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poppysox

Help Me Understand fWAR

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As an old school baseball fan, I relate to home runs, rbi's, sb's, runs scored, etc...  WAR seems to track everything that happens everywhere on the field and grade it.  How is this possible?  Wouldn't that require dozens of watchers trained to score performance?  It seems impossible to have all those scorekeepers using a fair and unbias system since we have trouble agreeing on an error call for example.  Jose Abreu won the MVP but 3 position players had better WAR scores...why did Jose win?  This question is not meant to be a clever way to say WAR is somehow BS.  Some of you put great stock in it but I have trouble understanding why you value the opinions of people you don't know.  I do see a usefulness for baseball executives having their own in-house grading systems but the average fan is lost when he tries to grasp what is WAR.  Please try and explain in a clear non-condescending manner as I am sure many would like a better grasp of this subject. 

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Jose shouldn't have won MVP, simple as that. 

 

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6 minutes ago, poppysox said:

As an old school baseball fan, I relate to home runs, rbi's, sb's, runs scored, etc...  WAR seems to track everything that happens everywhere on the field and grade it.  How is this possible?  Wouldn't that require dozens of watchers trained to score performance?  It seems impossible to have all those scorekeepers using a fair and unbias system since we have trouble agreeing on an error call for example.  Jose Abreu won the MVP but 3 position players had better WAR scores...why did Jose win?  This question is not meant to be a clever way to say WAR is somehow BS.  Some of you put great stock in it but I have trouble understanding why you value the opinions of people you don't know.  I do see a usefulness for baseball executives having their own in-house grading systems but the average fan is lost when he tries to grasp what is WAR.  Please try and explain in a clear non-condescending manner as I am sure many would like a better grasp of this subject. 

Rather than try and go into detail, I'll just link to Fangraphs' explanation: https://library.fangraphs.com/misc/war/

The big thing about WAR is that it takes into account averages for each position, how easy it is to hit/pitch in the various ballparks and the quality of opposition. A .900 OPS at 1B for the Sox and a .900 OPS at CF for the Cubs don't result in the same WAR (ignoring the defensive component for a moment).

As for MVP voting, it's subjective, the voters may or may not pay attention to WAR, and even if they do, a slightly lower WAR that pushes a team over the top into the postseason could be considered more valuable than a higher WAR that pushes a team from 5th to 4th place.

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14 minutes ago, WhiteSoxFan1993 said:

Rather than try and go into detail, I'll just link to Fangraphs' explanation: https://library.fangraphs.com/misc/war/

The big thing about WAR is that it takes into account averages for each position, how easy it is to hit/pitch in the various ballparks and the quality of opposition. A .900 OPS at 1B for the Sox and a .900 OPS at CF for the Cubs don't result in the same WAR (ignoring the defensive component for a moment).

As for MVP voting, it's subjective, the voters may or may not pay attention to WAR, and even if they do, a slightly lower WAR that pushes a team over the top into the postseason could be considered more valuable than a higher WAR that pushes a team from 5th to 4th place.

Yeah I hope they never use purely just numbers as determinants for awards for this exact reason.

Edited by ScooterMcGee
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The difference between old time stats and WAR is that WAR tries to take into account fielding and baserunning in a single metric.   The reason Fangraphs and Baseball reference have different WARS is that fwar uses Ultimate Zone ratings for their defense and Ultimate base running and weighted stolen bases for their baserunning and rWar uses Total zone ratings for fielding and linear based system for baserunning.   The big difference in WAR is with pitchers as FG uses FIP (fielding independent pitching) instead of ERA which doesn't use actual runs scored but uses a predicted runs scored based on the number of walks/hits/homers given up.  For MOST pitchers, over a few years FIP is very close to ERA.  For some pitchers its a big difference...which is why some heated arguments on Soxtalk about it.  Sort of like the batting average balls in play argument...this guy was not as good as he actually was because he was lucky (or unlucky)...but maybe that guy has a skill set that leads to more Babip...and round and round we go.   

While the fielding and baserunning stats are subjective it tries to be much more objective than the old stats like fielding percentage used to be.   20 years ago old-timey baseball guys thought Derek Jeter was a GREAT fielder...because he played in NY, made some flashy plays occasionally and didn't make any errors.  When they started looking at it turns out he was a terrible fielder...-1 defense War per season.   Zone ratings calculate how many balls an average player SHOULD get to...it's why Robert is so good...he catches way more balls than the robots think that he should...Jeter was the opposite.

