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Old 09-05-2019, 11:37 AM   #1
cephasjames
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After all these years I still don't understand WAR

I was reading an article the other day about Justin Verlander after his third no-hitter. The premise of the article is that based on his Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score (JAWS) he is a below-average Hall of Fame candidate and is not a shoo-in to be inducted. The article got me thinking about WAR since JAWS is based on WAR and then I realized how little I understand the calculation of WAR. So I looked it up and got all the more confused. I was excited as a kid when I was able to calculate ERA. This is a tad different.

Could someone who understands WAR please explain it to me? As in, please explain the formula and its parts and how each one is calculated. And then, practically, could you use someone like Mike Trout and his real numbers to show how his WAR is calculated?

And secondly, separate but related, as I was trying to understand WAR better I ran across a few articles from reputable sites stating that WAR is not an exact science (my word not theirs). But yet, going back to the article mentioned above, exact numbers are used to rank people based on their WAR. Meaning, Verlander's career WAR is currently 69.8 and so he ranks just behind Zack Greinke's 70.8 for active pitchers. But Verlander's career WAR could actually be something like 70.3 and Greinke's 70.4 because of how inexact WAR can be. So why does it seem like advance stats leans so heavily on an imprecise stat?

Thanks to whomever helps and old man understand.
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Old 09-05-2019, 12:47 PM   #2
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WAR uses dozens of different variables, and there are different methods of computing WAR, not just one like traditional stats. Verlander is 2nd in the league in active wins, 2nd in strikeouts, 3 no hitters, is an MVP winner, 8 time all star, triple crown winner, and has a world series ring, so I would say he could retire today and be inductted to the hall of fame.

Clemens pitched for 24 years vs. 14 currently for Verlander so that is the main reason for the difference.

As far as WAR, it uses different variables like era, ballpark, and importance and difficulty of position played to compute the players value in terms of wins against an average "replacement player". As far as modern pitchers, Roger Clemens had a career WAR of 130 and Greg Maddux had a career WAR of 108. Verlander is at 70 so I suppose it is not a lock but I think it is pretty likely.

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Old 09-05-2019, 09:03 PM   #3
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Here's an alternative answer to your question, cj. One that many folks don't like: It's smoke and mirrors.

WAR, in case you don't know, can be variable. Different experts have different formulae for WAR which in itself makes this "stat" arbitrary in nature.

Don't even try to understand it; even if we could, these experts guard their secrets like the recipe for Coca-Cola. For them to define their version of WAR is to expose it and them to criticism.

The only way that I have ever been able to wrap my head around WAR and find it useful is to pick one trustworthy source and stick with it. Like the WAR formula used in OOTPB - I trust Markus and crew to know their business, so if they say Player X had a WAR of 3 and Player Y had a WAR of 5, I don't ask how they did it. I accept that they have applied their formula consistently and therefore I know Y had a better year than X.

Same thing with many other "fuzzy," ill-defined statistics: Trustworthy source; stick with it; assume it's applied consistently. Only then are they good for comparison purposes.

Sorry to be a downer, but you shouldn't hit your head against the wall over WAR.
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Old 09-05-2019, 09:35 PM   #4
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WAR is a human opinion whose cult followers want to proclaim is divine gospel.

WAR is a gumbo that the chef can spice up to his taste.

WAR is an interpretation of statistics, not a translation of them.
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobra Mgr View Post
WAR is a human opinion whose cult followers want to proclaim is divine gospel.

WAR is a gumbo that the chef can spice up to his taste.

WAR is an interpretation of statistics, not a translation of them.
Ten years from now, there will be a new way of looking at players called PEACE (Player Efficiency And Core Effectiveness) which will render all WAR obsolete.

Count on it!
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Leo_The_Lip View Post
Ten years from now, there will be a new way of looking at players called PEACE (Player Efficiency And Core Effectiveness) which will render all WAR obsolete.

