teams have changed what they're doing (in particular shifting more frequently and more radically than they ever have in the past) and frankly some defensive methods don't seem to have a real good handle on this right now.

    UZR largely throws its hands up on the whole shifting issue (as I understand it, they simply don't count plays when the shift is on). I haven't seen a PMR sighting in a while. Plus/minus doesn't count radical overshifts (like when the Jays play Lawrie in shallow right field)

    Right now I personally don't use the full WAR structure. The offensive side is pretty solid (but I do like to look at EQA, VORP and Steve Mann's old version of linear weights) as are the positional and playing time adjustments. For the defense I work backward. How much better does a player have to be relative to his peers to make up the offensive/positional difference.

    "2. Constant changes to the WAR equation;"

    They only seem constant. We went through a major set of changes when Sean took over from Sean. WAR 2.0 was the result -- came out in May this year.

    "3. Opaqueness of WAR mathematics;"

    I don't see them as particularly opaque. Conceptually not all that different from what Pete Palmer was doing back in the early 80s (park effects are derived the same way). Sean is simply taking advantage of more information (reached on error stats, adjusting DPs for opportunities, baserunning) and doing the "slope correction" (adjusting for the particular year's offensive context) in a different way.

    They aren't something that you can really do without a computer, but that's really true of any method more complex than OPS.

    OK, you can't really replicate Sean's work without a retrosheet parser (or equivalent) -- though you can fake it using the table of weights Sean provides in the WAR intro. But it's not *that* tricky to go through the raw data to get all of the context info.

    "4. Constant revisions allowing variations of 30 to 40 percent from previous results."

    Already covered.

    "In simple terms, the three items above define unreliability in a mathematical model: variations, deviations, unreliability. "

    Sure. Any mathematical model has its imperfection. The standard error for WAR is certainly not less than a win (but it's not a heck of a lot higher than that). I'd be a lot happier with some disclaimers about that, but that's reality.

    I think I know Sean well enough that he's neither blind to this nor sensitive to this. It really is as good as we can do right now.

    The point is that any part is solid enough that an objector should be able to point to a specific issue (as for instance Brett Lawrie's defensive numbers earlier in the season) rather than just "doesn't look right" or "may be flaws"

  134. Thomas Court Says:

    I'll say this about the American League MVP award.

    The Angels were 6-14 before bringing up Mike Trout.
    The Angels finished with a better record than the Tigers.

    and most importantly:

    A team of nine Mike Trouts against a team of nine Miguel Cabreras for a 162 game season, based only on this season's statistics, would most certainly end with the Trouts victorious. People forget that speed and fielding actually matter in baseball.

  135. Ron Johnson Says:

    "Initially there was oWAR and dWAR and you could add the two together to get WAR."

    Sean has explained why he changed the definition of dWAR when he took over from Sean. Basically he wanted a structure that allowed for comparing the defensive value of guys playing different positions. Hence the built in positional adjustment.

    Makes a lot of sense from that point of view even if it's confusing to people who didn't read the fine print last May (raises hand) -- or since.

  136. I think that the potential for WAR to go awry is not only in defense, but in Park Factors and positional adjustments.

    What "doesn't look right"

    For most of the year, Darwin Barney was in the NL top 10 in WAR. This is a guy with a .653 OPS playing every day on a 100 loss team. I know he's a great fielder, but c'mon.

    Ben Zobrist is another guy who seems to benefit from WAR. 1st in the AL last year and 10th this year, 6th among position players. He plays all of his positions well, not spectacular. He's a very good ball player but I'll put it this way, he wasn't close to last year's MVP.

    Denard Span is the 9th most valuable position player in the AL, better than Pujols. Put Span in the center of the Angels offense and he gets about 50 RBI. Try making that up with his glove and legs.

    Speaking of the Angels, I see Weaver is rated 10th among pitchers in the AL! 1st in WHIP, Hits/IP and wins and win pct, 3rd in ERA.

    I also see that 3 of the top 10 position players are Angels(Trout, Torri Hunter, Pujols). It seems that these guys are getting credit for a portion of Weaver's WAR.

  137. Baseball is played on the field and the teams and players have to respond to different situations. Teams do not play against a team of replacements, batters to not hit against replacements and pitchers to face replacements. They play against MLB teams and players.

