Posted by Sean Forman on September 14, 2010
Joe Posnanski's great post on Wins Above Replacement brought to the forefront for me an idea I've been kicking around now for a few months.
One of the big complaints about WAR that holdouts have is that they don't trust the defensive numbers. It is a valid concern. As is always pointed out, the defensive metrics can be a bit, umm, inconsistent in how they rate various players. This can cause players', like Josh Hamilton's for example, WAR total to range from 4th best in the AL to far and away the best depending on what the defensive measure says about the player. I think that FieldFX, should it become publicly available, could calm many of these concerns, but we aren't there yet.
So if you are one of the group of people who like the idea of WAR, but think the defensive numbers are garbage (for the record, I'm not one of those people), we are now presenting another output in the Player Value Tables and League Leader tables, oWAR or offensive-only wins above replacement. I hate to foist another acronym on folks, but I think it is a common-sense compromise for the large contingent leery of the accuracy of current defensive numbers.
oWAR assumes that every player is an average defender and therefore the stat utilizes the player's contributions from baserunning and batting, the positional adjustment (to account for the difference in batting stats at each position) and the replacement runs factor that counts playing time the player kept from going to a replacement level player.
I've also added a column for what we calculate the player's defensive performance is worth (dWAR). Unlike with batting, it's generally believed that the replacement level fielder is around league average. The idea is that there are a lot more guys who can field in the major leagues than can hit in the major leagues. There our dWAR value is just the player's total zone defensive runs saved divided by the runs to win conversion (generally ten runs to a win).
You can add the two together (oWAR + dWAR) and get our existing WAR values (which is still there and still our number of choice) or you can use somebody else's defensive measure you prefer (like the Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved, which appear in our fielding stats), divide that defensive runs measure by ten and then add it to our oWAR for your very own WAR.
Perhaps you could call it myWAR.
A couple of lists:
For those who are very skeptical of our defensive metrics, I think our career and active defensive leaders pass the sniff test. Career: Brooks Robinson, Andruw Jones, Roberto Clemente, Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger, Barry Bonds, Carl Yastrzemski, Germany Smith, Willie Mays and Cal Ripken. Active top 5: Andruw Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, and Ichiro Suzuki.
As an example of how the numbers are presented for current seasons, here are the top 20 position players in MLB by overall WAR. Taken from our 2010 MLB Batting Value Page
On another note, I know that some of the issue here is a lack of clarity as to how these numbers are put together. We don't have an in depth look at where the numbers come from. I'm going to work on an indepth and detailed look at our WAR methodology in the coming months and hope to have an A-Z rundown suitable for non-sabermetricians during the offseason. I think you'll be impressed at how careful and detailed the methodology is. Nothing is slapdash about it and each step follows logically from the previous.
All WAR methodology is provided by Sean Smith of Baseball Projection.com.