Mains: The WAR wars, revisited

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on March 5, 2018:

Last November, sabermetrics godfather Bill James discussed Wins Above Replacement in his eponymous newsletter. His article, entitled “Judge and Altuve,” caused a stir in analytical circles.

James discussed the American League Most Valuable Player cases for Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve. He began his argument by noting that some people suggested that Judge is more or less equal to Altuve as an MVP candidate. That argument, he notes, is based largely on WAR, which rates the two as near-equal. Our WARP favored Judge, 7.4-6.4. Baseball-Reference’s WAR (bWAR) gives the nod to Altuve, 8.3-8.1. By FanGraphs WAR (fWAR), it’s Judge, 8.2-7.5.

James faulted WAR for not identifying Altuve as clearly superior:

I am not saying that WAR is a bad statistic or a useless statistic, but it is not a perfect statistic, and in this particular case it is just dead wrong. It is dead wrong because the creators of that statistic have severed the connection between performance statistics and wins, thus undermining their analysis.

WAR (and I’m referring here to all three flavors, WARP and bWAR and fWAR), James argues, does not accurately correlate to wins. It takes each player’s performance in a context-neutral setting (e.g., ignoring whether a home run wins a game in the last of the ninth inning or widens an 11-2 lead to 12-2), translates it into runs created compared to a hypothetical replacement player, and converts those runs into wins.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 5, 2018. Last Updated: March 5, 2018.