    Team WAR shows the Angels (38 WAR) and Brewers (35.1) as the two best teams respectively. So why not just award them the AL and NL pennants and the Angels the World Series title if the formulas have been finalized and perfected? The Orioles finished 26th (15.3) so it doesn't appear that WAR actually equates to Wins on the diamond.

    Again I am not saying advanced metrics shouldn't be used to help value players, you just need to temper the hate towards anyone that doesn't agree with your analysis. Mike Trout had a great year and I can see why he is one of the favorites to win the AL MVP. However, when you look at the 10+ Triple Crown Articles on ESPN and SI, you would think he is the only one that should be considered. All but one article attacks Cabrera and promotes Trout. People in baseball know that Cabrera lacks in certain aspects of the game, but his combination of average and power is a rare and his triple crown should be enjoyed and celebrated, not crapped on.

    I saw an article on ESPN where they rated his the worst triple crown season ever because of OPS+. I am sorry, but when you have 11 triple crowns in 45 seasons (average about 1 every 4 years), but then go 45 years without another and you are supposed to tell me it's easier to do now than in the past?

    Bottom line is Value can not always be defined by numbers. That includes BA, HR's and RBI's as well as WAR. Cabrerra shouldn't get the MVP because he got the triple crown, but Trout shouldn't get it because he had the best WAR. I am just glad we will be able to see these two play for years to come.

  138. @ #135 - Ron

    I did read that May fine print. I just didn't get it. And if it loses me it will lose 90% of baseball fans.

    Pujols has a career dWAR of 2.6 and career oWAR of 75.4 with a career WAR of 88.5

    Most people are still going to say "where did these other 10.5 wins come from".

  139. Right Brad. ESPN (Keith Law?) trying to sell WAR with Trout, claiming this great all-around player as their WAR poster boy.

    Worst Triple Crown? Ugliest super model? The reason there hasn't been a TC winner is because there are almost twice as many players today as opposed to 1967 and prior. To win one when there are 15 teams in the league is special.

  140. 14, lol. I already moved the Astros!

  141. Raker... re:#136

    You mention Weaver having the 10 highest pitcher WAR. Get ready for this explination. Keith Law last year was saying how if he had a Cy Young vote, he was still up in the air whether he would choose Verlander or Sabathia since Sabathia had a better WAR (by .1) than Verlander. He explained that Sabathia was unlucky with a .318 BABIP while Verlander lucked out in that statisitic. If you didn't know that stand for Batting Average of Balls (hit) In Play. So HR's and K's don't count. The experts say this BABIP is just a chance statistic so they remove it and put a league average in to normalize a pitcher. So Weaver, who obviously had nothing to do with it, is only allowing an unusually low .241 BABIP (Velanders was .236 last year) while other pitchers that are ahead of him in WAR Hernandez (.308) and Darvish (.295) are just victims of bad luck and shouldn't be punished.

    I tried debating, but Per Keith Law, it is a given that pitchers have no control over BABIP. The ironic thing is Batters are allowed to keep BABIP because it is a given that they do control a batted ball. In short...

    Weaver allowing .241 and Darvish allowing .295 BABIP is purely random, while Trout having a .383 and Cano only a .326 BABIP is all because Trout is that much better hitter than Cano. You see why people that spend the time learning more about WAR that we become skeptical?

  142. Ron Johnson Says:

    #136 Barney's probably the single most contentious ranking this year. 12 runs below average with his bat. I'd have expected a bit worse. The 10 times he reached on error helps a bit. Likewise his DP avoidance and non-SB baserunning. All tiny positives that are missed by many metrics. As a result WAR sees Barney as a better offensive player than (No biggie though VORP has him at +8 for instance and I think there's a good case that it slightly underrates him)

    OK. So you've got a durable second-baseman who does a lot of the little things a little better than average. Not a horrible place to start from. The issue is precisely how good Barney was defensively. BIS has him at Mazeroski +. No other defensive system has him anywhere near that level.

    The primary issue as best I can tell is how much credit Barney gets for the fact that the Cubs were unusually good at turning line drives into outs. And I honestly don't have an answer to that. I'd bet against him being an actual +30 true talent level, but even if it was just luck, it's luck that matters. TotalZone has him at "only" +17, but it's heavily regressed.

    As for Weaver. "Only" 30 start, extreme pitcher's park. I don't see any basis for complaints that Verlander, Price, Sale and Harrison rank ahead of him by WAR.