Count on it!
Communists...
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:26 PM   #7
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For pitchers, Fangraphs WAR is based on DIPS theory, while Baseball Reference WAR is basically like a combination of ERA and innings pitched. Baseball Prospectus has something called WARP that makes a few other changes, IIRC things like quality of hitters faced, but it's been a while since I looked into it and it's a lot more complicated than the others.
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Old 09-06-2019, 10:51 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Elendil View Post
For pitchers, Fangraphs WAR is based on DIPS theory, while Baseball Reference WAR is basically like a combination of ERA and innings pitched. Baseball Prospectus has something called WARP that makes a few other changes, IIRC things like quality of hitters faced, but it's been a while since I looked into it and it's a lot more complicated than the others.
That cleared everything up, thanks!
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Old 09-06-2019, 11:54 PM   #9
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That cleared everything up, thanks!
Heh. Yes. For sure.
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Old 09-07-2019, 12:17 AM   #10
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I dont hate WAR as much as I used to and have used it to determine several things in a few of my league and I love the Tom Stone book which uses WAR. That being said:


War, huh, good god
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
Oh, war, I despise
'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
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Old 09-07-2019, 12:21 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo_The_Lip View Post
Ten years from now, there will be a new way of looking at players called PEACE (Player Efficiency And Core Effectiveness) which will render all WAR obsolete.

Count on it!
Why not War & Peace?


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Old 09-07-2019, 07:07 AM   #12
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WAR is determined season by season or even game by game. Is is based on the players stats AND the other players stats. You might have identical stats in back to back seasons but your WAR value will be different because the league stats will be somewhat different.
WAR generally looks at 3 things; OPS+, Speed, fielding.
Speed includes stealing, baserunning, avoiding double plays, and some other things.
After applying their formula, and there is not one set formula, they add the 3 categories above. To that total they add or subtract a few points for position adjustment. SS usually get a boost but 1basemen usually have a deduction.
After all this magic math, they have an average league value and each player has a value. From this league average value the subtract an x amount, varies slightly depending on who is doing it, to come up with a replacement value.
They then take the individual players value, subtract the replacement value, and then divide by 10 and that is the players WAR value.
That is it for batters and I won’t go into it for pitchers since that is probably more than enough information for 1 day.
Basically they take the 3 basic core items, hitting, running, fielding to come up with a value and compare that value to the players they compete against.

Last edited by Reed; 09-07-2019 at 07:14 AM.
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Old 09-07-2019, 01:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cephasjames View Post
I was reading an article the other day about Justin Verlander after his third no-hitter. The premise of the article is that based on his Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score (JAWS) he is a below-average Hall of Fame candidate and is not a shoo-in to be inducted. The article got me thinking about WAR since JAWS is based on WAR and then I realized how little I understand the calculation of WAR. So I looked it up and got all the more confused. I was excited as a kid when I was able to calculate ERA. This is a tad different.

Could someone who understands WAR please explain it to me? As in, please explain the formula and its parts and how each one is calculated. And then, practically, could you use someone like Mike Trout and his real numbers to show how his WAR is calculated?

And secondly, separate but related, as I was trying to understand WAR better I ran across a few articles from reputable sites stating that WAR is not an exact science (my word not theirs). But yet, going back to the article mentioned above, exact numbers are used to rank people based on their WAR. Meaning, Verlander's career WAR is currently 69.8 and so he ranks just behind Zack Greinke's 70.8 for active pitchers. But Verlander's career WAR could actually be something like 70.3 and Greinke's 70.4 because of how inexact WAR can be. So why does it seem like advance stats leans so heavily on an imprecise stat?

Thanks to whomever helps and old man understand.
When I look at the 39 pitchers below Verlander in JAWS that are in the HoF, it seems to me he should have little trouble convincing voters of his qualifications.
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Old 09-07-2019, 05:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Déjà
Don't even try to understand it; even if we could, these experts guard their secrets like the recipe for Coca-Cola. For them to define their version of WAR is to expose it and them to criticism.
This is very much incorrect

Here is a step-by-step example of how FanGraphs WAR is calculated for position players

https://library.fangraphs.com/calcul...plete-example/
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Old 09-07-2019, 07:37 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by CBeisbol View Post
This is very much incorrect

Here is a step-by-step example of how FanGraphs WAR is calculated for position players

https://library.fangraphs.com/calcul...plete-example/
I stand corrected, thanks. I still stand by my assertions of WAR being arcane and variable, however.

Thanks for that link; it nicely demonstrates the arcane aspect. What is shown there is mind-boggling. How can a stat be comprehended with that many obscure calculations? "Comprehended." Think about it.

cephasjames, is this what you are trying to understand? Good luck.