The problem with a lot of stats is people use them with too much certainty...the idea is that FIP will give us a better idea of Cease's future than ERA (Cease's FIP is terrible his ERA is pretty good).  The future is uncertain...something like FIP should allow us to pick out a hidden gem (as I was arguing in the Musgrove thread) and I really couldn't find much evidence that it did.  I think one of the greatest things I ever read about stats was from Moses (Bill James).  He said if you sat in the stands every day and watched a baseball team you couldn't tell the difference between a .300 hitter (all star) and a .250 hitter (journeyman) because it amounted to a single hit a week. (500 at bats, 150 hits vs 125 hits over 25 weeks).  Because baseball is a game of lots of repetitions a small difference per week can make a big difference over a lot time.  

Before I get trashed by the throngs...this is just my interpretation of the scientists behind the new stats and you can do a google search on any term and it will explain in minute details by the experts.  

    

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1 hour ago, poppysox said:

As an old school baseball fan, I relate to home runs, rbi's, sb's, runs scored, etc...  WAR seems to track everything that happens everywhere on the field and grade it.  How is this possible?  Wouldn't that require dozens of watchers trained to score performance?  It seems impossible to have all those scorekeepers using a fair and unbias system since we have trouble agreeing on an error call for example.  Jose Abreu won the MVP but 3 position players had better WAR scores...why did Jose win?  This question is not meant to be a clever way to say WAR is somehow BS.  Some of you put great stock in it but I have trouble understanding why you value the opinions of people you don't know.  I do see a usefulness for baseball executives having their own in-house grading systems but the average fan is lost when he tries to grasp what is WAR.  Please try and explain in a clear non-condescending manner as I am sure many would like a better grasp of this subject. 

I am not going to try to explain it to you. I can't. I came here many years ago as a way to talk baseball and trying for a better understanding of the new stats. It helps to be a mathematician with many of them if you truly want to understand them. Since many fans are not, many attempt to use them because its the modern way. They are often misused and used without question. I have often questioned them and peoples use of them. 1st basemen will very rarely accrue as much WAR as a CFer because positions on the field which are deemed more crucial defensively accrue more defensive war if both players are equally elite defenders, which in itself is hard to quantify. Defensive WAR stats are the most questionable.

When Jason Heyward was an elite CF he had some great WAR years because he attained much of his WAR playing great defense. He may have even got that huge contract because of his defense more than his offense. Baseball is a game where great offense has always been viewed as more important than great defense. That is hard to quantify but generally fans and evaluators both seem to think in these terms. You will of course also find differences in bWAR and fWAR (Baseball Reference and fangraphs WAR ) not just for hitters but for pitchers so now you have to keep track of which one to use and for whom to use it on.

If you want to understand WAR that will lead you to most of the other new stats. No one stat can measure a players value.

I think you are better off asking what are Sabermetrics and that can be googled and there are some good articles on it.

I edited this to say I explained this with your point of view in mind because I was once in your position. I still think it's possible to evaluate position players looking at old stats but adding some things like walk rate, OPS, OPS+,wRC+. I left out base running and speed because speed is a key element in base running and defense but not the only thing. For example Eloy has decent speed but according to other stats gets poor jumps which is part technique ,fundamentals , route running ,reading the ball off the bat . A big guy like Eloy can improve those things but may never become a good defender. Also a CF doesn't ever have to slow down very much like corner OF's do when approaching foul territory so they can use their speed to its full advantage. He also doesn't have a strong arm so that's another strike against him in fielding so he will never get as much WAR in LF defensively as others who may not hit as well but accrue more defensive WAR in their total WAR stats.

It's a long journey which many do not take to understand. Good luck.

Edited by CaliSoxFanViaSWside

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I think it's the pace of baseball that draws fans who are more analytical than say the average football or basketball fan. Although I don't have an fIQS stat to back up my opinion. 

I enjoy analysis in a lot of areas,  and during my business career I poured over a lot of reports. With baseball I haven't noticed a correlation between fWAR and my enjoyment of watching a player or team. I got heavily into the modern stats for a while but they just haven't held my interest beyond a casual look. 

It may be generational. I grew up in the days of buying random packs of baseball cards,  trading dupes, and memorizing a few basic stats. I've decided in the final analysis baseball is nostalgic for me. 

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2 hours ago, Harold's Leg Lift said:

Just use the WAR number that better suits your argument.

 

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2 hours ago, Harold's Leg Lift said:

Just use the WAR number that better suits your argument.

That's the thing that perplexes me.  These numbers are arrived at by someone (who knows who) that make judgments about many things that are not quantifiable.  Two announcers in the TV booth disagree on if a play was an error or not as an example.  We as fans argue that player A is better than player B and use WAR as our argument.  If it were really that easy trades would be a slam dunk.  I want your 3 WAR player so here is the equivalent.  But obviously, no one seems to think of WAR as being empirically correct unless it happens to suit their point of view.  

