What is WAR in baseball? Explaining the statistic in detail

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What is WAR in baseball? Explaining the statistic in detail

Wins above replacement, or WAR, is an advanced baseball statistic that measures the player's value in the game. It calculates how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player in a similar position.

The stat is usually seen in Major League Baseball, as it's often a factor for the media in determining the Cy Young and Most Valuable Players for the National and American Leagues.

In 2022, pitcher Sandy Alcantara won the NL Cy Young award, as he led the league in WAR. At the same time, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge led the AL in WAR, leading him to win the MVP.

According to a Samford University study, players who won the MLB's major awards for pitchers and batters are in the top-10 of this statistic over the past 10 seasons.

WAR determines the value of each player through a specified number of wins. The metric is suitable for comparing players who are designated in defensive positions.


WAR formula for position players and pitchers

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, measures the player's value in the game.
Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, measures the player's value in the game.

The formula for WAR for position players differs from pitchers. The formula for position players is calculated by the number of runs above average a player is worth in his batting, baserunning and fielding + adjustment for position + adjustment for league + the number of runs provided by a replacement-level player over the number of runs per win.

Meanwhile, there are multiple ways to compute pitchers' WAR. Fangraphs' calculation (fWAR) uses Fielding Independent Pitching. It factors in strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs.

FIP measures a pitcher's value setting aside the team's overall defense. It focuses on the outcomes the pitcher can control, as it takes out the randomness of balls put in play.

Meanwhile, Baseball Reference uses bWAR in determining the pitcher's WAR. A bWAR uses the metric RA9 or Runs Allowed Per Nine Innings Pitched. It's calculated as runs divided by innings pitched multiplied by nine innings - the regulation number of innings for baseball. Unlike FIP, the RA9 employs the presence of random defensive outcomes and gives less value to how a hurler gets outs in a regulation game.

In simplified terms, fWAR is for pitchers who get outs through strikeouts. It doesn't factor in the random defensive outcomes in games. Meanwhile, bWAR is for pitchers who get outs in various ways with elite defense backing them up.

It wasn't until recently that college baseball adopted the WAR to get the true value of each player on the field. It's also used as a factor for professional teams in classifying the best prospects from the NCAA baseball ranks.

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