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By Eric Umphrey
The Times 

Modern Baseball Statistics

(Part Five – Wins Above Replacement)


March 14, 2019

This is part five in a series of articles I’m writing to introduce new statistics that baseball announcers are using in broadcasts. Weather willing, I’ll be back to covering local spring sports next week. Today’s statistic is Wins Above Replacement. WAR is by far the most popular of the newly-created statistics because it attempts, in a single number, to add up all aspects of a player’s value to his team. I’m covering this one last as I needed to first introduce Park Factor (Part One), BsR (Part Two), wOBA (Part Three), and UZR (Part Four) as they are all used in the WAR formula at Fangraphs.

WAR = (Batting Runs + BsR + UZR + Positional Adjustment + League Adjustment + Replacement Runs)

Runs Per Win

Batting Runs has a fairly involved formula. I’ll simplify it by stating it is basically just wOBA that I talked about in part three of this series converted into runs above average and adjusted for Park Factor and league. The average player will score zero runs above average. Here is a table of some former Mariners to put it

Rating Batting Runs Player Batting Runs Year

Excellent +40 Brett Boone 40.5 2001

Great +20 Nelson Cruz 22.2 2018

Above Average +10 Raul Ibanez 10.2 2004

Average +0 Dan Wilson 0.2 1996

Below Average -5 Russ Davis -4.8 1996

Poor -10 Henry Cotto -10.0 1993

Awful -20 Omar Vizquel -25.5 1993

Next, let’s go over positional adjustment. The idea is that some positions are much more difficult than others, so players in the difficult positions should get more credit. I’m pulling this table from Fangraphs and it is based on data from players who have switched positions. More work needs to be done in this area and I think the numbers may be changed over time. It is commonly accepted that the best defensive athletes in baseball are at either shortstop or center field. Also, the penalty for the DH seems excessive in my opinion.

Position Full Season Adjustment

C +12.5

1B -12.5

2B +2.5

SS +7.5

3B +2.5

LF -7.5

CF +2.5

RF -7.5

DH -17.5

Okay, let’s finish up with the last three terms in the formula. League adjustment is done so each league has exactly zero runs above average. It really doesn’t affect player value. Replacement runs compare a player’s performance above or below the league average. Runs Per Win is how much one win is worth.

This value changes slightly each year but is usually around 10 runs. When you put it all together you get a number somewhere in the range of -3.0 to +10.0 This is a counting statistic so a player that plays a full season will typically have a better WAR than a player who missed a couple of months with an injury. This is a table from fangraphs to put the numbers into context.

Description WAR

Scrub 0-1

Role Player 1-2

Starter 2-3

Good Player 3-4

All-Star 4-5

SuperStar 5-6

MVP 6+

Career WAR totals are often brought up in Hall of Fame discussions. Ken Griffey Junior’s total was 77.7 which was good for 41st all-time. Edgar Martinez had a very respectable 65.5 for his career. For comparison David Ortiz of the Red Sox put up a 50.7. WAR has become so important that it may be an argument against Ortiz’s induction and he may have to wait several years before getting in.


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