Drooker: Converting the vintage fan to sabermetrics

From SABR member Don Drooker at Mastersball.com on January 17, 2014:

In my retirement community, we have four beautiful golf courses and all 72 holes have the traditional Blue (Championship), White (Regular) and Red (Forward) tees. Between the white and red tees, however, there’s an additional set of tees with a gold color referred to as “Vintage.” The probable explanation is that there was an assumption of negativity if they were called “Senior.” The more comfortable name, however, doesn’t seem to keep numerous old farts from thinking that their 140-yard drives still work from the white tees.

This same stubbornness exists with baseball fans of the 1950s and 60s when you talk to them about advanced metrics determining the value of a player. They still cling to the stats on the back of baseball cards and have a hard time with OBP (On-Base Percentage), OPS (On-Base + Slugging) WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched) and especially WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

In an effort to somewhat convert these vintage fans, let’s look at WAR in the era from 1954 (when most major stars of the time had become major leaguers) to 1968 (the year prior to the mound being lowered and divisional play being added). “Wins Above Replacement” is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contribution to their team in one statistic. It asks the question, “If this player got injured and had to be replaced by a minor leaguer or bench player, how much value would the team be losing?”

The value is expressed in a wins format, so we could determine that player “A” is worth 5 wins to the team over the course of the season. WAR stats are available at two websites: FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, and their results are only slightly different. For this exercise, we’ll use the top five WAR players from the latter site for each applicable year.

Originally published: January 17, 2014. Last Updated: January 17, 2014.