Grosnick: An alternative method for determining defensive WAR

From Bryan Grosnick at Beyond the Box Score on December 7, 2012:

According to FanGraphs, Darwin Barney was an excellent defensive player in 2012. Barney, the everyday second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, was worth about 13 runs, or 1.3 wins above replacement, due to his defensive contributions at the pivot. This is a very good number.

According to Baseball-Reference, Darwin Barney was the most excellent defensive player in baseball in 2012, along with Brendan Ryan. In terms of wins above replacement, B-R had Barney at about three-and-a-half defensive WAR. This is a tremendous amount of value ascribed to a single player — especially one who does not play shortstop. It can mean the difference between a good starter and an All-Star level of performance.

These two comparisons of value are just a bit different.

This is a symptom of a greater problem in sabermetric circles these days: can we trust single-season WAR values, when the defensive component of WAR is, let’s just say “debatable”? For a while now, there’s been a lot of discussion about how useful the defensive metrics that go into WAR are, especially on a year-by-year basis.

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Originally published: December 7, 2012. Last Updated: December 7, 2012.