As for variable, see this table prepared by Baseball-Reference comparing how WAR is calculated by the major providers. (Including the difference between B-R's own WAR versions 1.0 and 2.2! Have there been 12 revisions over time?)

WAR is not an exact science, no matter how impressive Fangraphs explanation appears. Notice how imprecise are some of its ingredients. Here is an example:
Quote:
Base Running (BsR) is the sum of Ultimate Base Running (UBR) and Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB). You can’t calculate UBR by hand because it requires video tracking data from Baseball Info Solutions, but we provide it on the site.
I don't trust a stat that cannot be "calculated by hand." I do trust Fangraphs to do their best to be fair and consistent in their treatment of such factors and if I were a Fangraphs fan, I would believe their WAR and use it to evaluate player performance. However, I am not.

As I said in my previous post, WAR can be useful if you trust the people calculating it and you stick to that source when comparing players using WAR. It does no good to argue about a player's WAR as reported by Fangraphs versus Baseball Reference versus Baseball Prospectus versus Out of the Park Developments. And for 99% of us, we should not even try to understand how WAR is done.

If you buy WAR and trust the provider, go with it. It is a matter of trust, still. It's not a matter of being a dinosaur, I don't think. I just prefer stats that I can calculate myself if I wanted to and therefore I comprehend.
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Old 09-07-2019, 08:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Déjà Bru View Post
WAR is not an exact science, no matter how impressive Fangraphs explanation appears.
No reasonable person has claimed otherwise

Quote:
WAR is not meant to be a perfectly precise indicator of a player’s contribution, but rather an estimate of their value to date. Given the imperfections of some of the available data and the assumptions made to calculate other components, WAR works best as an approximation.
Https://library.fangraphs.com/misc/war/

Quote:
As I said in my previous post, WAR can be useful if you trust the people calculating it and you stick to that source when comparing players using WAR. It does no good to argue about a player's WAR as reported by Fangraphs versus Baseball Reference versus Baseball Prospectus versus Out of the Park Developments.
It can be even more useful if you understand the diferences between those models and use that understanding to see why different models yield different results for the same player.

Each system has strengths and weaknesses, so simply sticking to one is limiting yourself. Which, you have every right to do.

Quote:
And for 99% of us, we should not even try to understand how WAR is done.
Just as you have your right to underestimate yourself. But, if you think 99% of people, let alone 99% of people who are big enough fans of baseball to post on the OOTP forum, can't understand WAR you've either vastly overrated how complex WAR is, or vastly underrated your peers.

Quote:
If you buy WAR and trust the provider, go with it. It is a matter of trust, still. It's not a matter of being a dinosaur, I don't think. I just prefer stats that I can calculate myself if I wanted to and therefore I comprehend.
It's no more a matter of trust than calculating someone's ERA by looking up their innings pitched and runs allowed online. If you understand the concepts and trust that the numbers are correct, there should be no problem.
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Old 09-07-2019, 08:05 PM   #17
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Okay, we'll leave it there, CBeisbol. We've both had our say.

EDIT: Realize, though, that I responded to someone who appeared to be unnecessarily uncomfortable about his lack of understanding of WAR. That was my motivation. Especially resonating was this coda: "Thanks to whomever helps an old man understand." It's not about being old, cephasjames. It's what you are willing to accept without looking long and deep under the hood.
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Old 09-07-2019, 09:19 PM   #18
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WAR is complicated. Period. OBP is simple. OPS is simple. ERA is simple. I used to do the stats for fictional teams I made in my head (yes I was a geek) back in HS. Just get a pencil & paper and have it done in an hour or so. But if I was to try to do the same thing w/WAR it would take me all week just to gather the numbers, let alone mix them in a recipe like these formulas do. If you are a math major, it may be simple. But if you are just a fan, you've got a migraine coming.
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Old 09-07-2019, 09:37 PM   #19
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Just going back to fangraphs "easy" explanation. .....To calculate the formula, you must calculate the formula for the figures in the formula which are calculated by other formulas. Easy as making toast.
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Old 09-07-2019, 10:55 PM   #20
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WAR isn't really a statistic. A statistic reflects an ability of a player, like slugging percentage measures how well a player hits for power.
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