    Rodney? Lights out closing is hard to value. Certainly doesn't look wrong to me.

    So the specific complaint would be precisely Jake Peavy.

    Peavy pitched a little more, slightly less effectively on a per-inning difference. They really are of indistinguishable value.

    Would I rather have Weaver than Peavy going forward? Of course. That doesn't change the fact that for this year Peavy's slightly greater workload helped offset the fact that Weaver was somewhat more effective while in the game. If Peavy was lucky, it still counts.

  143. Ron Johnson Says:

    #141 It's a simple fact that variation in BABIP by pitchers is mostly luck. While among hitters there are huge variations. Most of the Three True Outcome players (IE high walks, high Ks, high HR) have to be extremely effective when they do connect or they're gone.

    For pitchers, well it's a well researched matter. It's not that there is no variation. Dominant closers for instance as a group have very low BABIP. Flyball pitchers also tend to have a lower BABIP than groundball pitchers but as a group they also give up more bases per hit (IE more doubles and triples) and this almost perfectly offsets the advantage in BABIP.

    That said, it's extremely important that Law's position on pitching value is very much a minority one in the stathead community. Most of us work from runs and adjust for the quality of the defense. Fangraphs pitching WAR is FIP based and

    A) ignores aspects of run prevention that the pitcher has a role in (DP support, the running game for instance. Neither are random.)

    B) credits all difference between expected hits and actual hits to the defense. Even when this assumes a defensive ability level that makes no sense (BABIP is not constant within a team's starters in any given year)

    C) Works with expected runs rather than actual runs. First, while there has been a lot of work done on clutch hitting, there hasn't been that much done on clutch pitching. We genuinely don't know if there is such a thing as a true clutch pitcher.

    But in a real sense it doesn't matter whether it's luck or ability. It counts.

    FIP (and xFIP) are good predictive metrics. You can expect a pitcher's BABIP to regress to average over time. They tell you zip about in-season value.

  144. Reply to Ed Dykhuizen Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    JB, your reaction proves my point exactly. You misunderstood most of what I said, then flailed furiously through looney tangents to try to fight off what you thought my points were. It's OK, you can believe whatever you want, I really don't care. I was writing that more to the other folks.

    Your reply proves MY points exactly! I misunderstood because I didnt agree with you. Then you go back to demonizing when you dont get your way. For someone claiming to be writing to other folks sure seemed the opposite was true!
    Looney tangents because you are wrong & cant look in the mirror & admit it. Yours was a truly sad & pathetic reply.

  145. Old man acts old......

  146. Proof that WAR is a garbage stat: Graig Nettles' WAR is better than Joe Torre's in 1971.

    Take a look at the numbers. It is not even close. Joe Torre's season was infinitely better than Nettles in every way (both 3rd baseman).

    WAR = CRAP

  147. Frank,

    You appear to be a man who believes defense doesn't matter at all. I suggest you consider Runs Created or OPS+ as your stat of choice.

  148. Thomas Court Says:

    Frank could also save himself a lot of time by judging players by what they do in the batting cage.

    Once the actual game starts and the players have to take the field... with a glove on... to actually try to do something with the batted balls... at that point Frank is not interested in watching.

  149. Admin., what I don't get is how do you go back to 1971 and definitivly decide what a specific player's dWar is? Baseball fans know Nettles was superb with the glove, but how do you come up with a number in the absence of hit trajectory, speed and location of balls hit?

    It seems like just knowing that Ozzie, Belanger, Nettles, Brooks Robinson, etc, were great, influences their dWar somehow. I'm sure it's more than that, but if it's just number of balls fielded as opposed to other players, that's a weak basis to say that Nettles had a better 1971 than Torre, in my opinion.

    We all know that fielding and base running matter greatly, it's that we're skeptical that those components can be accurately depicted in terms of runs saved, allowed and produced by using only play by play accounts.

  150. Post #113 is spot on.

    Thirty-three years after Bill James self-published his first abstract sabermetrics are still on the outside looking in.

    Turning the AL MVP into a pissing contest about WAR is a sign of desperation, it reeks as nothing more than an attempt to stay relevant.

    Cabrera "WILL" win the MVP, and he will for one reason..the Triple Crown.

    It's a rare achievement, and it shows "offensive" dominance and consistency over a full season.

    If Cabrera didn't win the TC, regardless of whether the Tigers made the playoffs or not, then Mike Trout "likely" would win MVP.

