Deane: WAR: what is it good for?

From SABR member Bill Deane at WordPress on July 26, 2018:

People who think I know something about baseball often ask me what I think of the stat called WAR: Wins Above Replacement. WAR has become like the Quarterback Rating of baseball: many media people cite it as the be-all and end-all of stats, but hardly anybody can tell you who is behind it, how it is calculated, or why it is valid.

First of all, there is no baseball statistic which is perfect. Nor, for that matter, are there any which are meaningless; as Sabermetrics pioneer Bill James has written, “If a statistic is meaningless to you, that is simply because you don’t know what it means.” In my estimation, WAR is safely in between those adjectives.

Pete Palmer was the first to develop a credible system to combine a baseball player’s offensive and defensive contributions into a single number, enabling the comparison of players from all eras, positions, and ballparks. The system, which he originally called Linear Weights (LWTS), was introduced to the public at large (and “translated” by John Thorn) in the landmark 1984 book, The Hidden Game of Baseball. LWTS compares players to league-average performers at each position, adjusting for home parks. It was subsequently used in Total Baseball and The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia over the next quarter-century, with some name changes along the way.

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Originally published: July 26, 2018. Last Updated: July 26, 2018.