WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – Where You at, Cap’n?

Recently, one of the measures of a player’s value to a team has been a statistic called WAR – Wins Above Replacement. The idea is to take a fielder’s offensive contributions (batting, base running, etc.) and defensive ability (ultimate zone rating, runs prevented, etc.) to give them a value that tells nerds how many more wins the player adds to his team’s total when compared with an average replacement player (that would cost the team little to acquire). For pitchers, it primarily calculates runs (earned or unearned) versus innings pitched, although some sites use fielding-independent pitching as its gauge.

warsuggestions

The important thing unless you are a supernerd (which I am not yet), is that the number 0 indicates a player has performed at the same level as an entry-level replacement. The higher the number above zero, the more valuable that player is to his team – his performance has earned the team __ more wins than a replacement player’s performance would. Contrarily, a negative number indicates a player has not only had a bad season, but that the team would have been better off with a minimum wage-earning scrub.

So the author of Hanshin Tigers: Actually Strong, Norio Torigoe, published some calculations of Hanshin’s core players’ WAR values in 2016. Here are the findings, along with how the team compares to other Central League clubs:

Hanshin Tigers’ WAR Central League 6 Team WAR Numbers
Pitchers’ WAR Fielders’ WAR Team Fielders Pitchers
Messenger 4.4 Fukudome 3.6 Hanshin 6.7 24.5
Fujinami 4.1 Haraguchi 3.0 Hiroshima 29.3 27.5
Iwasada 3.3 Gomez 1.7 Yomiuri 13.7 25.0
Nohmi 2.3 Hojoh 1.4 DeNA 7.0 24.4
Mateo 1.7 Yamato 0.7 Yakult 13.2 16.4
Dolis 1.3 Takayama 0.5 Chunichi 16.4 14.7
Aoyagi 1.1 Egoshi 0.5
Fujikawa 1.0 Nakatani 0.4
Andoh 0.8 Fujinami 0.3
Takahashi 0.8 Okazaki 0.2

A few things have to catch your eyes. First, our fielders are gravely inferior to those of all but one other CL team. Second, is Fujinami really just slightly less valuable than Messenger in 2016? Sure doesn’t feel that way! Third, why is Fujinami listed among the fielders? And have they forgotten about his awful throws to first? Fourth, what is Takayama doing so low, like, under Yamato? (The answer is, lousy fielding brings one’s numbers down and fabulous fielding brings another’s up.) To me, one of the biggest questions is, where’s the captain? Are you trying to tell me that Toritani’s value to the team is less than the 0.2 wins above replacement that injured catcher Okazaki brought this year? (Actually according to this site, Tori is an unforgivable -0.4. That’s a million bucks in his pocket for every 0.1 games he cost the team. I guess all those walks didn’t help the team win games after all.)

A few things to keep in mind… (a) there are different ways to calculate WAR so there is a possibility that Tori is worth a fraction of a win… or even more losses; (b) these statistics do not tell fans how many wins the player actually contributed to – it simply gives an idea of how the team may have fared without this player contributing at his 2016 pace; (c) if our fielders combined for a 6.7 WAR, (i) there were definitely bigger culprits than Toritani out there; (ii) we could have put our farm team (well, the fielders) out there all season and still won more than 50 games! Then again, with all the plugging-and-playing Kanemoto did this year, a lot of times we were essentially putting a farm team out there!

I hope to see better numbers in 2017, but more importantly, a better product on the field as well!

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.

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