    Trout had the better year, I don't think you'll find much argument in that, but "best" and "valuable" aren't always the same thing.

    I'm an "old" guy, and would vote for Trout if given the opportunity. It's clear he had the better overall year, and the funny thing is I didn't need WAR to tell me.

    Cabrera's going to win MVP next month, so best start the acceptance process now.

  151. Chuck,

    I'm not the one turning this into a pissing contest about WAR. Look at the articles I linked to above. The writers the articles above were the ones upset about WAR because they didn't like that people were considering it and that it didn't show them what they wanted.

    Also regarding the TC showing dominance. Five singles. Your MVP vote is dependent on five singles.

  152. Ron Johnson Says:

    #147 So let's look at Torre and Nettle in 1971.

    Torre has a large offensive edge. He starts out 45 runs ahead, though nettles has a slight edge with DP avoidance and on the bases.

    These numbers are pretty easy to defend.

    Speaking of defense, here's where things get ... well not problematic, but certainly less certain.

    We only have traditional fielding stats (plus known staff composition) to work with, but ...

    Torre played third exclusively and is graded as just awful. Don't know about you, but I followed the game then and this definitely jibes with his rep. He was fairly new to the position and wasn't a well regarded defensive player. 25 runs doesn't seem outlandish to me. It's easy to imagine that stuffing (say) Ryan Doumit at third could cost a bundle of runs compared to an average 3B. Some catchers can make the move to third with ease (Brandon Inge for instance), but I can think of a fair number of attempted conversions that didn't go all that well.

    Which brings us to Nettles. Nettles gets graded as brilliant. And frankly I don't think that's particularly contentious either.

    That's primarily due to his very high assist totals and the number of DPs he started. Now it is true that Cleveland pitchers put lots of runners on, but Sean adjusts for opportunity.

    30 runs above average is an amazing total (particularly since TotalZone is heavily regressed) but what we're talking about is a career (defensive) year from one of the best defensive 3B of all time.

    Now I wouldn't bet my house on 30 runs. It is after all based on range factor and there are problems inherent in this. Generally speaking at the major league level you get a range of ~40 (defensive) runs between the best and worst at a position. This is higher than normal but not to any troublesome degree.

  153. Ron Johnson Says:

    "Admin., what I don't get is how do you go back to 1971 and definitivly decide what a specific player's dWar is? Baseball fans know Nettles was superb with the glove, but how do you come up with a number in the absence of hit trajectory, speed and location of balls hit?"

    Any number of people (Pete Palmer, Charlie Saeger, Bill James, Clay Davenport just off the top of my head) wrestled with this before Sean (Smith that is).

    All have started with the basic assumption that good defensive players make more plays. So all are using what amounts to a range factor system and then they attempt to adjust for (in particular) pitching staff composition (because left-handed finesse pitchers will tend to have a markedly different distribution of balls in play than a right-handed power pitcher).

    Before 1988 that's all we really have. From 1988-2002 we have more information and from 2003 on we have BIS data.

    Because there is a fair degree of uncertainty based on range factor, the results are heavily regressed.

    It's obviously not perfect, but if you look at the result you'll find a high correlation between contemporary reputation and TotalZone. And you'll generally find a career arc that makes sense (defense generally peaks early -- though there are plenty of exceptions)

  154. Ron Johnson Says:

    "Thirty-three years after Bill James self-published his first abstract sabermetrics are still on the outside looking in. "

    Actually you'll find a lot are on the inside. Gary Huckabay, Keith Woolner and Sean Smith (the inventor of WAR) are working for MLB teams (as is James himself). Craig Wright, Steve Mann are important figures in the sabrmetric community who have worked for MLB teams in the past.

    Tango and MGL (and others) are consulting. Others (Dan Szymborski, Keith Law, Christina Kahrl among others) are working for ESPN or other media outlets.

    Still very much a minority to be sure (though I'm pretty sure most if not all teams have a numbers guy)

  155. Can I ask a question about how park factors are determined? Many of the previous posts have mentioned that Mike Trout plays in a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark than Miguel Cabrera. It's was stated above that the Angels park has gone from being neutral to a definite "pitcher's park", whole the park itself has not changed. Does the recent influx of high-quality pitching in the AL West have any to do with the change in park factor. It seems to me that any park will be more pitcher-friendly if Jered Weaver is on the mound, as compared to, say, Joe Saunders. If the Angels have above average pitching over a period of years, does that "change" the park to a pitcher's park? If so, then that doesn't really have an impact on Trout, as he doesn't have to face his own pitching staff. Just wondering.

