Sabermetrics for Dummies: Part 1 – W.A.R.

w.a.r

Miguel Cabrera (left) and Mike Trout (right) elevated W.A.R. to a national discussion during their AL MVP race (ESPN the Magazine)

As stat-tracking technology becomes better and better, and budgets become tighter and tighter, baseball teams are starting to turn to numbers, or sabermetrics, to determine the worth of their players. These are a few of the statistics that all teams use to evaluate players.

Today’s stat: W.A.R.

War… what is it good for? Sorry about that, I had to. It turns out that W.A.R. is actually good for something. In fact, it’s the most significant statistic in all of the sabermetric community. W.A.R. is an acronym for Wins Above Replacement. This stat is used to quantify the effect that single players have on the number of wins a team earns. A player’s W.A.R. number is the amount of wins the team would lose if the player in question were to be replaced by a minor leaguer or bench player.

For offensive players, W.A.R. is a combination of batting, base running, and defensive data. All of this data is converted to take into account the position that is played and the quality of potential backup. For pitchers, defensive data along with runs vs. innings pitched statistics calculate their W.A.R.

A baseball player with a W.A.R. between 0-2 is regarded as anywhere from a scrub to a reliable bench player, however that person shouldn’t be a major league starter. A solid starter would score between a 2 and a 3. A good player would achieve between 3-4, an All-Star 4-5, a superstar 5-6, and finally an MVP would have a W.A.R. above 6.

Last year’s AL rookie of the year Mike Trout earned the highest W.A.R. of 2012 with an astounding score of 10.7. The American League MVP Miguel Cabrera finished fourth in the AL in W.A.R. with 6.9, right behind his teammate Justin Verlander (7.5) for the AL champion Detroit Tigers. The best a Red Sox player could muster up was Dustin Pedroia’s 4.7, which ranked 10th among AL position players in 2012.

Baseball might be the only context where this declaration is accepted, but here’s to hoping for more WAR in 2013.

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