Posted February 22, 2013 by Clayton Richer in Blog

Baseball’s War Craft: How Much Stock Do You Put In WAR?

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Article Written As A Special To BHC By Jay Blue

A sabermetric statistic which measures each player’s win value is still quite subjected in baseball circles due to a belief of inaccuracy in its method.  Although the stat uses some of the most telling statistics on both the offensive and defensive side, many folks in baseball still argue that the proof of a player’s value is still found in its most simplistic numbers.  This belief couldn’t be anymore obvious when Miguel Cabrera was awarded AL MVP this past winter even though rookie sensation Mike Trout was worth nearly 3 more wins in comparison to the Tigers’ slugger. Trout’s performance this past season may very well have become the dividing point in the credibility of the statistic for fans and baseball writers moving forward.  For those who agreed with Cabrera’s selection as MVP, WAR may be perceived now as a fun stat which doesn’t carry enough weight in evaluating and projecting players.  For others, Trout’s season has proved that WAR has become the be all and end all in assessing player values across the league.  Regardless of which side you stand on in the War on WAR, the fact is that the stat exists and its quite prominent for some of baseball’s biggest analysts and writers including ESPN’s MLB guru Keith Law.  As we turn our attention back home in focusing on one of the most anticipated Blue Jays’ seasons in franchise history, we can have fun in using WAR and trying to predict what might be in store for the Jays in comparison to the rest of the AL East.

When breaking down an evaluation of each player’s WAR from last season on the current squad, we can see that the Jays’ off season additions would have made quite the difference a year ago and verifies why the 2013 season is loaded with the potential of great success.  Below is the Jays projected batting lineup and pitching rotation for the upcoming season along with their WAR from a year ago:

Jose Reyes 4.5

Melky Cabrera 4.6

Jose Bautista 3.2

Edwin Encarnacion 4.4

Adam Lind 0.2

Brett Lawrie 2.9

Colby Rasmus 1.4

J.P. Arencibia 1.3

Maicer Izturis 0.7

R.A. Dickey 4.6

Brandon Morrow 2.4

Mark Buehrle 2.1

Josh Johnson 3.8

Ricky Romero 0.5

The total Wins Above Replacement for the Jays lineup based on their 2012 seasons is a total of 36.6  If you prorate Bautista’s WAR over the course of the full season, the team total jumps to nearly 40.  That was last year though and Jays’ fans from coast to coast only want to focus on what can potentially lay ahead for the 2013 baseball season.  When looking at the rest of the AL East, the Jays were not the only team to go through a significant makeover.  The Red Sox have added over half a dozen new players to help prevent a repeat of last year’s season from hell in Beantown.  With a new look lineup and a familiar face managing the team, the Red Sox are expected to make a return to challenging for the post season in the competitive American League East.  Baltimore, Tampa Bay and New York comprise the rest of the division and even though none of these teams have made major additions this off-season  they all remain threats to challenge for a playoff spot due to excellent talent throughout their clubs.

When experimenting with WAR projections for the upcoming season, the Blue Jays should be expected to be right in the thick of the division race to the very end.  Steamer Projections is growing in popularity in baseball circles as one of the most premiere and accurate projection systems in the entire industry.  When assessing these numbers through the projected batting lineups and pitching rotations in the American League East, the Jays are near the top in both categories.  Below are each team’s projected Wins Above Replacement for the 2013 season according to Steamer:

Toronto Blue Jays:

Batting Lineup: 24.9

Pitching Rotation: 12.7

Total: 37.6

Boston Red Sox:

Batting Lineup: 26.5

Pitching Rotation: 11.8

Total: 38.3

New York Yankees:

Batting Lineup: 24

Pitching Rotation: 14

Total: 38

Tampa Bay Rays:

Batting Lineup: 22.2

Pitching Rotation: 13.2

Total: 35.4

Baltimore Orioles:

Batting Lineup: 21.5

Pitching Rotation: 5.9

Total: 27.4

According to Steamer Projections, the Jays are expected to have the second best batting line-up in the division to go along with the third ranked pitching rotation in the American League East.  Even though these projections use mathematical data from past seasons to give the most accurate prediction possible, it still creates quite the debate in regards to how accurate Wins Above Replacement are in the first place.  Are we lead to believe that based on projected WAR that the Red Sox are now suddenly the best team in the division?  Does anyone actually think that a Yankees rotation which includes two pitchers over the age of 38 comprise the best rotation in the AL East?  Best of all, are the Baltimore Orioles actually that significantly worse then all of the rest of their division rivals?  The answers to these questions will remain unanswered because at the end of the day these are only projections after all. The real games remain to be played and that is the only way to determine how these individuals will actually perform.  Until then however, we can only use WAR to take what is an educated guess on how we think these teams may produce which in its self brings us back to the original question: How much stock do you put in WAR?  After all these moves, are the Blue Jays still only the third best team in the American League East?  Its a topic which can debated between Jays fans but unfortunately will only result in having to wait for the season to play out before we have any of these answers.

Until that time, we only have WAR and how much does that really matter to you?

Article Written As A Special To BHC By Jay Blue

Jay Blue is a lifelong baseball fan who was born and raised in Toronto. He graduated from U of T with a major in English and is pursuing his Dream of writing about the sport he has grown to love. You can follow Jay on Twitter @jayblueBHC

Clayton Richer

Clayton Richer
Clayton Richer is the Owner of Baseball Hot Corner. Aside from BHC you can also read his MLB work at Players View. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @PVClaytonRicher