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Debating WAR

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#21 kab21

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:23 PM

Alex Gordon is basically the poster child of my two main hesitations about using WAR as a definitive ranking tool

 

A) sample size - defensive data does have value but multiple seasons is needed for it to have any value at all.Gordon is a good LF'er defensively but he's having one of the best defensive seasons in the MLB this year (not taking into account positional adjustment).Typically his defense rates a little above average so he benefits from a small sample size defensively.

 

B) quantifying defensive and offensive value (and pitching) using the same scale - Defense is important but I have never really agreed with fangraphs WAR about how much value is assigned defensively.Does heyward's great defense in LF really boost his average bat that much?Imo Freeman is an infinitely more valuable player but he will at best match Heyward's WAR averaged over multiple seasons.

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I look forward to the day that a pitching prospect is truly blocked by good pitchers.


#22 Thegrin

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:23 PM

WAR

What is it good for ?

Absolutely nothing.


#23 TheLeviathan

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:27 PM

Does heyward's great defense in LF really boost his average bat that much?Imo Freeman is an infinitely more valuable player but he will at best match Heyward's WAR averaged over multiple seasons.

 

Wow...I was having almost that exact debate with someone the other day.  I used Heyward as an example of a guy whose WAR vastly overstates his significance.  Couldn't agree with your post more.


#24 jay

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 10:16 PM

:cool: quantifying defensive and offensive value (and pitching) using the same scale - Defense is important but I have never really agreed with fangraphs WAR about how much value is assigned defensively.Does heyward's great defense in LF really boost his average bat that much?Imo Freeman is an infinitely more valuable player but he will at best match Heyward's WAR averaged over multiple seasons.

 

I agree with most of your post, but this part seems both accurate and inaccurate.

 

Offense and defense are measured on the same scale -- runs.  At the end of the day, scoring 1 run and preventing 1 run accomplishes the exact same thing so that part certainly makes sense.  However, simply being on the same scale doesn't mean they have the same influence.  

 

When you look at the wRAA leaderboard (the batting swinging component of WAR), the leaders are around 40 runs above average (RAA) and the top 30 are all above 16.  The UZR leaders (the defense component of WAR) are around 25 runs (Gordon and Heyward) but the top 30 are only above 5.  That pretty well shows it is easier to generate WAR with the bat than the glove.  

 

Somewhat ironically, it also highlights that the UZR numbers over this sample size are unreliable.  Surely, Gordon and Heyward aren't 5x better on defense than the defenders at the bottom of the top 30.  Until defense valuations are more accurate over smaller samples, it's my opinion that the UZR contributions to WAR should be weighted to account for less of the value.


#25 kab21

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 10:41 PM

I agree with most of your post, but this part seems both accurate and inaccurate.

 

Offense and defense are measured on the same scale -- runs.  At the end of the day, scoring 1 run and preventing 1 run accomplishes the exact same thing so that part certainly makes sense.  However, simply being on the same scale doesn't mean they have the same influence.  

 

When you look at the wRAA leaderboard (the batting swinging component of WAR), the leaders are around 40 runs above average (RAA) and the top 30 are all above 16.  The UZR leaders (the defense component of WAR) are around 25 runs (Gordon and Heyward) but the top 30 are only above 5.  That pretty well shows it is easier to generate WAR with the bat than the glove.  

 

Somewhat ironically, it also highlights that the UZR numbers over this sample size are unreliable.  Surely, Gordon and Heyward aren't 5x better on defense than the defenders at the bottom of the top 30.  Until defense valuations are more accurate over smaller samples, it's my opinion that the UZR contributions to WAR should be weighted to account for less of the value.

 

I'm not saying that a run scored (offense) isn't equal to a run saved (defense). 

 

The reason that this isn't true is that a player's offense doesn't measure into a run scored metric (other than the obvious) and first must go through all kinds of mathematics to output a number.Defense stats first face difficulty in accurately measuring plays made that are better or worse than the average defender.But the even bigger issue to putting offense and defense on the same scale (runs) is that you need to mathematically determine how many plays made equal one run. 

I look forward to the day that a pitching prospect is truly blocked by good pitchers.


#26 The Wise One

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 02:27 AM

Way back when there was what you called reliability and margin of error. Baseball statisticians do not talk of the margin for errorbecause that goes down with sample size. There is a number of AB and games played that there would be some validity to defensive metrics and hence WAR. I am sure for the OF it would take a larger number of games that say a shortstop. For longer careers there would be something closer to validity than there would be forhalf seasons. Understanding what the statistic measures is the first key. Knowing the reliability would be the second.

 

 

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#27 stringer bell

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 06:35 AM

I've always found WAR misses the boat when comparing players who play different positions.Here's two ex-Twins, one to whom WAR is kind, one to whom it is not:Nick Punto (36, with 3700+ PAs) Career WAR of 14.9.Michael Cuddyer (35, with 5600+ PAs) Career WAR of 15.3.Cuddy makes over $10M per year, Punto $3M.Per game played and plate appearance, Punto has been more "valuable" according to WAR. 

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#28 Thegrin

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:12 AM

Cuddyer was hurt and Span replaced him. Span was hurt and Revere replaced him. 

In real life it all depends on the quality of the replacement.


#29 drivlikejehu

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:57 AM

The problem with defense is that you can't just ignore it. The difference in run-prevention between a gold glove SS and an immobile 1B is massive. Over a long period of time, the defensive fluctuations tend to even out and allow for comparisons across positions and eras. Sometimes the numbers don't produce the answer someone wants, but most likely it's because the person has misjudged player value due to their own biases. 

