Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Wins above replacement is such an in-depth statistic that I figured I’d save it for the end and give it its own section. WAR is the closest thing we have to a number that can measure a player’s overall value. It states how much value a team would lose if they replaced someone with a generic, just good enough to be in the majors player. Therefore, if a player has a WAR of 2.0, it means he was worth two wins more than that replacement player.
WAR is used for both pitchers and hitters, counting how many runs they were worth overall. It covers every aspect of the game, which would include defense, baserunning, and hitting for position players, as well as some league and position adjustments.
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WAR can change depending on where you find it. Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Prospectus all calculate it in their own way, using different numbers to calculate it. For example, Fangraphs uses FIP while Baseball Reference uses runs allowed per nine innings to determine WAR for pitchers. That’s why you could see significantly different WARs for the same player depending on where you look.
In general, an everyday starter should be worth two to three WAR over the course of a season. All-Stars are worth at least four WAR, while MVPs candidates usually are worth over six.
Per Baseball Reference, 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton was worth 7.6 WAR while AL MVP Jose Altuve was worth 8.3. Meanwhile, AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber was worth 8.2 WAR while NL winner Max Scherzer was worth 7.1.
There are some stipulations with WAR. It is good at distinguishing a good starter from an All-Star, but it does little to separate two MVP candidates. Three of the top four vote-getters in last year’s NL MVP race (Stanton, Joey Votto, and Nolen Arenado) all fell within 0.4 WAR of each other. In this kind of situation, it is necessary to dive further into the numbers to make a distinction. Ultimately, Stanton was just able to edge out Votto as the vote-getters wound up valuing his lofty home run and RBI total over Votto’s higher batting average and on-base percentage.
Hopefully, this article gives a better understanding of what all these advanced statistics mean. That way when you read them in an article here or somewhere else, you will be able to interpret them effectively. Baseball is moving towards these kinds of stats; you should be ready for it.