Sabermetric baseball metrics run baseball organizations and decisions from the minor leagues all the way to the MLB. One new and popular metric that teams and statisticians use to measure a player’s worth against an average player is WAR. What exactly does WAR mean, what is a good number to have in baseball, and why is it important for fans to understand? Does WAR only look at a single number for a player or a collection of metrics? Learn more about the WAR metric in baseball by reading the article below!
What Does WAR Mean in Baseball?
WAR in baseball stands for Wins Above Replacement. This metric measures how much better (or worse) a player is against a typical average player. Understanding WAR can help Major League Baseball Teams put the best statistically driven player on the field to increase their number of wins.
You might also hear WARP, which stands for Wins Above Replacement Player, since it means the same thing. You are taking a baseball player’s quality and measuring them against the replacement level player for that position. Either WAR or WARP are acceptable terms to drop in your baseball conversation with friends.
Calculating WAR in Baseball for Hitters
Hitter WAR Metric = (Batting Runs (RBI) + Fielding Runs Above Average + Positional Adjustment + League Adjustment + Base running runs) + Runs Added or Lost Due to Grounding into Double Plays / Runs Per Win
So how exactly do you measure a player’s war according to that formula above? The above formula WAR metric takes hitting, baserunning, fielding, and pitching into consideration when measuring a player’s value against their plate appearances. To make the metric even granular, you can update the formula to measure the era and ballpark someone plays games.
Since WAR applies to measure a shortstop vs. a shortstop, you are getting a true comparison of a replacement. Unlike measuring a player’s batting average vs. another position, you focus on players playing the same position. That means a catcher’s WAR should measure differently than a shortstop, for example.
Calculating WAR in Baseball for Pitchers
Pitching WAR Metric (FIP)= (Homeruns) + (BB + HBP ) + (K + IFFB))) / IP
Pitchers have a slightly different formula when you compare that against a position player. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, which measures a pitcher’s quality against the number of runs they give up. One note is that FIP takes an infield fly and calculates that as a strikeout. Another thing to remember is that FIP takes the quality of outs against how many innings a pitcher pitches.
What is a Good WAR Value in Baseball?
Sometimes it is best to put a bracket around a WAR number to help fans understand just how good a player is. To truly understand WAR, you should use zero as the league average to better explain a player’s value against that average. Below is a list of brackets to illustrate a player’s value if they have a certain number.
- <0 means that they are replaceable
- 0-2 means that they should be a backup
- 2.1-4.9 means that they (player) should regularly start most games in the season
- 5 – 7.9 means that this player is going to be an All-Star or All-Star candidate during the season
- 8+ means that this player is having an MVP baseball season
Who Has the Highest WAR in Baseball?
Since the WAR metric can go back to the beginning of baseball, we can calculate the best players according to this stat. Below are the top ten highest WAR leads as of 2021.
- Barry Bonds (162.8)
- Babe Ruth (162.1)
- Willie Mays (156.25)
- Ty Cobby (151)
- Henry Aaron (143)
- Tris Speaker (134.3)
- Honus Wagner (130.9)
- Stan Musial (128.3)
- Rogers Hornsby (127.1)
- Eddie Collins (123.9)
Why is WAR Great in Baseball?
WAR is an excellent way to measure any baseball player and calculate their team’s value in wins. For example, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers had a 7.2 WAR in 2014. That means that the Dodgers won seven more games for that season than expected for an average pitcher. Using the WAR model, a player’s contribution of seven additional wins is directly impactful to a team’s success.
We can also use WAR to measure a baseball hitter like Mike Trout. Mike Trout is a terrific fielder out in the outfield, hits home runs, has a high batting average, picks up stolen bases, has a high OPS, and gets on base. Since baseball teams calculate these measurements into consideration, Mike Trout has had 7 WAR seasons over 8. Having over an 8 WAR is impressive when you consider how bad the Los Angeles Angels as a team have been for the past decade.
How Does WAR Impact a Free Agent?
Just like any baseball stat, having a strong WAR can lead to a better deal for a free agent looking for a new team. However, having a low WAR like something at zero or less can negatively impact your chances of signing with a new team. At the same time, WAR is just one metric to consider, but teams trying to make the playoffs may focus on getting wins from a player vs. another stat.
A Similar Statistic to Be Familiar About
Just like how hitters and pitchers have a unique formula, so does defense. The defensive runs saved (DFS) calculates the probability of a catch or play made against that defender’s action. For example, a first baseman has a hard-hit ball to their left and makes a play. The calculation said that the play had a 40% chance of being made by similar players, so that defensive player gains .6 bonus points on making that play.
If you are looking for an in-depth breakdown of this, you can visit Fielding Bible.
Conclusion on WAR
One thing to keep in mind about WAR is that it measures a single-season and a major league player’s career. For example, Mookie Betts of the Los Angles Dodgers has a career of 45.4 WAR after playing from 2014 – 2020. His best year, according to WAR, took place in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox, where he had a 10.6 rating. With that 10.6 ratings, he was an All-Star, MVP Winner, Gold Glove, and Silver Slugger, winner. After reading this article, you know that a WAR above 8 is an MVP type of season, one that Mookie had back in 2018.