 

For small sample use, WAR is still a fine starting point, from which adjustments can be made subjectively if desired.

 

About xFIP there is no question - it is a very handy metric. In a small sample size it is, by far, the best way to quickly evaluate pitcher performance. 

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#30 jay

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 07:59 AM

Way back when there was what you called reliability and margin of error. Baseball statisticians do not talk of the margin for errorbecause that goes down with sample size. There is a number of AB and games played that there would be some validity to defensive metrics and hence WAR. 

 

Right on!  The FanGraphs primer on UZR talks about how a single season of UZR needs to be regressed by half and stresses the need to regress over and over (quote below).  On the other hand, offensive stats generally become reliable within less than a season's worth of data.  

 

 

...a player’s UZR, be it one year, one month or 5 years, is not necessarily what happened on the field and is not necessarily that player’s true talent level over that period of time either. That is why we regress, regress, and regress! A player can have a plus UZR and have played terrible defense, because the data we are using is far from perfect. It is exactly the same with offense and pitching. Do not for a second think that that is a unique problem with defensive metrics. It is not! The more data we have, however, the less likely the gap between UZR and what actually happened, and the smaller the gap between UZR and that player’s true defensive talent. And once we regress the sample numbers appropriately, we essentially shrink those gaps to zero, although there is still uncertainty with regard to the regressed number itself.

 

I wish FG would provide WAR values that are regressed instead of raw.You'd get rid of the big flaw people love to point out -- players who have single season values highly influenced by their unreliable defensive value.

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#31 jorgenswest

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:34 AM

Right on!  The FanGraphs primer on UZR talks about how a single season of UZR needs to be regressed by half and stresses the need to regress over and over (quote below).  On the other hand, offensive stats generally become reliable within less than a season's worth of data.  
 
I wish FG would provide WAR values that are regressed instead of raw.You'd get rid of the big flaw people love to point out -- players who have single season values highly influenced by their unreliable defensive value.


Defensive runs saved has a higher even/odd year correlation coefficient than ERA and batting average. I prefer all three numbers raw.

#32 drjim

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:46 AM

This conversation has touched on another aspect of WAR that is problematic in my mind. We are talking about huge numbers for Heyward and Gordon, corner OFs. Corner OF is not meaningless, but much less important than middle of the diamond. Their numbers are skewed by the low threshold of the "replacement" corner OF, even though I wouldn't take an elite defensive corner OF over a below average SS (as far as defense is concerned), but WAR doesn't come close to capturing this. But, of course, the market surely does.

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Papers...business papers.

#33 drjim

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 08:47 AM

If you don't mind drjim, the next time I disagree with someone about the value of WAR....I'm using your post.  It's spot on.

 

Let's not make agreeing with each other too much of a trend.

Papers...business papers.

#34 TheLeviathan

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 09:11 AM

Let's not make agreeing with each other too much of a trend.

 

I don't agree to that.  

 

Wait......


#35 jay

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 09:14 AM

Defensive runs saved has a higher even/odd year correlation coefficient than ERA and batting average. I prefer all three numbers raw.

 

Works for a guy who understands advanced stats.  Doesn't work for the Royals fan running around to his friends and the internet saying Alex Gordon is the second-best non-pitcher in baseball.  Unfortunately, the second scenario is probably more common and it gives WAR a bad name.


#36 mike wants wins

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 10:51 AM

Or maybe we have all under rated the delta between great corner OF defense and bad corner OF defense all these years....or maybe not. WAR is an indicator, until we have something better. I still do not understand what would be better? Should we ignore defense all together?
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#37 TheLeviathan

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 10:55 AM

Or maybe we have all under rated the delta between great corner OF defense and bad corner OF defense all these years....or maybe not. WAR is an indicator, until we have something better. I still do not understand what would be better? Should we ignore defense all together?

 

Well, how about just properly use the statistic?  We seem to understand UZR is best used with a large amount of data....yet we use WAR without even considering it's reliance on UZR and use it to judge a player's seasonal performance.  

 

We may get to the point that we can track defense more accurately (I think Jack Goin was on the radio last weekend or so talking about some experimental stuff the Twins are partnering on) - but until that happens we should probably not try to portray them as something they're not.


#38 jorgenswest

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 11:25 AM

Using UZR to project the future needs a good sample. They still describe the past just as using a player's OPS in a half season sample. Neither is adequate for projection in that sample. WAR describes past value. Defense should be part of that value.

#39 mike wants wins

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 12:33 PM

Right, WAR describes what did happen. I'm not sure I get the "what it is" argument. It is a measure that attempts to value players on offense and defense. Are people using it for something else? Lots of people seem to dwell on things other than "we think this guy is better than this other guy" based on offensive and defensive measures that are the best we have available to us today. 

 

I would ask, again, what is a better measure? Should we just throw out defense entirely, or should we take UZR and other measures are directional?


#40 TheLeviathan

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 12:41 PM

Right, WAR describes what did happen. I'm not sure I get the "what it is" argument. It is a measure that attempts to value players on offense and defense. Are people using it for something else? Lots of people seem to dwell on things other than "we think this guy is better than this other guy" based on offensive and defensive measures that are the best we have available to us today. 

 

I would ask, again, what is a better measure? Should we just throw out defense entirely, or should we take UZR and other measures are directional?

 

Except how directional they are reduces dramatically the smaller the sample size.  Since WAR is often used as a season-by-season comparison tool it incorporates defensive metrics in their least valuable form without seemingly taking that into account.

 

It's why Alex Gordon is laughably two wins better than Miguel Cabrera this year.  Something no rational person would agree is an accurate valuation.