Passan: Why WAR doesn’t always add up

From Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports on September 7, 2014:

Do not consider the following a declaration of war on WAR as much as an invitation for its greatest adherents in the sabermetric community to practice what they preached to the mainstream media during baseball’s analytical revolution: Please do better.

In recent months, the leaderboards for the Wins Above Replacement metric at FanGraphs and found themselves increasingly littered with players whose greatest value comes from their glove. Cognitive dissonance resulted, because as wonderful as analytics have been to baseball – as much as they’ve imbued us with a greater appreciation and knowledge of the game – defensive metrics, in their current form, are entirely incomplete.

And so WAR, the all-encompassing number that is supposed to allow us to compare ballplayers across generations, remains a great-in-theory idea whose kinks warrant if not a full reconsideration than at very least a healthy dose of skepticism.

Let’s be clear on what WAR is: a product. WAR grew out of the idea to compare players to “replacement-level” – i.e., those at Triple-A – and estimate how many victories an individual’s contribution during any particular season is worth. It’s the conduit through which FanGraphs built its brand, and considering the excellent work done there on a daily basis, their analysis is well worth consuming. At the same time, sabermetrics grew out of a willingness to challenge preconceptions rooted in bias – and seeing as how WAR has turned into the standard bearer for the community, the metric of choice for analysis of who’s better than whom, the near-wholesale acceptance of it makes them guilty of the very thing for which they long crucified the mainstream. When a brand relies on the veracity of a product, and the most vigorous defenses of said product come from those producing it, the air of dogmatism is pervasive.

Read the full article here:–why-war-doesn-t-always-add-up-030133203.html

Originally published: September 8, 2014. Last Updated: September 8, 2014.