The baseball world has gone through a revolution that has taken place over the last few decades. It changed how many watch the game. And while no metric can fully quantify the game as a whole, those in and around baseball now have better ways to break down what’s happening and what might happen next.
In addition to batting averages, RBIs, pitcher wins, and ERA, some advanced metrics – fWAR, wRC+, BABIP, FIP, OOA, wOBA, and so many others – give us a more complete picture of what’s going on or why something happened. It should not only replace the “eye test” or scouting, but superimpose everything else, like a blueprint, so to speak.
And why is it so important that these metrics appear in our reporting, in addition to allowing us to tell more about the story and in a more accurate way? It’s simple: because teams use advanced metrics as part of their decision-making, be it overall player ratings, free agency, trade decisions, the draft, anything and everything. And as teams have incorporated analytical methods of rating players into their decision making, it is imperative that these teams’ reporting reflects this. Otherwise, readers and listeners are missing out on key aspects that evaluate how teams function in this modern age of baseball. Pitcher wins and RBIs leave a lot of context on the table when used to rank players against one another
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A few readers have sent emails asking for explanations for some of these advanced numbers, so we thought we’d offer some explanations to give some additional context. And if these metrics are used in stories in the future, these explanations will be linked and available for a refresher.
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First up: WAR.
What is Wins Above Replacement (WAR)?
Wins Above Replacement aims to measure a player’s value to their team in all facets of the game by indicating how many additional wins they would be worth over a replacement-level player, i.e.
So if a player has 4.5 wins in a given season, that means he was worth 4.5 extra wins to his team compared to what a substitute would achieve production-wise. An All-Star Caliber player is typically at least 3-6 WAR in any given season. Once you’ve got over 6 WAR for a single season, and especially if 7 or 8 WAR are eclipsed, you’re probably talking about an MVP candidate.
For positional players, batting, baserunning, and fielding are components. It will then be adjusted for position and league trends this year, making it easier to compare the value of a given second baseman in 2022 to a given left fielder in 2016. Pitcher calculations are also adjusted for league trends and baseball factors.
Different sources have different calculations. When you see “fWAR” it refers to FanGraphs’ formula, while “bWAR” is a baseball reference and WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) is used by Baseball Prospectus. FanGraphs formula – fWAR – is mainly used in our reporting.
In terms of the Guardians, the last year can be analyzed. Jose Ramirez (36 homers, 103 RBIS, 27 stolen bases, above-average field rating) was worth 6.5 fWAR, again near the top of the league (he already has 3.8 fWAR in 59 games this season). Amed Rosario came on after his steamy second half with 2.4 fWAR – a positive contribution. On the other hand, Jake Bauers, who struggled in Cleveland and failed to keep the first base job, had a -0.4 fWAR, meaning he was below the rate of a substitute.
For additional context, let’s look at the 2018 season in Cleveland. Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, who both had great seasons, posted 8.1 fWAR and 7.8 fWAR, respectively. Michael Brantley, who was solid but well below an MVP nominee, had 3.7 FWAR, meaning he was worth 3.7 extra wins, which a substitute would have given. On the pitching side, Cleveland received strong seasons from four starters: Trevor Bauer (5.8 fWAR), Corey Kluber (5.5), Carlos Carrasco (5.2), and Mike Clevinger (4.2). A newcomer named Shane Bieber was worth 2.6 fWAR.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.