  156. Park Factors are a comparison of runs scored in home and road games, so weaver pitches on the road as well, so that will over time balance out.

    Over the past two years, the Angels and their Opp. have scored something like 240 runs less in Anaheim than in the oppon. park.

  157. Sean,

    I was not at all referring to you, my apologies if it came across that way.

    This has been an interesting thread to follow and I was speaking in more general terms than what was presented here.

    Again, sorry.

    Chuck

  158. Ron Johnson Says:

    #155 Sean has the formula at

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/parkadjust.shtml

    That said, it conceptually simple. Compare runs scored and allowed in home and road games. (Devil's in the details and there are plenty of details to work out)

    To answer your specific question though, more elite pitchers in the West "shouldn't" affect park factor. Teams don't get a completely random mix of opposing pitchers and in theory that could affect either the park factor or team run scoring.

  159. Thanks for the answers.

  160. There really is a huge difference in the Angels' home/away scoring. I guess that is why they have 3 hitters in the top 10 in WAR, because they recieve "credit" for the 81 games in an extreme pitcher's park. What struck me about the numbers was the numbers were the 20-25% increases in HR and BB on the road. Most of the other numbers were similar, except runs and rbi of course.

    Torre vs. Nettles in 1971? If Torre is only 45 runs ahead of Nettles on offense, it's conceivable that it would be close to that difference on defense. To me, Nettles was as good as Brooks and that carpet Torre played on was fast so I'm sure that didn't play well with his lack of speed.

    OK guys, thanks for the detailed responses.

  161. Ron Johnson Says:

    #147 I should chime in to say that runs created and OPS+ are both mediocre metrics. Runs created has problems with extreme players (all multiplicative measures do) and OPS+:

    A) under-values OBP
    B) flat ignores all other aspects of offense but OBP and SLG.

    (For all that, OPS+ has a standard error that is within noise of runs created for offensive players. Runs created works a fair amount better at the team level)

    If you want a good offensive metric that you can do yourself with relative ease, extrapolated runs isn't a bad choice (linear weights without a slope corrector) and you can get EQA from Clay Davenport's site if you want a complex metric where the heavy lifting has been done for you. (VORP too, if you want something with positional adjustments built in)

  162. Amazing how so many of you think you can determine how many more runs Nettles prevented at third base than Torre, with no actual way of measuring this.

    Kind of reminds me of the Obama stat of "job's saved" when there is no actual way to calculate a "job saved."

    Bottom line: Torre > Nettles in 1971 by A TON....and WAR = CRAP.

  163. Joe Garrison Says:

    Thank you Chuck (Post 150)

    If WAR supporters were matadors, the bull they are trying to avoid is this:

    Awarding "runs" or taking away runs just because a player played a certain position. They see value in a below average shortstop, just because he plays shortstop. And they take away value from an everyday first baseman just because he is playing first base. Even if he plays the position well... too bad. He ain't a shortstop, so lets dock him.

    But you HAVE to have a first baseman over there, don't you? Why take away credit from a first baseman or a left fielder just because he plays the position?

    Consider the team with two really good shortstops. Only one can play there, so perhaps the other guy is forced over to second, or maybe third. He gets docked for that, NO MATTER HIS SKILL LEVEL.

    This only makes sense if all the good middle infielders are evenly spread over both leagues. That's just not the case. And just because a player is over at first base for his team, that does not mean he is a terrible fielder costing his team "runs" and wins.

    These additions and deductions are based on the lineup card before the game and not the completed box score after the game. The positional adjustment is what kills WAR for me.

  164. Radar Kimbal Says:

    The idea of studying the various values of hits, walks, extra bases, outs, double plays and so on make the offensive side of WAR very easy to defend. OPS+ is far better than just looking at "triple crown" numbers but it is clumsy compared to WAR. WAR as a measure of offensive value is great!!!

