In today’s statistical and ever growing saber-metrical world that is the MLB, the stat of WAR is at the forefront of judging the good players from the great players. WAR is seen to judge the difference between a leagues top player or in other words, a leagues MVP. In today’s MLB, WAR is seen as the “be all, end all” of statistics. I’m here to tell you today, that WAR is a dumb statistic and the MLB needs to get rid of it.
WAR Statistic Definition
WAR, being stood for “Wins Above Replacement,” is a very hard stat to explain and describe. For better clarity, here is how Fangraphs, the leader in statistical averages of WAR, describes the statistic:
“Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is all-inclusive and provides a useful reference point for comparing players. WAR offers an estimate to answer the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a freely available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins, which means it is highly likely that Player X has been more valuable than Player Y.”
However, WAR is a very controversial and highly debated statistic because there is no one true formula for the statistic itself. For example, ESPN does not release their formula on how to calculate WAR. Other big time sports companies that track statistics also do not release their formulas because WAR can differ depending on what position you play or simply how the company wants to calculate how valuable a player really is.
Problems With the WAR Statistic
To me, any stat that “differs” does not allow for an equal playing field for judging players. Even though the whole point of WAR is said to be to “put players on the same playing field” but yet actually contradicts it’s original point. The stat is so controversial that in 2016, the MLB Players association scheduled a meeting after the 2016 MVP and Cy Young winners were announced because they believed that WAR was weighed too heavily in the decision making process. While no rules or guidelines were and are not set in place, the MLB has asked much of the media to not portray WAR so heavily, via USA Today. Which is why if you watch MLB Network on a daily basis, the commentators limit the discussion of WAR (be on the lookout for that).
WAR Statistic Example
Let’s look at this year for example. Obviously being a Red Sox fan, I believe that Mookie Betts or even JD Martinez should lead the MVP race if the season were to end at this point of the season with Trout a close third. However, many people think that Mike Trout should be the MVP front runner, simply because of his WAR and that is just absurd to me.
Lets just say that we are using the regular formula, released by Fangraphs to calculate this years WAR for both Angels, Mike Trout and Red Sox, Mookie Betts. First off, according to the stat, being a center fielder as opposed to a right fielder adds to you WAR. However, working everyday in a home ballpark like Fenway Park in Boston is a much daunting task and offer a bigger workload than any “normal” right field or even a standard center field like Angel Stadium in Anaheim. It’s simply not fair to judge a person just because of the position he plays because right field can be just as hard as center field and Mookie is certainly a great defensive player.
Here are the two players stats when compared to each other as of the time I am writing this article:
So why is it that Trouts WAR is higher than Mookie’s WAR when Mookie has better offensive numbers and is considered to be a higher defensive player because of his higher defensive war and defensive runs saved? It’s simply because Trout plays center field and is on a significantly worse team than Mookie Betts’ Boston Red Sox. Essentially, you are penalizing a player because his team is better than the other. Ever come to think that the team is better because of that player? Some food for thought.
Better Statistic Options Than WAR
One last point that I will touch on about WAR, if a players replacement is not as good as them, their WAR will be significantly better as well, hence “wins above replacement.” So what we are saying by counting this statistic so heavily, is “hey man, you aren’t as good because the other players backup really sucks.” Is that how we want to judge players now? Is this what baseball has come to? I’d much rather look at a hitters batting average or OPS when judging them as an MVP front runner as opposed to what their teams record is, or how good his backup is, or even what position they play (all of which they cannot control, for the most part). I’d much rather look at a pitchers ERA or batting average against when judging them as a Cy Young front runner as opposed to what their team record is, how many wins they have in the season or how good the other pitchers in their rotation are.
I don’t know… maybe I’m just old school but WAR is a dumb stat and the MLB needs to stop weighing it so heavily. So the next time some one brings up WAR as a heavily measure statistic, you pull a Lee Corso and say “not so fast” and show them this article!