There are many ways to determine how valuable a player is to a team. You could judge by home runs, RBI’s, OBP or slugging percentage. But one of the surefire ways to determine how valuable a player is, is by their WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Of course, WAR isn’t perfect and old school baseball analysts tend to frown upon sabermetrics but it’s the closest tool to get an educational estimation. So for those new to the sabermetric side of baseball, what exactly is WAR and how do you calculate it?
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is all-inclusive and provides a useful reference point for comparing players.
While WAR is not as complicated as some might think, it does require a good bit of information to calculate and understand.
● Position players – To calculate WAR for position players you want to take their Batting Runs, Base Running Runs, and Fielding Runs above average and then add in a positional adjustment, a small adjustment for their league, and then add in replacement runs so that we are comparing their performance to replacement level rather than the average player. After that, you simply take that sum and divide it by the runs per win value of that season to find WAR. The simple equation looks something like this:
WAR = (Batting Runs + Base Running Runs +Fielding Runs + Positional Adjustment + League Adjustment +Replacement Runs) / (Runs Per Win)
● Pitchers – While position player WAR is based on Batting Runs and Fielding Runs, pitching WAR uses FIP (with infield fly balls), adjusted for park, and scaled to how many innings the pitcher threw. FIP is translated into runs, converted to represent value above replacement level, and is then converted from runs to wins. This is a slightly more complicated process than for position players
Now that we’re familiar with what WAR is, let’s use it to determine who were the Top 10 Yankees by WAR under two of our favorite managers. First we’ll start with the manager that led the Yankees through the late 1990 dynasty era: Joe Torre.
1. Derek Jeter: 58.1 WAR
2. Mariano Rivera: 40.0 WAR
3. Jorge Posada: 39.9 WAR
4. Andy Pettitte: 35.8 WAR
5. Bernie Williams: 35.1
6. Alex Rodriguez: 30.8 WAR
7. Mike Mussina: 29.9 WAR
8. Roger Clemens: 21.2 WAR
9. Jason Giambi: 20.1 WAR
10. Orlando Hernandez: 19.1 WAR
Now let’s look at the Top 10 Yankees by WAR under manager Joe Girardi.
1. Robinson Cano: 34.4 WAR
2. Brett Gardner: 23.2 WAR
3. Alex Rodriguez 21.7 WAR
4. CC Sabathia: 21.6 WAR
5. Mark Teixeira 17.3 WAR
6. Mariano Rivera: 16.3 WAR
7. Derek Jeter: 14.0 WAR
8. Curtis Granderson: 14.0 WAR
9. Andy Pettitte: 12.8 WAR
10. Hiroki Kuroda: 12.0 WAR
It’s not surprising Robinson Cano had the highest WAR among the Yankees; he was arguably one of their best players before he packed his bags and went to Seattle. What is surprising is Gardner is second in WAR while managed under Girardi, which is above Teixera, Sabathia and A-Rod; three players that take up most of the payroll versus a player who has a friendly contract. And it’s also surprising to see the players who were under Joe Torre see a decrease in WAR while managed under Girardi–mostly due to aging.
WAR has become a fundamental tool in measuring a players significance to a team and it is a constant reminder of what you see on the field, might not be the entire story once you crunch the numbers on paper.