Cameron: Statcast and the future of WAR

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on March 6, 2017:

Over the weekend, I had the fortune of attending the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and participating on the baseball panel with Mike Petriello, Harry Pavlidis, Patrick Young, and Brian Kenny, which was a lot of fun. While the baseball panel was my only actual obligation at the conference, Petriello was doing double duty, having just presented — along with Greg Cain, one of the lead engineers at MLBAM — the latest update to Statcast, and introducing two new public metrics for 2017, Catch Probability and Hit Probability. These are the kinds of numbers people have been hoping for, and are one of the first steps in moving from collecting interesting single data points into providing more valuable calculations based on the combination of factors the system is measuring.


This is, undoubtedly, an exciting future, and the idea of a Statcast-based WAR system is very intriguing. The current versions of WAR still struggle with the difficulty in separating run prevention credit (and thus value) between the pitcher and the fielder. Statcast’s tools seem likely to bridge that gap, and with hit probability and catch probability — though it should be noted, the latter is outfield only right now, as infield calculations are more complicated — we are now closer than ever to being able to build metrics that directly measure the quality of contact a pitcher allowed, and adjust both the pitcher and the fielder’s contributions to the play made (or not made) based on that important variable.

So, yeah, Statcast is going to improve WAR calculations in a significant way, and should allow us to move past the FIP/ERA divide in the not-too-distant future. But perhaps more interesting is Passan’s mention that the guys at MLBAM are dreaming of their own WAR metric, and what that might look like down the line. The potential of a Statcast-based WAR model brings up a fascinating question; how granular should WAR get?

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Originally published: March 6, 2017. Last Updated: March 6, 2017.