WAR bolognaFebruary 6th, 2013 by terrybenish
I read the following remark about the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) discussion, argument:
“I do think that, most of the time anyway, the arguments coming from folks against WAR usually amount to them fundamentally not believing that defense is particularly important. So many times I saw people refuse to accept that Cabrera’s bad defense gives back a non-trivial amount of the substantial offensive value he provides, for example. It’s not even about advanced stats, really – they see Miggy and Prince stumble and bumble their way around the infield, and they figure it doesn’t really matter how bad they are with a glove on. They mash, and that’s all that matters.”
It was part of a discussion on USSMariner site.
It is worthy of clarification, even if it is an ill informed insult. The defensive component of WAR is the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). Jim Caple wrote on ESPN.COM last week with some direct remarks, but if that is not enough I refer you to this thread: http://www.fangraphs.com/forums/topic.php?id=3235
UZR mis-states defensive performance, frequently. Just look at Michael Bourn’s UZR up and down, negative to way positive and yet he catches the same number of balls. He’s not remotely the best center fielder, yet his UZR and WAR suggest that he is Tris Speaker and Willie Mays reborn. He’s not. His is not the only inconsistency. They are legion.
So according to the remarks above, if you don’t like WAR above it’s due to you disregarding defense. I don’t want to put words in other’s mouth, but it is not about disregarding defense, rather it is not relying on the simplistic notion that a player’s ability and worth can be reduced to a single number and that the proportionate weight to various talents is correct in that single number. Defense, especially in spots that are more important than others, e.g. ss versus left field, must be considered. The point is really that in WAR, it is not being considered in a correct manner.
Why be stuck using a flawed tool? Why not use all analytical tools? Why trust formulations by two entities that vary widely? It would seem that there is an economic interest that accrues to the two entities that formulate and or use work supplied by smaller vendors. Which tools? Total chances by innings played and double plays and assists for out fielders and total chances by innings played for infielders.
So defense is critical but a single measurement that relies on bad information about defense can not be good. No value in distortion. It is not at all important to reduce everything to a single number if the results are not good.