    BUT I still see so much variation between differing methods used to determine fielding prowess that it is hard to foresee that it can be resolved anytime soon. To get a true value on catchers is going to be next to impossible. For the fielders in front of the bat, a complete record of the trajectory and speed and type of ball hit in every game is needed and a baseline established for every similar ball hit for every position to establish a baseline before you can confidently say that Brandon Phillips is better at second base than Darwin Barney or that Torii Hunter is better than Jeff Francouer in right field...except you also have to chart their throws, check on their positioning on every play to be sure they have backed up the correct base...not to mention the skills intrinsic to some positions - making the turn and feeding the ball to the pivot are skills particular to the middle infielders. How well do the corner infielders charge and handle the bunt, especially the third sacker? How good is the first baseman at making the scoop or otherwise at least saving bad throws from finding the opposing dugout? How well does the outfielder turn his hips and prepare to throw on a fairly deep fly that could score a runner from third? I could go on and so could you! We need computer analysis and great programming to make future judgments. For the past? Let's agree people like Willie Mays and Ozzie Smith and Johnny Bench were amazing and look forward.

    It is too bad that Mike Trout will not be universally acknowledged as the most dominant force in baseball this year, overshadowed by an archaic set of statistics. Might as well agree that a Triple Crown winner on a playoff team is going to be a slam dunk and not fight it. But it would be fun to see what a guy who appears to be half Mickey Mantle, half Eric Davis could do if he had maybe 19-20 healthy years in him! Stay healthy, Mike Trout, please?

  165. Ron Johnson Says:

    "Amazing how so many of you think you can determine how many more runs Nettles prevented at third base than Torre, with no actual way of measuring this."

    No way of measuring this with any kind of precision, sure. But anybody who was on the scene would tell you Torre was an awful defensive player, and WAR's numbers for Torre are certainly in line with this. As I said before, you expect the worst defensive regular to come in at around minus 20 runs.

    Again, Nettles' numbers are the exceptions. They're pretty much off the charts. But then he did make a ton of plays and start a really unusual number of DPs. There's just no way anybody but an exceptional defensive player does this.

    I don't blame anybody for wondering about 3.9 wins on a lousy team, but the raw number of plays made really is that high. And by rep he really was exceptional (though as long as Brooks was breathing he was the gold glover)

  166. Ron Johnson Says:

    #164 You're demanding a level of precision not required of offensive stats. It's roughly the equivalent of crediting a hitter a hit any time he hits a line drive right at somebody (Al Oliver always "counted" these unlucky outs as hits, )

    In terms of defensive value we don't need to care why the play was made, just that it was. Yeah, the fielder ends up with credit for what may have been a managerial decision. Personally I'm fine with that. Others aren't. We are going to get some form of field f/x (probably multiples). Some teams pretty clearly already have something better than is publicly available -- as you can see with more frequent radical defensive alignments.

    The really tricky part of defense is how to handle discretionary plays. IE those plays that multiple fielders can make. "Always" an out, it's just that sometimes one fielder takes an unusual percentage of those plays. (I think the first of the gridded systems -- DA -- dealt with this well. Large zones that overlapped. Didn't care who made a play in a zone, just that the play was made.)

  167. Very late on this, but in response to #70:

    I feel like I didn't state my point clearly enough. Okay, so you find WAR contrived (I must admit, I don't really understand your analogy or what your trade has to do with it). That's fine. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. But why can't it just be, "I've tried, but I don't understand it and I don't accept it" rather than acting like the people who DO accept it are part of some holier than thou secret club? That's what made me respond the way I did. People act like sabermetrics are ruining baseball when the reality is that you're free to watch the game in whatever way you want to, be that through the prism of WAR or thinking that the Triple Crown is a Godlike measure of greatness. All I was trying to say is that the explanations as to how things work are out there, and so many people reject them without even attempting to understand it because it shakes up their line of thinking (Bill Madden, Joe Morgan, etc).

    For what it's worth, there's plenty of traditional stats that *I* don't think make any sense (differentiating between "plate appearances" and "at bats," errors and how scorekeepers decide to issue them) yet they're there, and I've never gotten an adequate explanation as to how they work (maybe there is). Yet I don't consider the people who don't think twice about those things to be part of some exclusive club.

    And if anything, my larger point was this: I don't think that the "Trout for MVP" crowd is arguing that he should win solely based on WAR (I've literally never seen this anywhere; I welcome anyone to prove me wrong), nor is the idea of Trout being MVP all that ridiculous based on traditional stats if you account for the fact that he was batting leadoff - surely he would have batted in more runs if he were hitting third or cleanup. It's right in line with say, Rickey Henderson's 1990 MVP.

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