Wins Above Replacement
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Stat of the Week
by Peter Liubicich
Wins Above Replacement
This post was written by Peter Liubicich on April 23, 2012
Posted Under: Stat of the Week

A statistic that has gained greater notoriety the past couple of years is Wins Above Replacement or WAR.  WAR is an explanatory statistic that weighs a number of aspects of a player’s performance and displays how many wins that player was worth to their team above a replacement player that year.  How one calculates WAR is up to them based on what statistics they feel are most important to measuring a positional player or pitcher’s overall value.

FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference each have their own version of WAR, while Baseball Prospectus has Wins Above Replacement Player or WARP.  Of the three, only FanGraphs is transparent enough to explain how they calculate WAR for batters and pitchers seen here.  For positional players, FanGraphs measures their hitting ability, base running ability and defensive skills by using Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA), Ultimate Base Running (UBR), and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).  For pitchers, FanGraphs replaces wRAA and UZR with Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and weighs the amount of innings a pitcher threw in their overall WAR.  For the adventurous among us, here is a link to Tom Tango’s website and an in-depth article on how to calculate WAR.

To measure how many wins a player is worth to their team above a replacement-level player, it is important to set the baseline for what constitutes a replacement player.  Baseball Prospectus explains the concept of a replacement player as, “Essentially, replacement-level players are of a caliber so low that they are always available in the minor leagues because the players are well below major-league average. Prospectus’ definition of replacement level contends that a team full of such players would win a little over 40 games.”

If you hear that a player is 3 wins above replacement, if they are using Baseball-Reference’s version, that player is a solid starter according to the WAR scale seen here:

  • <0 — Replacement Level
  • 0-2 — Reserve
  • 2+ — Starter
  • 5+ — All-Star Quality
  • 8+ — MVP Quality

A final part of this introduction to WAR is that a common way to evaluate if a team’s front office is getting their bang for their buck with a player is Dollars per WAR or $/WAR.  Baseball Prospectus has a compensation section for each team including its players contracts, WARP and $/WARP which allows fans to see what players are providing the most value, and what big contract players are providing the least value.

Thursday, I’ll take a look at some of the MVP and Cy Young races from recent years and how some of the largest contracts handed out the past couple of years have worked in terms of $/WAR.

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