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The way you use fWAR is like this: when you see your starting C stand there with his thumb up his ass while the ball rolls between his legs and you don't like that because it doesn't fit your world view that he's a great player, you go onto fan graphs and find a number that says he's a better player than the other guy who isn't such an idiot in the field, and then you post it on a discussion forum as evidence of his quality play.  And you post a HR clip also.

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26 minutes ago, YourWhatHurts said:

The way you use fWAR is like this: when you see your starting C stand there with his thumb up his ass while the ball rolls between his legs and you don't like that because it doesn't fit your world view that he's a great player, you go onto fan graphs and find a number that says he's a better player than the other guy who isn't such an idiot in the field, and then you post it on a discussion forum as evidence of his quality play.  And you post a HR clip also.

Spoken like a true meatball fan. Use one play as an example against years of data. I guess the data doesn't fit your world view. I am no great believer in defensive metrics and even less in framing but I'll take Grandal for his overall body of work offensively and defensive than just about any catcher.

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42 minutes ago, YourWhatHurts said:

The way you use fWAR is like this: when you see your starting C stand there with his thumb up his ass while the ball rolls between his legs and you don't like that because it doesn't fit your world view that he's a great player, you go onto fan graphs and find a number that says he's a better player than the other guy who isn't such an idiot in the field, and then you post it on a discussion forum as evidence of his quality play.  And you post a HR clip also.

I think I saw that play.😉

Edited by poppysox
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1 hour ago, poppysox said:

That's the thing that perplexes me.  These numbers are arrived at by someone (who knows who) that make judgments about many things that are not quantifiable.  Two announcers in the TV booth disagree on if a play was an error or not as an example.  We as fans argue that player A is better than player B and use WAR as our argument.  If it were really that easy trades would be a slam dunk.  I want your 3 WAR player so here is the equivalent.  But obviously, no one seems to think of WAR as being empirically correct unless it happens to suit their point of view.  

The difference between a 6.0 WAR and a 4.0 WAR is quantifiable, the difference between a 4.4 WAR and 4.0 WAR, not so much, if that helps.

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I think the short answer is that it’s interesting, but also not important.  Like any stat. 

Edited by Jerksticks
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59 minutes ago, WhiteSoxFan1993 said:

The difference between a 6.0 WAR and a 4.0 WAR is quantifiable, the difference between a 4.4 WAR and 4.0 WAR, not so much, if that helps.

Can there be a hometown bias like in calling a batted ball a hit instead of an error?

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I consider myself a stathead but I also understand that stats can't explain everything. I choose to analyze every situation individually.  I prefer to look at all sabermetrics to get a general gist of the player that I'm trying to educate myself on but again, stats don't say everything. I kind of just look at WAR as a general measuring stick.  But I don't completely ignore other stats compared to WAR as I believe a lot of other people do.  A lot of people don't seem to want to take into account batting average or rbis or even ERA anymore, and my perception is that WAR has a lot to do with that.  I just personally find a lot of these sabermetrics to be measuring sticks of certain aspects of a player's abilities. Wrc+ is a stat I personally happen to love. I get that WAR seems to be the most "overall value" stat but it doesn't take everything into account. 

It's just like anything else. People can always find statistics to support their position but will often ignore others.

For instance, Adam Engel isn't exactly a wizard with the bat but I paid attention to the fact that he seemed to come up with big hits in clutch situations last year. On the surface, I don't think there are any commonly used stats that are going to show you his usefulness or back up an opinion that he was ctually worthy of being our starting right fielder last year but that I was in that camp based on what I saw.  Stats are important but if that's all you use then you are no better than a machine and you can't possibly quantify everything.

Edited by RagahRagah

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I will try and explain this as easily and concisely as possible.  WAR is based on the idea that baseball is at heart, a discrete sport with a very nice denominator (outs) that allows statisticians to break it down into easily digested parts and assign each action (centered around outs) a value..  This guy named "Tango Tiger" did just that.  He assigned a run value to pretty much everything that happens in baseball. The math is a bit beyond my pay grade but he actually uses the empirical data as well (like how many times a double produced a run, or a triple, or a single, or a walk, and so on) to sanity check his math and it turns out his math was pretty much perfect.  The values he gave for example to a triple turned out pretty damn accurate.

Here is a math primer:  https://gosu02.tripod.com/id16.html

Once you can assign a run value to every action (stolen base, triple, crazy Luis Robert running catch) it becomes easy to assign overall ranking against the hypothetical "replacement player" who is basically expected to produce enough runs (or prevent enough) so that a team filled with 25 of them would win like 45-50 games.  This is the difference basically between a team full of average players (so roughly 81 wins) and one filled with 0 WAR players (replacement level).

