Carleton: The ‘Tell him, Wash’ theory of WAR

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 17, 2018:

The problem with defense is that the difference between the worst fielders and the ones who can proudly call themselves middle-of-the-road is making an extra 1-2 percent of the plays sent their way.

To the naked eye, it may seem like a ground ball to second base is the same as a ground ball to shortstop. Maybe most of the time it is, functionally. But there are little differences between the positions, and sometimes you get one of those “different” ground balls that you’re not used to getting. Sometimes, you don’t make the play as a result. While that might just seem like a quirk of #WeirdBaseball, it has real implications for how we value baseball players. The reason has to do with how WAR(P) is calculated.

WAR has assumed the head chair in discussions of how players are evaluated, and so it deserves close scrutiny. The worry I have with WAR is that it assumes players (or at least, position players) are infinitely fungible across all of the defensive positions. Maybe the people who designed it don’t actually believe that, but that’s the way it works.

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Originally published: August 17, 2018. Last Updated: August 17, 2018.