Sports Reference Blog

2021 WAR Update

Posted by Alex Bonilla on March 31, 2021

As we approach the beginning of the 2021 season, we have made some updates to our Wins Above Replacement calculations. You may notice some small changes to figures as you browse the site. As always, you can find full details on how we calculate WAR here.

Defensive Runs Saved Changes

Last week, we updated Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) totals across the site with new figures from Sports Info Solutions that incorporate more accurate hit timing data. This impacts some fielders from 2017 to 2020. You can read more about the updates in the Sports Info Solutions blog, including which teams and fielders were most impacted.

2019 Park Factors

Park factors for 2019 have been re-computed to include the 2020 season, since WAR uses a three-year average for park factors when computing pitching WAR. The most significant change here is the Cincinnati Reds, whose pitching park factor rose from 103 to 108 (where <100 represents a pitcher’s park and >100 represents a hitter’s park). Luis Castillo sees the biggest benefit from this, with his 2019 WAR rising by 0.7 wins. All other changes to pitching WAR from updated park factors are smaller than Castillo’s 0.7 WAR gain in 2018.

2020 Park Factors

When a season is in progress, our three-year average park factors are computed using a prorated combination of the current season and two years prior. Due to the shortened 2020 schedule, the park factors for 2020 were still using some data from 2018, because the 60-game schedule was being treated as a partial in-progress season. We’ve addressed this in our park factor calculations so that the 2020 park factors only include 2019 and 2020. This change was reflected in OPS+, ERA+, Rbat+, and rOBA in the past week, but it is now also incorporated in WAR, leading to small changes for a handful of players.

Lance Lynn gains the most from this, adding 0.3 wins with Globe Life Field moving from a slight hitters park (102) to a more extreme hitters park (107). Trea Turner has the largest change on offense, also gaining 0.3 wins with Nationals Park moving from being a slight hitters park (102) to being a slight pitchers park (98).

New Game Logs from Retrosheet (1901-1903)

Last summer, we updated the site with new data from Retrosheet, including new game logs for players from 1901 to 1903. Having game-level data allows us to be more precise in our WAR calculations, since we can consider the specific ballparks a pitcher played in and the opponents he faced.

We presented a more in-depth example of this in our last WAR update, when Hall-of-Famer Christy Mathewson’s WAR rose after we added new game logs. This time around, pitcher Doc White saw the biggest change, gaining 1.5 WAR over the course of his career.

Biggest Career Movers

The top mover for position players in career WAR is Trea Turner, gaining 1.8 wins through a combination of additional runs saved and beneficial park factor changes. Trevor Story is close behind at 1.7 wins, primarily through additional runs saved.

On the pitching side, we see Doc White with 1.5 wins gained as described above. Among modern players, Patrick Corbin saw his career total drop by 0.8 wins. This is the flipside to how Turner gained credit. Corbin is debited for playing in a more pitcher-friendly park than previously thought, and for playing in front of defenders like Turner who are getting additional credit for their defense. Both of these changes decrease the number of runs we’d expect Corbin to have allowed, and as a result his performance is not as valuable as previously calculated.

We’ve highlighted some of the more extreme changes here, but to see full lists of the largest changes to season and career WAR totals, please see the spreadsheet here.

Thanks to Baseball Info Solutions and Retrosheet for their contributions. Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or concerns.

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