Pitching WAR is harder because people disagree on how much credit pitchers should get for preventing runs (usually the controversy is in how much hard hit contact they have control over) and always use pitching WAR values with a large grain of salt.

In fact take all WAR values with a grain of salt because they are NOT PROJECTIONS ABOUT FUTURE PERFORMANCE.  Sometimes a player can just get really fucking lucky all year (Hello Avi Garcia) and every worm burner finds a hole.  That player really isn't a 4 WAR player, they just got really lucky one year.

Hope this helps.  

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10 hours ago, poppysox said:

That's the thing that perplexes me.  These numbers are arrived at by someone (who knows who) that make judgments about many things that are not quantifiable.  Two announcers in the TV booth disagree on if a play was an error or not as an example.  We as fans argue that player A is better than player B and use WAR as our argument.  If it were really that easy trades would be a slam dunk.  I want your 3 WAR player so here is the equivalent.  But obviously, no one seems to think of WAR as being empirically correct unless it happens to suit their point of view.  

All inputs are known, disclosed and quantifiable for bWAR (Baseball Reference), fWAR (Fan Graphs) or WARP (Baseball Prospectus). There are no judgments used, no non quantifiable components.

Also, trades are based on projected WAR, which are predictions based on prior stats. Teams have their own even more metrics and data they use to predict future player production. Typically, the 50th percentile projections are published for the public WAR projections, but there is a wide range of possible outcomes. Teams differ on whether a player will out-perform or under-perform projected WAR.

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What about this: WAR is the quick, lazy version of assigning general value to a player.  
 

Tim Anderson & Paul Goldschmidt both accumulated 2.1fWAR in 2020.  2 completely different players got to the same place in completely different ways.  You look at WAR and can lazily see that they provided similar value despite their different games. 
 

Now if you were building a team for 2021, there’s probably zero front offices in baseball that would give a shit about the WAR these guys put up.  They look under the hood, at every measurable statistic BESIDES WAR to see if the guy is a good fit- the smart stuff. 
 

I love WAR and think it’s really cool, for what it is- ranking all the dudes who play baseball on 1 list. 

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WAR is okay.  Use it as data/information, but not the "end-all-be-all" stat that best represents the player and their production.  

It's not really as fair as you'd think it would be, and does nothing in terms of assessing a team's specific needs. 

Once a stat becomes subjective, it's not really that much of a true statistic.  

Not saying RBIs are a better stat because they are "true."  Every statistic has its place.  

I said nothing.  I said too much.  Goodnight.  

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15 hours ago, poppysox said:

Can there be a hometown bias like in calling a batted ball a hit instead of an error?

No, because for batted balls, WAR takes into account the probability that a ball hit to a certain spot in the field will be a hit, rather than relying on how the play actually gets scored.

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On 1/24/2021 at 9:48 AM, ron883 said:

Jose shouldn't have won MVP, simple as that. 

 

Of course, he should have won MVP. He had the best statistical season and he was extremely valuable to his team in terms of leadership and creating a winning club house culture. He was the Most Valuable Player, in the entire league, to his team's success this year. I don't know how you could reasonably debate otherwise. 

War, bwar, FUwar are, to me, stats that seem to be the ultimate example of "not seeing the forest for the trees". I talked about my distrust of war on here repeatedly. 

All you need to know about the value of war, whichever war it was that year, is the example of two or three years ago, when Abreu had a year-end war barely above Yolmer Sanchez. They (and there were MANY on this Board) used this war to say how the White Sox should unload Abreu to the Red Sox for whatever they can get. They quoted war (again many, many posters and posts on this board) that the Sox should offer Jose one year, at most and not for even 10 million, to return to the Sox. If he won't take it, let him walk. 

That people are still using war to discredit or demean Abreu is shown in the quote I started with above. 

Even before this past MVP season this year, Abreu led the AL in RBIs and people were talking about his low war. It kills me. When a guy leads the league in RBIs and you're using war to show that the guy is not that good; well, that says less about the caliber of the player and more about how weak war is as a stat. 

Come on, people. You know who you are/were. 

Another knock I have with war is how ridiculously low Colome's war was. I had a long post on that one. People quote his war and imply he was barely above average, but he saved (not sure of this number, don't feel like looking it up) something like 42 of 46 games in the last two years. How can a closer have such a great save percentage, but barely be above average in war for relievers. it makes no sense to me. 

To me, war is the ultimate "can't see the forest for the trees" stat. And how it is/ was used to assess Abreu is my example of that. 

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